power of the imagination

March 24, 2020

Perhaps the ideal reader is an adolescent: restless, vulnerable, passionate, hungry to learn, skeptical and naïve by turns, believing in the power of the imagination to change, if not life itself, one’s comprehension of life. The degree to which we remain adolescents is the degree to which we remain ideal readers, for whom the act of opening a book can be a sacred one, fraught with psychic risk.

Joyce Carol Oates
The One Unforgivable Sin
New York Review of Books 25 July 1993

In spite of cyberpunk’s dominance within SF during the 1980s, the consensus among both SF writers and critics is that cyberpunk as a movement is essentially over. Many of the central core of cyberpunk authors, including William Gibson, Rudy Rucker, Lewis Shiner, John Shirley, and Bruce Sterling, have turned to other projects. At the same time, although cyberpunk is still being written here and there, it is difficult to detect anything like a coherent group of second-generation cyberpunk writers. Nevertheless, however passé it may be as a self-conscious literary movement, cyberpunk continues to exert considerable influence on science-fiction writers, though in diffuse and often contradictory ways. At one extreme, cyberpunk has begun to function as an excluded “Other” against which many writers shape their fiction. Such is the case with such popular writers as Kim Stanley Robinson, Sheri Tepper, Connie Willis, and Pat Murphy, who, consciously or unconsciously, write against the grain of cyberpunk and in some cases seemingly in direct opposition to it. At the other extreme stand writers like George Alec Effinger, K.W. Jeter, Pat Cadigan, and Emma Bull, who persist in finding the themes and images of cyberpunk vital imaginative terrain, however cliched, or downright repugnant, those themes and images may now appear to others.

Claire Sponsler
Beyond the Ruins: The Geopolitics of Urban Decay and Cybernetic Play

God & man

March 1, 2020

In the beginning man created God in his own image…

Reading, at least reading live authors, should be fun. The best kind of education, surely, is one which encourages delight, communicates enthusiasm. Certainly the best kind of readers are those who feel the delight and enthusiasm. I can’t say that I write for children, except in the case of picture book texts, but I love being published for them. Children aren’t a different species, they are us, a few decades ago. And perhaps the part of us that’s still there, underneath, unrecognised, powerful: the part that includes the imagination.

We – teachers, librarians, parents, authors – have a responsibility for the imagination of the child. I don’t mean we have to educate it – you can’t do that, any more than you can teach a butterfly how to fly. But you can help the imagination to develop properly, and to survive things that may threaten it: like the over-use of computers and everything I classify as SOS, Stuff on Screens. I do realize that the Age of the Screen has now replaced the Age of the Page. But on all those screens there are words, and in order to linger in the mind, words still require pages. We are in grave danger of forgetting the importance of the book.

Susan Cooper
Speech given to the Youth Libraries Group, 1990

Writing is re-naming

February 11, 2020

You have to be free to play around with the notion that day might be night, love might be hate; nothing can be too sacred for the imagination to turn into its opposite or to call experimentally by another name. For writing is re-naming.

Adrienne Rich
When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision

Literature is an uttering, or outering, of the human imagination. It lets the shadowy forms of thought and feeling – heaven, hell, monsters, angels and all – out into the light, where we can take a good look at them and perhaps come to a better understanding of who we are and what we want, and what the limits to those wants may be. Understanding the imagination is no longer a pastime, but a necessity; because increasingly, if we can imagine it, we’ll be able to do it.

Margaret Atwood
Aliens have taken the place of angels
The Guardian, Friday June 17, 2005

we write fantasy

February 6, 2020

In the end, we write fantasy not so much about mythic powers as about that battling mixture of good and evil that’s in the minds of all men and all women. About how bad things can be done in what seems to be the service of good, when someone forsakes humane doubt to follow that terribly dangerous thing, an absolute certainty. Look at these people, we’re saying to the kids who read us: look at them, none of them is all good or all bad, but each one has to choose his or her own way between the two. Look at these people, they are us, they are you.

We don’t say this in so many words, of course. That sort of thing went out with the Victorians. We tell stories, we paint pictures with words, we try to cast that spell by which something flows directly from the imagination of the writer into the imagination of the child.

Susan Cooper
Libraries are the frontline in the war for the imagination
The Guardian, Wednesday 11th December 2013

Best fed by reality

February 1, 2020

I write fantasy because it’s there. I have no other excuse for sitting down for several hours a day indulging my imagination. Daydreaming. Thinking up imaginary people, impossible places. Imagination is the golden-eyed monster that never sleeps.  It must be fed; it cannot be ignored. Making it tell the same tale over and over again makes it thin and whining; its scales begin to fall off; its fiery breath becomes a trickle of smoke. It is best fed by reality, an odd diet for something non-existent; there are few details of daily life and its broad range of emotional context that can’t be transformed into food for the imagination. It must be visited constantly, or else it begins to become restless and emit strange bellows at embarrassing moments; ignoring it only makes it grow larger and noisier. Content, it dreams awake, and spins the fabric of tales. There is really nothing to be done with such imagery except to use it: in writing, in art. Those who fear the imagination condemn it: something childish, they say, something monsterish, misbegotten. Not all of us dream awake. But those of us who do have no choice.

Terri Windling
Patti Perret
Faces of Fantasy

a poem is ‘true’

January 3, 2020

There’s a tendency to confuse the speaker of a poem with the author of the poem. And there’s a tendency to believe that a poem is ‘true’ — whatever that means to the reader — instead of seeing it as framed language or storytelling. I’m not immune to the confusion either. Painting is a way to commit to imagination without being called a liar.

Richard Siken
Interview with Kathleen Rooney for the Poetry Foundation

most base and most pure

November 16, 2019

She imagined herself both queen and slave, dominatrix and victim. In her imagination she was making love with men of all skin colours – white, black, yellow – with homosexuals and beggars. She was anyone’s, and anyone could do anything to her. She had one, two, three orgasms, one after another. She imagined everything she had never imagined before, and she gave herself to all that was most base and most pure.

Paulo Coelho
Veronika Decides to Die