"On Writing as a Fantasist" by Dave Wolverton (LONG)

Nat Case hedberg at vermontel.net
Mon Jan 24 20:58:10 EST 2000

Many thanks to Melissa for posting. What a great essay! I don't agree with
all of it, but the majority of it rings very true.

I have a problem fundamentally with purism of ANY kind. I run into it all
the time in the folk music world... "Folk Nazis" is the rude name for those
who turn up their noses at anything that isn't "real" folk music. I think it
was Josh White who said all music is folk music; he  hadn't heard of music
made by anyone but folk, anyhow.

Which isn't really quite to the point. I'd argue that all literary tastes
are peculiar to their times, and that modernism and realism are all entirely
appropriate to their eras. I don't much care for the glass-box school of
architecture, but it makes a lot of sense in a mid-century world that was as
scared of itself as we were. Similarly with literature; in our general
societal quest for resolution to the power we found ourselves wielding (the
image of Lady Macbeth looking at her hands comes to mind), we adopted as our
"mainstream" writing that also sought resolution by exploring the problems

Remember that in addition to fantasy and other genre fiction, these
modernist elitists were also grappling with cultural forces like Billy
Sunday, Joseph Stalin and Joe McCarthy. We've had an immensely traumatic
period to contend with culturally (heck, we still do), and so I think much
of that search for a pure truth, and much of the desire to REALLY SEE what
was going on around us was far from a elitist, ghetto-making endeavor. 

All that said, I agree 100% that the notion of fancy is still recovering
from being trivialized mid-century. To me it isn't the literary snobs who do
the most damage now; it's the embarrassment people feel reading, viewing, or
listening to music that isn't judged serious enough. More and more, that
embarrassment feels like part of a naked-emperor story. I mean, come on.
Every smart person I know reads murder mysteries, spy thrillers, children's
books, fantasy or SF. What is lacking is a way to talk about how those books
are important to us. 

This goes back to a discussion we had some time ago, about the sort of
criticism we were all (I think) taught in school and college, based not on
the experience of reading but on the dissected corpse of the read object.
Sorry, that's probably too strong, but you get my point. 

I think the core of the problem is in the whole idea of criticism being the
heart of the literary experience. It defines what it is OK to think of as
"good" or "meaningful." It is true that it (and the canons it forms) do much
to give us a common ground, but isn't that common ground a false one, being
based on theory rather than experience?

You know, this discussion group has given me more insights into the stuff I
read than I've had in any group, classroom or otherwise. I think it's
because it has such an admixture of approaches: on one hand, we have
detailed discussions of structure, character and shape of stories, which
gives us added richnesses to our reading. We have anecdotal discussions
about the experience of reading ("I was pregnant when I read that and it's
TRUE!"), which immediately ground and theory in unabashedly subjective
experience. And there's the occasional rant, which serve to give

Phew. I'm running out of steam here. Thanks again, Melissa, for the article.

Nat Case
Hedberg Maps, Inc.

>From: Melissa Proffitt <Melissa at Proffitt.com>
>To: dwj at suberic.net
>Subject: "On Writing as a Fantasist" by Dave Wolverton (LONG)
>Date: Sat, Jan 22, 2000, 5:13 PM

>"On Writing as a Fantasist"
>    by Dave Wolverton
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