It has been a weirdly exciting few days in my little writing world. Besides struggling with fear (apparently, of success for once rather than failure), I was all juiced up to write my new Forces of Geek column on literary steampunk vs. the DIY culture it has spawned, when Lev Grossman wrote a WSJ piece that tumbled into the SF playground like a Saturnian mind-grenade. A lot of pixels have been configured either taking Grossman to task or wondering what the heck his piece means. The best responses so far are Cheryl Morgan’s and Catherynne M. Valente’s. In writing something so broad that makes such a large point, Grossman has set himself up for a lot of critique and started a pretty fascinating conversation about what authors should write and what readers want to read.
It kind of feels like a set-up too. The article is a social act, a ritual performance of a sort that is often seen in SF, and also in the wider writing world. It not only sets out an argument about the nature and proper design of the novel, it sends the reader a message about the author. The author positions himself (in this case) not only as an authority, but as both guardian and trailblazer of Good Literature. The author aligns himself with whatever movement or variety of literature he is championing, even as he interprets the literary world for the reader.
I’ve been jotting down ideas all day for a new column that picks up some of these ideas and lays them out. I think there’s a lot to talk about, both in literary terms and in terms of the social life of literature and how we participate in it when diatribes such as these surface. The column is gonna be long, but I won’t be able to talk about everything that I want to address, so I will continue my musings here.