Forum / Ursula Le Guin in Defense of Fictionaut

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    David Ackley
    Nov 15, 02:16pm

    Well, not precisely, but it's implicitly there in the lines about those who write because they want to with electronic publishing as the vehicle of choice.

    From Le Guin's essay afterword, entitled "The Operating Instructions," to the Verso edition of Thomas More's UTOPIA.

    " And many living poets and novelists, though their publishers may be crawling abjectly after bestsellers, continue to be motivated less by the desire for gain than by the wisht to do what they'd probably do for nothing if they could afford it, that is , practise their art--make something well, get something right. Books remain comparatively, and amazingly, honest and reliable.

    They may not be "books. of course, they may not be ink on wood pulp but a flicker of electronics in the palm of a hand, incoherent and commercialized and worm-eaten with porn and hype and blather as it is , electronic publication offers those who read [and write. Ed. note] strong new means of active community. The technology is not what matters. Words are what matter. The sharing of words. The activation of imagination through the reading of words.

    The reason literacy is important is that literature is the operating instructions. The best manual we have. The most useful guide to the country we're visiting, life."

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    Mathew Paust
    Nov 15, 08:19pm

    Yes! And what writer cannot appreciate "publishers may be crawling abjectly after bestsellers..."

    Thanks, David.

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    Gary Hardaway
    Nov 16, 12:31pm


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    Amantine B
    Nov 21, 10:27am

    As I refer to it, in a different incarnation, I publish a small indie magazine and have launched an idea which might backfire and have, whatever meagre reputation I may have, blown to hell: Still I think it's worth the risk. I have opened a three month submissions window for " Best Rejections".

    The intention, much along the lines of Le Guin's positioning of literacy and Literature being the our best guide to the country of Life, is to challenge what I regard as an increasingly dated attitude; that Rejection is ingrained as the necessary and indispensable publishing default.I personally regard this approach as patronising hierarchical gate-keeping bullshit.

    History shows how much would have gone lost had authors not supported work deemed by publishers as 'unworthy' and while not indulging crappy writing (life's too short, afterall, for bad music and bad art) - yes, I know, mostly moot these days _ Quality is almost dissidence - I'm intrigued to see how writers respond and what sort of work emerges from those brave enough to actual submit their rejected darlings.

    Out there, in the publishing jungle, the irony of how much rubbish is being touted by mainstream publishers, in that very abject crawling after bestsellers, I'd not half be surprised if some really interesting work emerges from the rejection shadows.

    I am aware too that the real challenge might be the actual necessity of rejecting rejections too.
    :-) . . .

    or might it be that in some perverse way, I'm just crawling? God, I hope not!

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    Mathew Paust
    Nov 22, 02:58pm

    A brave and generous thing you're doing, Amantine, as I fear you will be deluged and driven to near madness trying to claw your way free of Slush Mountain.

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    David Ackley
    Nov 23, 01:59pm

    "heirarchical gatekeeping bullshit."

    Good one.

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    Amantine B
    Nov 24, 10:36am

    Ask aftee my sanity come end of February Mathew :-))

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    James Lloyd Davis
    Nov 29, 03:14am

    If art is simply expression of the self, is there really such a thing as "bad art" or "good art" and, if there is, who gets to decide?
    Short answers? Maybe. And the deciders are surely the owners of the media through which the art is presented, so the internet, with its open license to anyone who owns a keyboard... in the case of literature anyway... becomes that liberating moment in the history of literature and the chaos today is the sound of norms and protocols crying out for vengeance.
    I lost my thought.
    I'll try again later.

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    David Ackley
    Nov 29, 02:05pm

    I once took a course in "Aesthetics,"( never mind why) and the only conclusion I can remember, from that rather inconclusive endeavor, was that no-one has ever come up with an adequate definition of Art. Expression of self? Why not?

    But to your point, James, the only problem, I think with "the let many flowers bloom," of art on the internet is that it simply transfers the medium of commodification from cash to "likes," where popularity is once again the measure. Not that there's anything intrinsically wrong with popular art, some of which may turn out to be lasting. Just that the history of art shows that popularity in its own time did not necessarily mean that a work of art would last, and any number of obscure or undervalued art works and artists have been only recognized for their value(whatever it is) when dead and gone. e.g. Van Gogh. Melville. etc.

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    James Lloyd Davis
    Nov 29, 03:30pm

    Even some of those art works that are undervalued in their day, but enjoy a renaissance-cum-laude at a later date, do fall again into disfavor, whims and fashions being what they are... momentary and somewhat generational.
    Value in this generation or moment in time is driven by money. The tastemakers are generally the producers willing to lavish a work with expensive marketing because it is, for them, an investment.
    These are people who understand that value depends entirely upon perception, so they employ the people who are expert at creating the perception of value. It works more often than not... hence, a copyright or a piece of artwork is purchased and then aggressively marketed as "the next great thing" and the momentum generated, earned or not, is often the driving force of the value.
    As for critical value... that's another smoke and I wonder if critics have the same sway as they did when reading was more universal among consumers of literature. Or do they act now more as advertisers than critics? I don't really know since I tend to ignore them personally. The 1960s cured me of caring what the critics had to say.

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