Monday, November 10, 2008

Ducking the Bullet

It was a busy weekend (the Art Crawl and conversation at the Pen & Pencil Club on Friday; Tom Purdom's literary salon, eagle-watching at Conowingo dam, and dinner with friends on Saturday; a quick visit to Greg and Barbara Frost and then several hours driving about a cemetery, writing words on leaves on Sunday), and as a result I still haven't found the scan.

So instead, I'll reflect briefly on the fact that I've just ducked the bullet yet again.  The November issue of The New York Review of Science Fiction contains an essay by Fiona Kelleghan, defining a new literary group she either discovered or invented, called the Savage Humanists.  The essay originally appeared in The Savage Humanists, a critical anthology also edited by Kelleghan.  And, though I am mentioned a couple of times in it as somebody who might belong in the SH camp, no story by me made it into the anthology.

So I'm not a member of the group.

Which is good, because I don't really think I fit the definition very well.  Gregory Frost seems to be the true and perfect exemplar of kind -- unless it's James Morrow.  In any case, satire seems to be important to the category, and satire is just something I don't do.  Sorry.

In any case, this brings to four the number of literary movements I've been close enough to that outsiders sometimes mistakenly include me in, but whose core members will attest to my not belonging to the club.  These are:

New Weird
Savage Humanists
I do not include Mannerpunk, Interstitial Arts (though I've attended their meetings), or Slipstream, because nobody's ever claimed I belonged in any of them.

Interestingly enough, the one group I did belong to -- other than being a freak, back in the late sixties, I mean -- nobody ever thinks to list me as.  Anybody care to guess?

A review worth cherishing . . .

In that same issue of NYRSF, Ariel Hameon has a very long review of The Dragons of Babel which would make me blush, if I didn't agree with every word of it.    I make it a point never to thank anybody for a good review, because . . . well, because it's an insult to the reviewer to imply that the words are anything other than honest opinion.  

Still, I was glad to get it.

And as always . . .

Poem du Jour has been updated.  Most recently, the power of "No!"




Jeff Prucher said...

You mean besides elfpunk?

Oz said...

I saw the review of Babel, it was nicely done. Always nice to learn that the author agrees.

I told Greg about the piece and killed a lot of photons discussing the subject with him.


Michael Swanwick said...

I think elfpunk is kind of a joke label, don't you? I don't think anybody's ever taken it seriously.

Jeff Prucher said...

Well, it was sort of a joke comment, too, since I haven't the foggiest notion. Stations of the Tide has been classed as Post-cyberpunk, so that's not it. (And it's not like that was really a movement, anyway.) New Space Opera is right out. Are you going to reveal to us that you were a Futurian, and are secretly a timeslipped Doc Lowndes?

Richard Mason said...

Pre-Joycean Fellowship? Hungryalist Poets? Hudson River School? I don't know what to guess.

Michael Swanwick said...

Aaaand the answer is... (Envelope please! Rip, puff, withdraw. And read) ...

Humanists. I was a core member of the humanists, along with Jim Kelly and John Kessel and Stan Robinson and Connie Willis. Bruce Sterling (wearing his "Vincent Omniveritas" mask) defined the group in an issue of CHEAP TRUTH by dumping all the members of his writer-generation into a magnetic field and declaring that the Cyberpunks had drifted to one magnetic pole and all the rest of us to the other.

I applied the label Humanists to the group in "A User's Guide to the Postmoderns," without mentioning my own implicit participation therein. And the rest was teapot history.

Incidentally, I came up with the name by asking Gardner Dozois to come up with a label. He often gets credit for coining the word Cyberpunk (which he didn't) and never gets credit for coming up with Humanist (which he did). Ironic, no?

Jeff Prucher said...

Sneaky. Didn't you (somewhere) once state that by omitting your name from the league of humanists in A Postmodern Archipelago, you were indicating that you fell between the two camps? The fact that Kelly later had a story in Mirrorshades speaks nicely to the fluidity of such classifications (or to the maturing or mellowing -- take your pick -- of Bruce Sterling).

Dozois may not have invented the word "cyberpunk" (the honor goes of course to Bruce Bethke), but he was apparently the first to use it to refer to the movement (or "The Movement") and to the sub-genre, which is surely as much a coinage as "humanist" is, in this sense.

Michael Swanwick said...

Gardner was the first to apply that word IN PRINT to the group. But he didn't invent it or the usage. It was already being bandied about (I seem to recall Pat Cadigan quoting somebody else using the word) for some months before Bruce Bethke's story came out.

Bethke's word was actually a homonym because the "punk" part was not a reference to the punk subculture, but empoyed in the derogatory sense.

Not that any of this matters, of course. It's just a footnote to a footnote.