On Meeting a New SF Writer

Heliopoli_Full_EX63“The delight which SF writers show when encountering one another personally, at conventions or on panels or during lectures, indicates some common element shared by them, novices and old pros alike. There always emerges a psychological rapport, even if the ideas and politics in their respective works clash head-on; it is as if absolutely opposite themes in their published work — which might be expected to create a personal barrier when the writers meet face to face — this barrier is never there, and a feeling when a group of SF writers gather is always one of a family rejoined, lost friends refound or new friends made — friends among whom there is a fundamental basis of outlook or at least of personality structure. …

“On meeting a new SF writer who has just gotten into print, we never feel crowded or insecure; we feel strangely happy, and tell him so and encourage him: We welcome him. And I think this is because we know that the very fact that he has chosen to write SF rather than other types of fiction — or other careers in general — tells us something about him already. …

” ‘I know where your head is,’ is what I think when I meet a man or woman who has just published his first SF piece.”

— Philip K. Dick, from his essay “Who Is an SF Writer?” (1974), as reprinted in the The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick: Selected Literary and Philosophical Writings

SF Writers Are Not Loners

Heliopoli_Full_EX54“I have a strong feeling, having met so many of my colleagues over the years, that there is almost universally among them a love of human beings and a concern for them, a desire for closeness that, in itself, might explain why the SF [science fiction] writer chose that field rather than one of the pure sciences. SF writers are not loners ….

“There are few if any cold schizoid SF writers; when you meet a Ray Bradbury or a Ted Sturgeon or a Norman Spinrad or an A.E. van Vogh you find a warm person longing to know you, too; you are part of a family that goes back decades and into which we perpetually welcome others: There are no sterile, aseptic white smocks, no cruel or detached interactions among us. Writing SF requires a humanization of the person, or put another way, I doubt if that person would want to write SF unless he had in him these empathic needs and qualities. Too timid to demonstrate, too warm to retreat to a sterile lab and experiment on objects or animals, too excited and impatient to allow all knowledge to be confined to the limits of absolute certitude — we live in a world of what a radio SF show once called ‘possible maybes,’ and this world attracts persons who are not loners but are lonely; and between those two distinctions there is a crucial difference.”

— Philip K. Dick, from his essay “Who Is an SF Writer?”, 1974, as reprinted in The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick: Selected Literary and Philosophical Writings

The Joy of Discover of Newness

Heliopoli_Full_EX55“I think Dr. Willis McNelly at the California State University at Fullerton put it best when he said that the true protagonist of an SF story or novel is an idea and not a person. If it is good SF the idea is new, it is stimulating, and, probably most important of all, it sets off a chain reaction of ramification ideas in the mind of the reader; it so to speak unlocks the reader’s mind so that that mind, like the author’s, begins to create. Thus SF is creative and it inspires creativity, which mainstream fiction by and large does not do. We who read SF (I am speaking as a reader now, not a writer) read it because we love to experience this chain reaction of ideas being set off in our mind by something we read, something with a new idea in it; hence the very best science fiction ultimately winds up being a collaboration between author and reader, in which both create — and enjoy doing it: Joy is the essential and final ingredient of science fiction, the joy of discovery of newness.”

— Philip K. Dick, from “My Definition of Science Fiction,” 1981

If Only PKD Were Here

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: Do you feel that your ideology pushed you to make decisions that you wish you had not made?

ALAN GREENSPAN: Well, remember that what an ideology is, is a conceptual framework with the way people deal with reality. Everyone has one. You have to — to exist, you need an ideology. The question is whether it is accurate or not.

And what I’m saying to you is, yes, I found a flaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is, but I’ve been very distressed by that fact.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: You found a flaw in the reality…

ALAN GREENSPAN: Flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works, so to speak.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working?

ALAN GREENSPAN: That is — precisely. No, that’s precisely the reason I was shocked, because I had been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.

Congressional hearing, Oct. 23, 2008

And If Hawks Flew Then

And if hawks flew then, choosing to fly as they had chosen to alight, and if he failed to understand why — well, he hadn’t understood why they alighted in the first place, had he? And that was, that must be, all right, if one were going to love hawks in the first place.

— John Crowley, Aegypt


Science-Fictional Quote of the Week

“To speak of Fahrenheit [451], you have to speak of all my other books. Everything has been an accident. Everything has been unplanned. Everything has been a passion, a madness, a great love. Each of my books is a special love….

“But thank God I behaved unconsciously and didn’t try to intellectualize my career — left or right, black or white, up or down, male or female — none of that junk. Just me, the typewriter and the future.”

Ray Bradbury, from an interview on the Fahrenheit 451 movie DVD