21 January 2009

The Conversation, Part II: In Which I Write My Epitaph

Because the first part of my conversation with Eric Rosenfield about "science fiction" and "criticism"* didn't cause enough annoyance, controversy, or discussion, part two is now available for your viewing pleasure. And there will be more to come -- I think we totalled about 15,000 words by the end, because neither of us had time to write more succinctly.

It's been strange to watch it being read, first because, as I said before, we didn't decide to make it public until near the end, and also because it's now coming out in installments. I've refrained from commenting anywhere about people's objections or corrections or etc. to it, because later installments address some of the questions and objections.

In this second part, one of the most important sentences from the whole conversation appears: "Terminology always defeats me." I wouldn't mind that for an epitaph.

*quotes necessary now because one of the assumptions not entirely obvious from the conversation is that I, at least, knew I was working from idiosyncratic definitions of all those words. I used "science fiction" to mean all sorts of stuff that gets called science fiction, fantasy, horror, slipstream, etc., and I used a definition of "criticism" that was extremely narrow -- I probably should at least have used the term "theory" or "academic theory" or "academic literary theory within a structuralist/post-structuralist context as interpreted within English-speaking academic institutions over the last 30 or so years, at least as I am limitedly familiar with it all" or somesuch, but, you know, when you're writing quickly you don't want to keep typing long phrases... Some of the discussion later, though, probably wouldn't have been as fruitful if I had been explicit in my assumptions. Indeed, the fruitfulness (or prolixity) of the discussion was a result, I think, of our misreadings of each other, various texts, and, I expect, reality (a word which, as Nabokov said, means nothing without quotes).