Faint Marks in Pencil

Occasional quotations from Maureen Kincaid Speller's reading

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Over the years I have come to realise more and more that work, any work, even literary creative work, is not the result of an individual genius but the result of a collective effort. There are so many inputs in the actual formation of an image, an idea, a line of argument and even sometimes the formal arrangement. The very words we use are a product of a collective history.

Ngugi wa Thiong’o ~ Decolonising the Mind (James Currey, 1986, p.xi

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Usually, when one writes of oneself it is called non-fiction – I disbelieve that. Hindsight is always slightly fictitious.

Lee Maracle ~ I Am Woman (Press Gang, 1996, p.5)

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Like entering a game, a layout, something flat and mazed, arbitrarily but fractally constructed from beautifully detailed but somehow unreal buildings, its order perhaps shuffled since the last time he’d been here. The pixels that comprised it were familiar, but it remained only provisionally mapped, a protean territory, a box of tricks, some possibly even benign.

William Gibson ~ Zero History (Penguin, 2011, p.37)

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I guess I’m notable that I was sitting here, in my universe, and I realized that if there is a multiverse, then I should be able to communicate with other versions of myself by simply writing to myself in my own universe. The trick, I guess, the hard part, was in figuring out how to word it, and to whom to address it. I figured I had to couch it in terms that would be palatable to you, so I wanted to mention science fiction, but not actually call it that, so that you would know that I had a certain level of self-awareness, especially about how crazy all this sounds. But now I am thinking that, since I could have called it science fiction, but didn’t, there is a world out there in which I wrote this to you, but did call it science fiction, in which a version of you/me is reading this, thinking it is all science fiction, which is fine. Let’s forget him—he was bound to happen anyway.

Charles Yu ~ ‘Note to Self’ Sorry Please Thank You

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In The Turn of the Screw Henry James triumphs over his inevitable pomposity and prolixity sufficiently well to create a truly potent air of sinister menace; […] James is perhaps too diffuse, too unctuously urbane, and too much addicted to subtleties of speech to realise fully all the wild and devastating horror in his situations; but for all that there is a rare and mounting tide of fright, culminating in the death of the little boy, which gives the novelette a permanent place in its special class.

H.P.Lovecraft ~ Supernatural Horror in Literature

One wonders if HPL was reading the same version of the story that I was.

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On the meaning of ‘Weird’

It’s a term that isn’t always easy to define which is one reason I like it. Fantasy, horror and science fiction evolved quite naturally as descriptive terms then ended up being co-opted by the imperatives of marketing. If you drew a Venn diagram you’d find the Weird intersecting with familiar genres, and with the wider literary world, but never quite matching any particular area. Weird Tales magazine used to publish anything that suited its title: this might be horror, sf, heroic fantasy (both CL Moore and Robert E Howard could dip into the weird stuff), and even detective fiction in the case of all those “psychic detectives”. Weird for me defines a quotient of the uncanny or the fantastical that lies beyond the usual stereotypes of the genres. It’s often present in places where there’s no overt generic reference at all: David Lynch’s Eraserhead is a good example.

John Coulthart~Interview (Mike Shevdon’s Blog)

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[T]he part of my sensibility which I demonstrate in nonfiction makes fiction an impossible mode for me. That’s because for me the world is already filled to bursting with interconnections, interrelationships, consequences, and consequences of consequences. The world as it is is overdetermined: the web of all those interrelationships is dense to the point of saturation. That’s what my reporting becomes about: taking any single knot and worrying out the threads, tracing the interconnections, following the mesh through into the wider, outlying mesh, establishing the proper analogies, ferreting out the false strands. If I were somehow to be forced to write a fiction about, say, a make-believe Caribbean island, I wouldn’t know where to put it, because the Caribbean as it is is already full––-there’s no room in it for any fictional islands. Dropping one in there would provoke a tidal wave, and all other places would be swept away.

Lawrence Wechsler ~ Vermeer in Bosnia (2005) via Mark Athitakis’s American Fiction Notes

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Stories expand or narrow our imaginative possibilities – physical freedom won’t matter if we can’t imagine ourselves free as well. To assert our self-determination, to assert our presence in the face of erasure, is to free ourselves from the ghost-making rhetorics of colonization. Stories define relationships, between nations as well as individuals, and those relationships imply presence – you can’t have a mutual relationship between something and nothingness

Daniel Heath Justice ~ ‘Kinship Criticism and the Decolonization Imperative’ (2008)

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A generous definition of allegory would suggest that all fiction, regardless of its label or merit, possesses an allegorical connection to reality: fiction is the shadow on the walls of Plato’s cave. It provides an imaginary Real that renders briefly visible selected elements of a vast, intangible reality. In the theatre, where the audience sits in what each member thinks is the real world while actors create an imaginary world on the stage, a narrative propelled by the friction of reality meeting fantasy is nothing to remark on, because fantasy and reality are equally imaginary in such a setting.

Prose fiction achieves its greatest moments not by celebrating some narrow sort of reality at the expense of fantasy, but by keeping every imaginative and imagined option open. Science is the most useful technique we have for approximating the incontrovertible Real, and fiction that incorporates ideas and implications from science while also utilizing opportunities for fantasy may not simply make “allegory earn its keep” (to steal Wood’s delightful phrase), but may also provide a deeply affecting way to think about all aspects of the human condition.

Matthew Cheney ~ ‘Fantastic Reality’ Strange Horizons 17 October 2005