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I am writing in the baby's nap times.  He wakes me up 5 times a night so this is probably suicidal, because I should be sleeping, but I can't see another way around it.

Where are all the flame wars about Winterson's comments in New Scientist and elsewhere?  I felt I should comment but then realised I didn't want to.  It'll all be a redux of the Atwood situation and I haven't got the energy to be outraged.  I'm not even cross.  I just feel the weary need to wonder why everyone is so keen to be a splitter.  Weirdly enough, though I have only skimmed a telltale review, I think Winterson's own book answers the question.  The review writer was keen not to give away the story but then went and mentioned Easter Island and it all suddenly snapped into place for me... 

Recently I've read 'Wild Love' by Gill Edwards.  This is a spiritual psychological work which I won't try and pot here but I quote from the cover, "Freedom comes from knowing that nothing and no one 'out there' is responsible for what we experience or how we feel.'   I don't find this hard to accept but I find it hard to live with the consequence of this:  if everyone is doing their part and creating their own experiences (for whatever reasons), who is right?  I'm stuck on this one emotionally, not intellectually.  I just want someone to tell me what the right is so that I can move along.  I think it took my psychologist about six months to get me to understand there was no objective right.  I find this so hard to let go of I can't tell you.  My faith in science means surely at the bottom of things there is ONE TRUTH?  If only I can find it then I'll be safe and know what to do.  The awfulness of relativity between different observers - that's a hard thing to swallow.  It means we'll never get on.

I can perfectly see that everyone is right for themselves and that therefore it's not possible or even sensible to assume that anyone can like everyone or everything or that two people would even experience the 'same' event the same way.  But even though I can grasp this theoretically I've spent a lot of my life trying hard to see things other people's way - almost all my efforts run in that direction.  I started out of interest, to see if I could have a different kind of experience to my usual.  Then, after copying them, I started to see how it was and then, fatally, I tried to accommodate them where possible because I saw like, well, things weren't their fault you know...  This has been a disaster but I was convinced, by religion  and by popular counselling and by popular social notions of womanhood and by trendy theories of getting along with each other, that this was possible and desirable.  It's led to so much misery I can't believe it's such a prevalent view or that I still can't seem to stop doing it.  I suppose that to let go of it means I have to accept that people are what they are and there is NOTHING to be done about it.  Also, on the other hand, you can't make yourself what you're not.

Let me just pause to congratulate myself on taking almost 40 years to reach this staggering conclusion....ahem.

To return to the previous topic of silly people and books, does this mean that on the divide we might as well save our breath, and in fact on any other matter?  Does all this chattering make a sod of difference?  Maybe, like me, most people find it hard to accept the extent of their powerlessness and are battling to defend their puny egos because they live by superficial categories alone.  But then again, mostly I think that whoever's doing the pointing and saying 'I don't like that dreck!' probably hasn't experienced that dreck enough to know it's not the dreck they think it is.

See, sleepless nights equals madness on the page...ugh.


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 4th, 2007 08:56 am (UTC)
>It's led to so much misery I can't believe it's such a prevalent view or that I still can't seem to stop doing it.

Absolutism is philosophically untenable and relativism is frequently abhorrent (not to mention unsustainable, because which group gets to speak for which culture, etc?). I've come to the conclusion that godawful behaviour might not be someone's fault, but I still don't have to put up with it, and I'm not sure I've got the emotional energy any more to be all that compassionate, either. You can end up in a situation where the only person being wonderfully understanding is yourself, whilst everyone else takes advantage of you.
Oct. 4th, 2007 09:06 am (UTC)
It is nice to see you here.

I am amazed by the quality and depth of thought that you find to post when being woken 5 times a night.

I haven't followed the Winterston thing in any detail (read LeGUin's review, that's all) but if it's the same old same old, then that's a bit pathetic really.

'I've spent a lot of my life trying hard to see things other people's way - almost all my efforts run in that direction'

It's funny, Justina, because I'm the same age as you and I've got the opposite problem. I've never had to try to see things other people's way. It just happens. I'm a kind of chameleon and can be convinced by anybody or any thing. My problem has always been finding myself underneath the cast-off personalities of everybody else.

Better to be growing at 39 than not. I've been thinking lately how hippies are getting older and won't it be fun when there are, like, 80-year-old hippies running (well, Zimmer-framing) around?? The world doesn't stand still.

Hope you are taking care of yourself. Those baby days are so hard but also so fleeting in the scheme of things.
Oct. 4th, 2007 09:48 am (UTC)
There was a letter (http://books.guardian.co.uk/letters/story/0,,2179469,00.html) in response to Le Guin's (http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/generalfiction/story/0,,2174341,00.html) review of Winterson's book pointing out the connection with Atwood's reported assertions on sf.

(I keep coming back to the sense we're both right: in her youth Atwood was clearly a fan of fiction featuring BEMs and she sees that as sf. It's sf as if the New Wave happened - it's sf as if Sheckley, Bester and Dick never happened (let alone feminism, cyberpunk, new weird, insert movement here). By her definition she doesn't write sf. If she read some published since, say, 1950, she might write better books. I don't know what Winterson's excuse is, beyond professional contrariness. She's always been open to the fantastic, even in Oranges)
Oct. 4th, 2007 11:12 am (UTC)
I wrote to New Scientist and said the following:

"Dear Jeanette Winterson:

Bite me.


Pat Cadigan"

I don't think they'll print it.
Oct. 4th, 2007 11:18 am (UTC)
But you can be yourself and occasionally you'll influence other people.
Oct. 4th, 2007 11:59 am (UTC)
I think, because we're all *inside* sci-fi we have a different perception of this whole 'my book's not SF it's real literature' stuff. The vast majority of the population, I think - and unfairly so I know - does belive that sci-fi = pulp, and actually the strange, subcultury nature and the different movements within the genre only add to that perception, rather than taking away. (Which isn't to say that I'd prefer it without the richness and diversity available to those who do look further.)
Add in the cruel hand of marketing and it makes perfect sense for these writers to act that way, even as it hurts us when they do. Having said that, I'm personally perfectly happy being overlooked, as long there's something being produced by people on a similar wavelength to me, in fact I think part of the reason I started reading SF and fantasy (although fantasy is a whole different ball game, really) was because I was already being overlooked/underestimated IRL.

Although, I do think, and this fits in a little with my point above, that there is another force at work in this SF denial, which is a kind of anti-science. There is a general distrust and misunderstanding of science and scinetific method, which makes 'magic realism' a safer bet. As well as this, if an author has previously written novels with a very MR style, as Atwood has although I don't know enough about Winterson to comment, then it becomes easier to lump it all into the same genre pigeon hole, so as not to cancel out the relevence of those previous books. Better to say that everything is mystical allegory for the subjective depths of the human heart and grab a Booker than to say you're trying to make a point about both objective and subjective reality and risk getting it wrong and being ridiculed the same way we ridicule Tomorrow's World on all of the nostalgia TV programmes

Which Kind of leads me into your other point, about differences between people. While I can't say anything much about your emotional wrangles with this problem (which I suppose is part of your point) I do think it's worth not giving up your scientific outlook, and the idea that their is some sort of underlying solution - not a mystical one but an understandable one. I've had an interesting experience with this type of argument, because I come from a kind of physics/maths background while my partner is a social scientist, and I think that a lot of the drives behind people are the same, but it's the complexity of the biological-evolutional systems that make us up and the social systems that we operate in that gives us the wonderful difference that make us who we are, and make us so brilliantly, infuratingly different to each other...

Or something.

Sorry if this is a tl;dr but I've been tabbing between this and a big, boring pile of invoices all morning.
Oct. 4th, 2007 03:24 pm (UTC)
Good luck with catching up with your sleep. I finally got out of one of those modes myself and am quite enjoying being rested for a change. "So this is what passes for normal."

Seems like I'd over-read the Winterston (a person I don't know from Jane) controversy in the Ansible. Thanks for motivating me to take a look on-line for the details. I see that NS has it as a for-pay item but Winterston has it on her website as a freebie.


I'm reminded of the book by Richard P. Feynman, "What Do You Care What Other People Think", for both sides of this issue.

Regarding personal epiphanies, the current Ken Burn's series on WWII ("The War") has had a surprisingly significant impact on my own view of the world and my place in it.


The series was based on a Studs Terkel style of "mere mortals doing epic things" with only occasional references to the power elite (often negative).

The story of the small town starry-eyed Minnesotan who made his way through hell and back as a combat pilot was particularly moving for me. It has helped to provide some added perspective on the nature of existence and how to spend one's time while in this state.
Oct. 4th, 2007 07:13 pm (UTC)
'I hate science fiction.'

Wow. I can still see what she's trying to say and all, but BUUURRNNN!!111!

'But good writers about science...are great.'

Can someone say ego problem? I am teh speshul one. I am teh only one who unnerstands my gift. etc. Ad nauseum.
Oct. 4th, 2007 08:28 pm (UTC)
I hate science fiction.


[My next book is] called Robot Love and it's for kids. A girl builds a multi-gendered robot, which then kills her parents because it sees them mistreat her, so they both go on the run.

Clearly I live in a technological backwater if there are robots like that running around.

I think most of the article is troll, but if you read between the lines it does make some valid points about the state of science education... etc.
Oct. 5th, 2007 09:09 am (UTC)
Clearly I live in a technological backwater if there are robots like that running around.


I'm not sure that she even does make a point about the state of scince education, or at least not science education today, only the education that she recieved. There are obviously still problems but not the same ones, I was lucky to do 2 dissections in 5 years of biology, and I went to a good school. I don't think that there's enough detail work at the moment!

And anyway, if there is a problem, she's certainly not part of the solution - like you said, that robot story sounds like it's going to tell kids precicely what's not going on in AI at the moment - so I'm sticking with all troll.
Oct. 4th, 2007 06:33 pm (UTC)
My faith in science

Beg pardon ?!


The feature story in the Science Times section of Tuesday’s NY Times is
based on the work of psychologist Jonathan Haidt, University of Virginia.
It reinforces recent brain scanning studies that found "mirror cells" in
the motor cortex http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN07/wn081707.html . For
the full story of how evolution designed our universal sense of right and
wrong, see "Moral Minds" by Marc D. Hauser (Harper-Collins, 2006).
From Bob Park's "What's New" newsletter, 21 Sept 2007.
Oct. 19th, 2007 02:17 am (UTC)
That daffy Winterson
I was momentarily fascinated by a confluence of three of my favorite authors - yourself, Ms. Le Guin and Ms. Winterson, until I actually read what the latter had to say. It's sad that someone who excels at magical realism and surrealism is so contemptuous of those genre's kissing cousin, science fiction. Isn't science simply magic in another wrapper?

The struggle of relativity is a tough one, innit? I find myself see-sawing constantly between the extremes, but I usually default to saying that there IS some universal constant or reality or whatever, but there's fundamentally no way we poor mortals can understand it.

Looking forward to Number 2 landing in the States!
Oct. 19th, 2007 05:56 am (UTC)
Just wanted to say that I have enjoyed your work immensely. It's immensely gratifying to read, especially as the universe you've crafted has real depth to it, something most "Fireball goes where?" series... lack. The cyperpunk and hard sci-fi motifs twinkling through here and there are also immensely engaging, and I hope that your future work continues to forge such an interesting and unique world. It is in fact extremely reminiscent of Alastair Reynolds descriptive environments, and not a simple 'Blaster. It blasts.'

Unfortunately, your work is incredibly difficult to acquire in the USA. I'm afraid to ask, but have you ever heard of digital distribution?

There's a small publishing company, I believe it's called Baen, who have every one of their current books [and are going through their older stock and digitizing them] for sale as an ebook.

Note the dripping sarcasm in my previous sentence. There is no way for me to acquire your book, at any reasonable cost, even now, several months after it has been published in Europe.

You'll have to excuse my irate ranting, but it's incredibly irksome that not even the piraters have taken a stab at this.


It's exceedingly difficult to purchase something when you don't have anything other than cash available to you :/

If you have if you have the spare time, I hope you consider reading some of John Ringo's works. Methinks you will be pleasantly surprised with his incredibly diverse universes, all terribly interesting. Oh, and he pumps out 2 or 3 books a year, often more. Gotta love a guy who's got nearly 7 books completed and waiting to be published.

But, I digress. To the main body of your post, if I am not being overly pompous here, by sharing my views on this, and using too godamned many commas, that I've always been accommodating of others pov, but different views that interfere with mine, are inherently wrong. It may be inherently selfish, but then again, most of the experiential philosophical viewpoints would agree [Taking a philosophy class now, obviously identifying me as a poor student, and constantly examining my viewpoints through its lens] that the only thing that truly matters is what YOU believe matters. Whether you believe in everything being a manifestation of the mind, and you yourself are simply a program in some great machine, a privileged creation of the Ultimate, or a self-aggregating collection of mutually beneficial reproducing molecules that happens to occasionally espouse a philosophical point or two, no one thing or being other than you truly matters. Thus, you can consider those around you, and take into them into account, and base your actions aordingly, but only such that the net outcome is an improvement for you, and only when it does not contradict you.
Oct. 19th, 2007 05:58 am (UTC)
Re: Ishman
Er, continued, for I accidentally hit the post comment:

To sum it all up - Be what you are, and if anyone else disagrees, forge your own path. Preferably through their face, but that might be overkill after the pipe to the knees, shins, kidneys, appendix, and general dissenting opinion.
Oct. 19th, 2007 05:42 pm (UTC)
Re: Ishman
Thanks for your notes. I appreciate them.
I've made some enquiries about digital formats but so far I can't give you any concrete news. I will though, when I can.

I guess you and the other people who've posted similar views are right: you have to stand up and be right for yourself, whilst taking others into account, but not over your own view. Possibly there is some 'factual' truth in any situation that might settle an argument if proof were available but we rarely get anything like that.

I got into a real pickle with this when I went into my own stuff in some depth with counselling and then started feeling like I was making it all up, because you could tell the story a lot of other ways...also because a great deal of counselling seeks to train you to tell your story from other, more positive, angles. Then it really all seems to feel constructed from nothing and that the only skill in life is pitching your story just right. Spinning. Or, to give it a less diabolical tint and some spiritual overtone you might consider that you were made/god made you to see your spin on things and anyway, what choice have you got?

As fabrication is what I do for a living I know just how much guff you can string together, so it was a bit alarming. On the other hand, said guff is actually the truth, told from an angle, with a spin, so I guess there's no escape from either the truth or the guff.

Oct. 19th, 2007 08:40 pm (UTC)
Re: Ishman
That is an impressively depressing viewpoint...

I've wandered down that thought path a few times myself, but, being the lazy and uncaring person I am, shrugged and thought 'So?'. I personally believe that is one of the best ways to evaluate something.

And so?
What does it matter.
Oct. 20th, 2007 03:33 am (UTC)
Re: Ishman
I don't know that it's quite fair to characterize the view as depressing - especially given that it's a part of the context of healing and therapy. Part of the psychology of depression (for example) is a habit of thinking outside yourself; whether you're claiming "objective reality" about it or not, you're not doing justice to your own self, your own story. A large part of the healing process that I've been going through is learning to pitch my story right, as you say. But what I've always enjoyed about Ursula Le Guin is how storytelling as universe construction is such a major theme. What guff you tie together and how you string it all up IS the universe, not just a version of it or some spin on it. The catch is that we are not isolated in this endeavor, nor should we endeavor to be. Any philosophy that invalidates the Other is, in my opinion, inherently corrupt, for it zeros itself out by virtue of anyone else claiming that _it_ doesn't exist. We are social beings, and the mystical among us recognize that we socialize with the entire universe, not just other people. The truth, or the Truth that you are seeking is not Out There, but it is in that connection, it is in that dialogue. Is the fiction that you write any less true for being fiction? Are the stories your therapist is teaching you to tell any more?

Sounds to me like you're on the right path - take heart!
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )