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I just finished reading The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy…

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I just finished reading The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction by Ursula Le Guin. Below the cut are a handful of quotes I've stashed so I can come back to them whenever I want and be encouraged anew...



"...the problem of communication is a complex one, and that some of us introverts have solved it in a curious, not wholly satisfactory, but interesting way: we communicate (with all but a very few persons) in writing. As if we were deaf and dumb. And not just in writing, but indirectly in writing. We write stories about imaginary people in imaginary situations. Then we publish them (because they are, in their strange way, acts of communication--addressed to others). And then people read them and call up and say But who are you? tell us about yourself! And we say, But I have. It's all there, in the book. All that matters. --But you made all that up! --Out of what?"

"If the authors wanted to speak clearly why didn't they write an essay, a documentary, a philosophical or sociological or psychological study?
Because they are both novelists. Real novelists. They write science fiction, I imagine, because what they have to say is best said using the tools of science fiction, and the craftsman knows his tools. And still, they are novelists, because while using the great range of imagery available to science fiction, they say what it is they have to say through a character--not a mouthpiece, but a fully realized secondary creation. The character is primary."

"The modern literary cliche is: Bad people are interesting, good people are dull. This isn't true even if you accept the sentimental definition of evil upon which it's based; good people, like good cooking, good music, good carpentry, etc., whether judged ethically or aesthetically, tend to be more interesting, varied, complex, and surprising than bad people, bad cooking, etc."

"How do you become a writer? Answer: You write.
It's amazing how much resentment and disgust and evasion this answer can arouse. Even among writers, believe me. It is one of those Horrible Truths one would rather not face.
The most frequent evasive tactic is for the would-be writer to say, But before I have anything to say, I must get experience.
Well, yes; if you want to be a journalist. ... I invite you to meditate on a pair of sisters, Emily and Charlotte. Their life experience was an isolated vicarage in a small, dreary English village, a couple of bad years at a girls' school, another year or two in Brussels, which is surely the dullest city in all Europe, and a lot of housework. Out of that seething mass of raw, vital, brutal, gutsy Experience they made two of the greatest novels ever written: Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights."

"What affects every writer, every book published in the United States, is censorship by the market.
We are not a totalitarian state; we continue to be a democracy in more than name--but a capitalist, corporate democracy. Our form of censorship rises from the nature of our institutions. Our censors are the idols of the marketplace."

"If art is seen as sport, without moral significance, or if it seen as self-expression, without rational significance, or if it is seen as a marketable commodity, without social significance, then anything goes. To cover a cliff with six acres of plastic film is no more and no less "creative" than to paint the Creation of Adam on the Sistine ceiling. But if art is seen as having moral, intellectual, and social content, if real statement is considered possible, then, on the artist's side, self-discipline becomes a major element of creation. And on the audience's side, the middlemen begin to fret. The publishers, the gallery owners, the entrepreneurs, the producers, the marketers, become uneasy. In so far as they are in the business for money, they are happier if art is not taken seriously. Soup cans are much easier. They want products to sell, quick turnover, built-in obsolescence. They do not want large, durable, real, frightening things."

"When there are no formal rules, no thou shalts and thou shalt nots, it is difficult to notice, even, that one is being censored. It is all so painless. It is still more difficult to understand that one may be censoring oneself, extensively, ruthlessly--because that act of self-censorship is called, with full social approval, "writing for a market"; it is even used by some writers as the test and shibboleth for that most admired state of being, "professionalism."

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