The Big Stinkeye

by rsbakker

Definition of the Day: Literature: a form of fiction primarily concerned with the further inflation of already highly-pressurized egos. Once a social scourge responsible for innumerable cases of eczema and dandruff (and a fair amount of untoward head-scratching), it has now become a popular means of concealing public acts of masturbation. Sales of literary mass-market paperbacks have declined accordingly.

For those of you worried, Light, Time, and Gravity is already completed, and I am presently exploring a small press option. I’ve been back at The Unholy Consult for some time now, and will be for some time to come.

Disciple of the Dog continues to limp along. The latest review can be found here:

I gave Pat of Fantasy Hotlist fame a draft of The White-Luck Warrior several days back. My guess is that his review should be going up soon. He’s as much a stickler on spoilers as I am, so checking out what he has to say should be safe.

I would like to thank Ilya for posting that link (in the comments to the last post) to Edward Docx’s Guardian piece on the inferiority of genre fiction. I actually pulled together and sent a short article by way of rebuttal–which I will promptly post here if The Guardian’s review editor decides to pass on it.

Entitled, “The Myth of the Vulgar Cage” it details both the institutional conceit and the theoretical misconception that underwrites the literary notion of conventions and conventionality.

Since implicit rules are generally invisible, the tendency is to always think that the guy who follows explicit rules is the one constrained. Thus the conceit: literature is the home of unconstrained writing, whereas genre writers find themselves caged with the “simpler psychologies” (his term!) of genre readers.

The misconception turns on the characterization of conventionality as constraint, a conceptualization that entirely blots out the communicative dimension of conventions. There is no communication without constraint–end of story. Because of this, I suggest the specialty channel as an alternate metaphor, because it has the virtue of preserving the way in which conventions connect authors with specific audiences. Then I show just how ugly and fatuous Docx and his ilk look when considered through this alternate lense.

Among all the self-congratulatory myths that cripple literary culture, the vulgar cage has always been a stand out for me. For such an obviously inadequate conceptualization to be so universally embraced demonstrates just how prone humans are to camouflage their self-interest with stupidity. “Let’s just ignore all that pesky communication stuff, and look at conventions this way, because it makes me look so daring and smart!”

I mean, they just love their conventions so much, they just gotta be exceptional somehow. And besides, who wants to go through all the hard work of reaching out to popular culture? Sneering is just so much easier.

Speaking of sneering, I did my best to be polite in the article proper, even after checking out Docx’s website: if his photo gallery is any indication, the man really takes seriousness seriously.