About Me

My photo
Go out with you? Why not... Do I like to dance? Of course! Take a walk along the beach tonight? I'd love to. But don't try to touch me. Don't try to touch me. Because that will never happen again. "Past, Present and Future"-The Shangri-Las

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Out of Viroconium

In This Interview oddball fantasy/SF writer M. John Harrison says:

"My feeling about escapist fiction has softened a little down the years but it has never really changed. I think it's undignified to read for the purposes of escape. After you grow up, you should start reading for other purposes. You should have a more complicated relationship with fiction than simple entrancement. If you read for escape you will never try to change your life, or anyone else's. It's a politically barren act, if nothing else. The overuse of imaginative fiction enables people to avoid the knowledge that they are actually alive. (In fact, various evasions, various kinds of fantasy, seem to me to be a kind of bad politics in themselves, the default politics of the day, through which we maintain our Western illusions of freedom and choice.)"

He has put his finger on one of the greatest problems I've had in my life. Once Harrison's words would have filled me with panicked resentment. Until a few years ago I engaged entertainment for two reasons: One was to learn how to function as an entertainer myself, but the main one was to replace the scary real world with a soothing artificial world. I watched The Neverending Story and dreamed of finding a book that would whisk me away to a colorful world of bald princesses, flying dogs and comfortable Messianic status for myself. I once said to a friend "Oz is better than real life," and I said it without irony.

Now I try to engage life in an active and expansive way instead of the timid and closed-off approach I've always had. The unpredictability and unfolding immanence of life is a pleasure to me where once it was a terror. Improv has a lot to do with this, but my engagement with Harrison's work has clarified the importance of fiction as fiction, rather than replacement reality. Thanks, M. John.


FLT3 said...

I wouldn't take Harrison's words at face value...sounds like some intellectual posturing to me. I spent most of my childhood (and quite a bit of my adulthood ;-) wanting to live on Gilligan's Island. (Granted, we're talking a tv show versus a book, but the point is the same.)
I like to think that I have accomplished a few things in my life...managed to graduate from law school, have friends, romances, car, apartment, etc...but would I chuck it all to spend the rest of my life sharing a hammock with Ginger and sipping one of Mr. Howell's martinis? Hell yeah!
I guess what I am saying is don't let this somewhat misguided opinion deprive you of escapism. I shudder to think how many people in the "real world" would go crazy and shoot up a McDonald's if they couldn't run away to fantasyland every now and then...

Aaron White said...

I'd rather live here:


Anyway, the me who yearned to live in Oz was a lot less happy (even while watching/reading Oz stuff) than the me who realized that I DO live in Oz. Oz is only America refracted through the imagination of L. Frank Baum and his adapters. When I wanted to live in Oz I was mistaking the map for the territory. Oz isn't a place; it's a story.

You DO live on Gilligan's Island. You associate with rich people, brilliant people, pretty women, trying out schemes and putting on shows, having drinks and arguing, fighting and feuding, loving and being loved.

FLT3 said...

"Gilligan's Planet" was a minor, but sweet little blip on the radar of the "Gilligan" universe, but a fun one. I think I was in the 5th or 6th grade when it came on, and I remember loving it not because of the writing or the "opening up" of the story, but simply for the chance to commune with these beloved characters, even in an outer-space setting.
Which begs the question...do more people use escapism to experience a set place with a specific set of conditions (as in your Oz fondness) or to "interact" (albeit passively) with a group of individuals?
This is interesting stuff...I may do a post on it myself.
Thanks for a very interesting perspective...maybe in some ways I do live on Gilligan's Island...all of the examples you cited are accurate. That makes me smile. :-)