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52 weeks, 52 things

David Cronenberg, motifs and alternate presents

Today I am mostly dealing with piles of what could generously be called administration. I am also playing Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s I See a Darkness in the office, as the boss is out being psychometrically examined. She’ll be back later on, no doubt a new person with a renewed sense of purpose and management techniques. Or not.

As we’re approaching the inter-semester break (when students traditionally think they have two weeks off, and get a nasty shock when they get a reading list and in our case, an obscure film-watching list too) I’m grabbing books from the library in the mistaken belief that I’ll get to read them. Yesterday was Cronenberg on Cronenberg, a bio of the Cohen Brothers and Goldman’s Adventures in the Screen Trade. Today Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

Of this quartet, I’ve only had chance to start the Cronenberg. And I offer this on an overcast Wednesday morning:

One of the things you do with any kind of art is to find out what you’re thinking about, what is important to you, what disturbs you. Some people go to confession or talk to close friends on the phone to do the same thing. And of course your dreams are important…. You have to subvert your psyche sometimes to know what’s really going on.

Yep, I’ll go with that.

Hi to Niall, by the way. And just to continue yesterday’s theme – it’s the ‘new’-ness of SF artwork is what worries me. I’ve not seen anything that would arguably count as ‘new’ for a good few years now. Recycled motifs, yes, but really new? The note about non-SF-but-really-SF was a notion from nowhere, but makes more sense the more I think about it. If the likes of Atwood, Palahniuk, McCarthy and Winterston do any long term good, it might be to persuade publishers to revisit what counts as ‘SF artwork’. Fantasy publishers, for example, could do a lot worse than commission Sam Taylor-Wood, Matthew Barney, Chris Anthony or even Stefan Sagmeister rather than relying on the ‘richly painted dragon’ motif that’s been done to death.

For further rambling, see Michael Chabon’s introduction to McSweeney’s Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales. Specifically:

Imagine that, sometime about 1950, it had been decided, collectively, informally, a little at a time, but with finality, to proscribe every kind of novel from the canon of the future but the nurse romance. Not merely from the critical canon, but from the store racks and library shelves as well. Nobody could be paid, published, lionised or cherished among the gods of literature for writing any kind of fiction other than nurse romances.

Personally speaking, Chabon’s alternative present illuminates the nature of contemporary SF and Fantasy cover design.


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