March 9, 2010

Mark von Schlegell on Science Fiction and Criticism


It helps science fiction to have a tinge of the journalistic about it. An argumentative spirit of common-sense debate and politics should be in SF if I'm going to like it. A critical voice can be welcome. Poe (the creator) first published SF, in fact, in newspapers as hoax journalism, and he was a savagely intense critic. I came of age as a writer just before the blog and when I came to L.A. there were a number of small-budget, good, lively local magazines that had real local and international effect, particularly in contemporary art. As a critic, I could offend people and do favors, tributes, write about almost anything I wanted to in the guise of anything else and be expected to argue about it in the bar at night with other writers. I even published my own newspaper. Having been that sort of critic taught me a lot about worlds. Nevertheless it didn't lead anywhere professionally. In fact, editors grew increasingly conservative, friends died, ideas were stolen, reused, disrespected, all sorts of depressing things occurred, and the magazines all folded. I discovered how rare an opportunity I had enjoyed only later.

These days I look at it like this. For me, the only way to get at the truth is to admit I'm lying from the beginning. So if you ask me for criticism, expect a story. Science fiction helps my criticism. I often mix it in directly now. I found it adds humor, imagination, makes what is often a terrible chore done for money suddenly fun to do. Of course, this means my criticism is pretty "out there," and appears in publications of the sort rarely available to U.S. readers. But wherever they're interested in cultural criticism by trees, collaborations by time-traveling Stalinist collectives battling time-traveling fascists, fake diaries of schizophrenic eighteenth-century botanists, I'm the go-to guy.

- Mark von Schlegell

Taken from Petting the Singularity: An Interview with Mark von Schlegell which can be found here


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