Many miscellaneous things of great interest, including contests, utopias, and the circumnavigation of fairyland

At least I hope they are of interest. I have had little time for original content this week (library booksale, aka moving 5000 books two or three times each).

Item 1: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is a fantasy book that you can read online, paying the author what you think the book is worth (new installments every Monday. The author, Catherynne M. Valente, says here that this story "began as a book-within-a-book in my adult novel, Palimpsest, a part of the protagonist's childhood, a strange novel for children written in the 1920s, about a young girl spirited away to Fairyland by the Green Wind, and her adventures there, battling the wicked Marquess, befriending outlandish creatures, and growing up. As I traveled to promote the book, readers asked me one question more than any other:
Is it real?And I said no, no, it’s fiction, just part of the world of the novel. And then, every time, the next question would come:
Are you going to write it?And again, I said no. It’s impossible—a YA book hidden in a very much not-YA novel. No one would publish it. "

So she is offering it on line, trusting that readers who enjoy it will support her hard work.

Item two: here's a blog (that I'm adding to my list later today) which has been delighting me for several weeks with its offerings of illustrations from children's fantasy books.

Item three: I just learned (via Finding Wonderland) of a contest at Diamonds and Toads to retell "Sleeping Beauty" in 1,000 words or less. It starts July 1, 2009 and ends at midnight, July 31, 2009. The prize is a one-of-a-kind box featuring a fairy tale theme.

Item four: Imaginator Press (the imprint of my blogging friend Sheila of Wands and Words) is also having a writing competition. From their website:

"In celebration of the fifth anniversary of the award-winning fantasy The Dark Dreamweaver, Imaginator Press is sponsoring a creative writing contest for children and teens up to age 14. The Dark Dreamweaver is the first book of The Remin Chronicles, about a land literally powered by dreams. Imaginator Press invites children to write a creative story on the theme of “Dream Power,” for a chance to win an 8 GB iPod Touch. Four second prize winners will receive $25 iTunes gift cards, and five third prize winners will receive $10 iTunes gift cards. The winning stories will be published in a "Dream Power" anthology."

Item five: Carrie (of Carrie's YA bookshelf) has a great June giveaway going on for three books, one of which is one I covet (Eyes Like Stars). And at The Shady Glade, you can enter to win a contest for Catching Fire!

Item six: And don't forget to enter today for my own give away of an ARC of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon--the post below this one.

Item seven: Usula le Guin has offered up for public dissemination the following essay at her website:

Calling Utopia a Utopia
Ursula K. Le Guin

Writing about the death of J.G. Ballard for the New York Times (21 April 09), Bruce Weber spoke to Ballard’s American editor at Norton, Robert Weil. Mr Weil said of Ballard: “His fabulistic style led people to review his work as science fiction. But that’s like calling Brave New World science fiction, or 1984.”

Every time I read this sentence it suggests more parallels:
“But that’s like calling Don Quixote a novel.”
“But that’s like calling The Lord of the Rings a fantasy.”
“But that’s like calling Utopia a utopia... “

It is shocking to find that an editor at the publishing house that had the wits to publish J.G. Ballard (as well as the Norton Book of Science Fiction) can be so ignorant of what Ballard wrote, or so uninformed about the nature and history of the science-fiction genre, or so unaware of the nature of literature since the 1980’s, that he believes — now, in 2009! — that to say a writer wrote science fiction is to malign or degrade his work.

To define science fiction as a purely commercial category of fiction, inherently trashy, having nothing to do with literature, is a tall order. It involves both denying that any work of science fiction can have literary merit, and maintaining that any book of literary merit that uses the tropes of science fiction (such as Brave New World, or 1984, or The Handmaid’s Tale, or most of the works of J.G. Ballard) is not science fiction. This definition-by-negation leads to remarkable mental gymnastics. For instance, one must insist that certain works of dubious literary merit that use familiar science-fictional devices such as alternate history, or wellworn science-fiction plots such as Men-Crossing-the-Continent-After-the Holocaust, and are in every way definable as science fiction, are not science fiction — because their authors are known to be literary authors, and literary authors are incapable by definition of committing science fiction.

Now that takes some fancy thinking.

If Mr Weil allows H.G.Wells’s stories any literary quality or standing, he’d have to declare that “The First Men in the Moon” and “The Time Machine” are not science fiction — invoking, I suppose, their “fabulistic style”.

Knowing those stories differed in certain respects from other fiction, and having a scientific mind and training, H.G.Wells himself sought a classification for them. He called them “scientific romances.” The term “science fiction” hadn’t yet been invented and adopted.

When I read such nonsense as Mr Weil’s, I could wish it never had been.

But “science fiction” is the term we’re stuck with. And in any reasonable definition, it is an accepted literary category, usefully and adequately descriptive of such works of literature as Brave New World, 1984, The Man in the High Castle, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, and all J.G. Ballard’s major stories and novels.

Editors, critics, and others who use it not as a description but as a negative judgment are wrong to do so. And they do wrong. They are gravely unjust both to the science fiction of literary value that they refuse to admit is literature, and the science fiction of literary value they refuse to admit is science fiction. Mr Weil owes Aldous Huxley, and George Orwell, and his own author, J.G. Ballard, an apology beyond the grave.

Copyright © 2009 by Ursula K. Le Guin
Permission is granted to reproduce this essay, with attribution: by Ursula K. Le Guin http://www.ursulakleguin.com/

And finally, I've been asked to promote the Fresh Air Fund's current fundraising effort: until June 30th, any gift you make to The Fresh Air Fund will be matched dollar for dollar by a group of generous donors. If you can give $25, that means $50 for inner-city children. $50 becomes $100!

Getting this together took about as long as it would have to create original content. Oh well.


  1. But it was worth it. (And a great title.)

  2. I'm not really sure what Le Guin is getting at. I don't think Weil is out to "malign" SF as a genre to say that Ballard's work is more than SF. I don't know Ballard's work but I do know that I wouldn't call 1984 straight SF either. I'd call it speculative or dystopian, subsets of or parallel to SF--not intrinsically "better" or "worse". Could Le Guin be being a little, um, sensitive?

  3. Thanks for the mention Charlotte!

  4. Thank you for the link to Diamonds and Toads (just added to my google reader!). Excellent site!

    And thank you also for the Le Guin article, very interesting! Although at this point I must admit I tend to just ignore those people who think that science fiction and literature are mutually exclusive (also, the people who think kids lit is somehow inferior to adult lit). Life's too short.

  5. Hi,

    We have just added your latest post "The Fidra Blog, Miscellaneous" to our Directory of Credit Cards. You can check the inclusion of the post here . We are delighted to invite you to submit all your future posts to the directory for getting a huge base of visitors to your website and gaining a valuable backlink to your site.

    Warm Regards

    Credit car-d Team


  6. I'm sorry to be so late on this, but I wanted to thank you for linking to our writing contest. Thanks also for posting the Le Guin article. I hadn't read it and it was very interesting.

    Rhiannon: When you say that someone's work is "more" than SF, the implication is that it's too good to be SF, which in turn implies that SF is inferior in some way. Weil is not the first to make this implication, and no, I don't think Le Guin is being too sensitive. I've been reading SFF since the 4th grade (which was more years ago than I'd care to admit) and I've always considered dystopian fiction to be science fiction. Science fiction deals with the alternates and the 'what-if's, which makes dystopian fiction a perfect fit.


Free Blog Counter

Button styles