Writers on Writing

Australian writer of “rollicking adventure fantasy”, Rowena Cory Daniells, has written a lengthy and entertaining overview of the fantasy genre for the Australia Literature Review, with an emphasis on Australian authors. She includes several thought-provoking quotes from notables in the field, of which my favourite is from Ursula Le Guin on the function of fantasy in contemporary society:

Fantasy is a literature particularly useful for embodying and examining the real difference between good and evil. In an America where our reality may seem degraded to posturing patriotism and self-righteous brutality, imaginative literature continues to question what heroism is, to examine the roots of power, and to offer moral alternatives. Imagination is the instrument of ethics. There are many metaphors beside battle, many choices besides war, and most ways of doing good do not, in fact, involve killing anybody. Fantasy is good at thinking about those other ways.

“Imagination is the instrument of ethics.” That is simply awesome. I think I need to get it tattooed somewhere.

Meanwhile, David Barnett of The Guardian has penned a column concerning the “ongoing endless war between ‘literary’ fiction and ‘genre’ fiction”, sparked off by the Neil Gaiman’s introduction to Stories — the anthology Gaiman co-edited with Al Sarrantonio. Worth a read for its musings on story, plot and character, as well as its reminder that “literary” fiction is indeed a genre in itself. If you have the time, make yourself a cup of tea and peruse the lengthy comments section. There’s a fascinating discussion going on there.

And just the other day, in his acceptance speech for the Carnegie Medal (awarded to The Graveyard Book), Neil Gaiman himself spoke about the role of libraries — those made from bricks and mortar — in the digital age:

We’re now in an age of ‘too much information’. Libraries and librarians are more important than ever. . .  Children want stories. They want information. They want knowledge about the strange world they’re in. Saying that the internet can be that is like setting a child free in a jungle and expecting them safely to find things to eat.

Yes indeed, there has been many fine words of wisdom from the interwebs the month. Mmm, crunchy.