I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. And at one point I took a top official aside and asked him Why? SF had been disapproved of for a long time. What had changed?
It’s simple, he told me. The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.
Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.
— "Why our future depnds on libraries, reading, & daydreaming" - Neil Gaiman
But this bombardment you’re talking about, that’s a choice you make. If you’re interested by a piece of music, you can miss the next twenty new pieces of music that’re fishing for your attention and just focus on that one. It’s really all right. You can just ignore all the big-ticket releases and focus on Jandek’s 9-disc solo piano set for half a year and that’s a totally valid decision. You can take a year to just listen to opera: that was me most of last year, opera and old Silkworm albums. Did I miss something? Maybe; who cares? What I had was not just fine but completely amazing, and I can catch up with anything I missed later, if I want to, and if I don’t, that’s cool too. Being on top of stuff, having an opinion about something when it’s new, this is just not a priority for me at all. Music is eternal, I don’t need to experience it as part of a news cycle.
True for music, true for books, true for movies. There’s a balance between keeping up & digging in.
The crickets and the rust-beetles scuttled among the nettles of the sage thicket. ‘Vámonos, amigos,’ he whispered, and threw the busted leather flintcraw over the loose weave of the saddlecock. And they rode on in the friscalating dusklight.
— Eli Cash, from Old Custer
(from The Royal Tenenbaums)
Walking the stacks in a library, running your finger down the spines — it’s hard not to feel the presence of sleeping spirits.
— Robin Sloan (Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore)
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