1977 - You Don't Know Me, I Don't Know You [Ellison/fandom]

The SPIDER Symposion: in-depth discussion of specific Ellison stories and works.

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Carstonio
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Postby Carstonio » Tue Sep 26, 2006 4:38 am

I'm reading "Coming Out Asperger's," a collection of essays on the topic. One essay mentions that Aspies are strongly attracted to imagination as an escape, such as science fiction and role-playing. Imagination allows Aspies to create worlds where others appreciate our differences rather than make fun of us for them.

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Postby Gwyneth M905 » Tue Sep 26, 2006 3:00 pm

Carstonio wrote:I'm reading "Coming Out Asperger's," a collection of essays on the topic. One essay mentions that Aspies are strongly attracted to imagination as an escape, such as science fiction and role-playing. Imagination allows Aspies to create worlds where others appreciate our differences rather than make fun of us for them.


This is a really good addendum to our discussion of the "You Don't Know Me, I Don't Know You" essay.

Harlan writes:
"You see, you don't know me and I don't know you. The ways in which you bring your pain under control, the ways in which you maintain your sanity...they are not mine. I live in another world; each of us does. But I know this of myself: I can keep going. That's one of the things life is all about... maintaining. And that is what the story is about." (p. 30)

In what ways does Harlan use escapism in his stories to retell his life to fit his own image of himself? In what way do we all do this? I posit this as a question for discussion.

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FrankChurch
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Postby FrankChurch » Tue Sep 26, 2006 3:15 pm

Harlan is a pretty open book. I don't see him as very insular.

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David Loftus
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Postby David Loftus » Tue Sep 26, 2006 3:22 pm

Gwyneth M905 wrote:In what way do we all do this? I posit this as a question for discussion.



The narrator of The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles talks about this. I think it's in the dreaded Chapter 13.
War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off. - Karl Kraus

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David Loftus
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Postby David Loftus » Tue Sep 26, 2006 3:24 pm

FrankChurch wrote:Harlan is a pretty open book. I don't see him as very insular.



Being in a position to tell wonderfully intriguing and distracting tales about oneself is not necessarily the same thing as being an open book.

Consider the title of Mishima's autobiography, Confessions of a Mask.
War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off. - Karl Kraus

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Postby Gwyneth M905 » Tue Sep 26, 2006 6:50 pm

I think that's the wonderful thing about being a writer -- one can "tell the truth, but tell it slant". We'll never know how much Harlan has embellished. Or not, as the case may be. (tired old simile here) It's like "Rashomon": everyone has a POV about his or her life and the events that take place.
I'm sure that even the surly young fan has his own mush-brained reason for insulting Harlan that seemed perfectly reasonable to him at the time.
But it's the writer's gift to create the truth and write the version of history that will be printed.

To bring in a comment of yours from another thread, David, Harlan likes Kersh's work because he may see in it a foreshadowing of the worst case scenario of what may happen to his own. Could he keep reinventing himself to stay one step ahead? (OK, I'm in bullshit zone here guys, I'm not even really sure what I'm talking about.) I guess I'm trying to articulate that stuff that the motivational speakers say when they advise their audience to
visualise themselves being or doing something and then they will 'poof' be or do that thing.
What do you think?

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FrankChurch
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Postby FrankChurch » Wed Sep 27, 2006 2:09 pm

Yes, that title fits me to a tee. I am very insular. Masks seem to make us feel safer in a scary old world.

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Postby Gwyneth M905 » Wed Sep 27, 2006 4:58 pm

FrankChurch wrote:Yes, that title fits me to a tee. I am very insular. Masks seem to make us feel safer in a scary old world.


I agree, and sometimes we let the masks slip and then feel like hell. It's what draws me to Harlan's writing, that seeming utter fearlessness to bare all. But I still do wonder, does HE the writer cut HE the human being slack?
Obviously his stories are not autobiographical, they are drawn from life, but are not his life.
His intros and essays, on the other hand seem to be meant to be taken as gospel. Harlan's a brave man, if he writes without a mask. That little kid from Painesville who waded into the fray of bullies without fear of being pounded senseless is still there.

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Asperger's

Postby Adam-Troy » Tue Jan 02, 2007 9:23 am

Please, nobody take the following personally. I refer to none of you in specific.

I think in certain circles it has become all too easy for folks to self-diagnose themselves as having Asperger's, when in fact they're merely nerds, or socially clueless. You can be either of the latter without being the former. I have seen the self-diagnosis of Asperger's from a number of sf fans, of the type who use it as a handy excuse for never learning how to deal with other people. In fact, the syndrome is significantly more debilitating.

I think of the character Steve Carrell plays on THE OFFICE, a fellow who misses all social cues and is awful at reading people and doesn't really see them except as as supporting players to his own personal movie. It's a wonderful comic creation. But is he clinical, or merely an asshole? I hold that he's an asshole. So are many of the folks we're talking about.
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Further --

Postby Adam-Troy » Tue Jan 02, 2007 9:30 am

-- oddly, I note for the record, as I have multiple times, that I have found Horror Writers and Horror Fans, on the average, better adjusted, and nicer folks, than SF fans, on the average. This is not a 1-1 correlation; the nutsiest and most unpleasant guy I ever had to deal with, in this realm, was a small-press horror writer, who decided to cyberstalk a friend of mine. But on the average. I think the horrorists are nicer because they've flushed the crap away...
Coming in 2007: THE SHALLOW END OF THE POOL! Plus THE UNAUTHORIZED HARRY POTTER (Ben Bella Books).



Coming in 2008: EMISSARIES FROM THE DEAD!

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Postby Moderator » Tue Jan 02, 2007 10:10 am

A-TC, why do you think that is? I have my own theories, and I think you're right, but I'm curious as to your observations.
- I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

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Horror Fans Vs. Science Fiction Fans

Postby Adam-Troy » Tue Jan 02, 2007 12:55 pm

With the REPEATED proviso that I am again not talking about hard-and-fast rules, but a statistical mean, wholly unreliable when it comes to judging individuals, who by their very nature operate as local exceptions.

-- I think there are any number of reasons horror people would average out as better adjusted than science fiction people.

I have already mentioned my belief that horror people flush more shit out of their systems. Stephen King called it keeping the gators fed. Certainly I have found folks capable of expressing the occasional dirty or sick joke less brittle and easier to deal with than those who spend all their waking time making sure than everything around them remains strictly proper at all times.

But there's another issue.

Horror, at its best, is not just a genre about finding creative ways to mutilate the human anatomy. It is a genre about exploring human nature. Its best proponents therefore appeal to people with an interest in human nature.

This is not ALWAYS true of science fiction, which can be about human nature (thank you, Mr. Sturgeon, in particular), but which is, often, about things. Machinery. Theories. Schools of Thought. Concepts. Pushing Buttons. Things that can be understood by folks who have trouble dealing with human cues.

That, and the transparent prose, is the main reason why the first sf writer I was able to read, consistently, and follow, before Age 10, was Isaac Asimov, whose robot stories broke behavior down into behavioral flow charts. Asimov COULD write complex stories based on human emotion, and sometimes did, but did not often want to. He was an idea man, as was Clarke, the second SF writer I was able to groove on. Long before I understood what adults were going on about. (Sheckley came third, for me, followed by our host. You can see the teens coming on just by looking at that reading list, which coincided with my discovery of Twain.)

Even in their often debased cinematic aspects, horror is often all about intimacy (even the intimacy of a frightened person, huddled in darkness while a monster approaches), while science fiction is often about, excuse me, big stupid objects and things blowing up. There's a strong difference between the levels of human empathy targeted by these two templates.

I know damn well that you could put together a fine collection of SF stories that are entirely about what people are like as people. "Gomez" by C.M. Kornbluth. "To Touch the Invisible Man" (or something like that, I may have the title wrong) by Robert Silverberg. "One Life, Furnished In Early Poverty" by our host. "Mute Milton" by Harry Harrison. And so on. That's where we get the individual variation. But you also have that portion of ANALOG's readership who honestly love the portion of that magazine's stories that hinge on technically-savvy people debating obscure points of engineering. (Full disclosure: I've written three stories for ANALOG.)
Coming in 2007: THE SHALLOW END OF THE POOL! Plus THE UNAUTHORIZED HARRY POTTER (Ben Bella Books).



Coming in 2008: EMISSARIES FROM THE DEAD!

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Jan
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Postby Jan » Tue Jan 02, 2007 1:17 pm

Barber, now what kind of a post was that!? ;-)

While I have nothing to do with either kind of fandom, as a sociologist I should be able to come up with something or other.

Horror fans are basically people who seek thrills, alright? Thrills (like all sorts of fun) are best shared and experienced directly in a social context that involves buddies and girlfriends, whereas the SF fan is on his own - it's not as easy to share intellectual experiences.

There is a basic agreement on what a horror movie or book should do to you and what constitutes good horror, so there isn't even as strong a barrier between fandom and the general public. Nobody is immune to thrills. The emotional and intellectual make-up of SF books is more complex and diverse. There is little SF that appeals to a mass audience without strong elements of horror, romance, action, or adventure, for example. Take all of that out, and you're left with a kind of technological fairy tale. The kind of fun SF generates is not as readily apparent and divisible.

One could draw conclusions about the personality types attracted to either genre, as well as about how affiliation to either fan group favors certain ways of behavior, with long-term effects on personality and the individual's relationship with society in general (which would shed some light on why horror folks are, according to A-T, "better adjusted" and "nicer folks".)

In general, though, I kind of doubt any of us has a clear concept of fandom or particular fan groups. There are hardcore fans, but the people that one sees at conventions and meetings would be a small and particular fraction of a greater audience. Convention goers, whether they occupy themselves with comic books, films, horror, fantasy, or SF, probably have more in common with each other than the more general fans of any specific genre.

My 5 cents.

Carstonio
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Re: Asperger's

Postby Carstonio » Wed Jan 03, 2007 11:53 am

Adam-Troy wrote:Please, nobody take the following personally. I refer to none of you in specific.

I think in certain circles it has become all too easy for folks to self-diagnose themselves as having Asperger's, when in fact they're merely nerds, or socially clueless. You can be either of the latter without being the former. I have seen the self-diagnosis of Asperger's from a number of sf fans, of the type who use it as a handy excuse for never learning how to deal with other people. In fact, the syndrome is significantly more debilitating.


No offense taken. Any mental disorder can be used an excuse by people looking for an excuse, and that's not the fault of the clinical definition of the disorder. I spent many years being rude to people and not realizing it, and when I found out I had strong feelings of guilt. I've read speculation that the social ineptitude of Richard Nixon and Lawrence Summers may be Asperger-related. I'm uncomfortable with that idea, because that might be seen as excusing their behavior, especially Nixon's. Some people go the other direction - I know a teacher who insists that ADHD is all a crock, that it simply parents not disciplining their children.

While your point about nerds is valid, I suspect that many nerds have a mild form of Asperger's. From my reading about Asperger's, autism spectrum disorders have a range of degrees and combinations. It's common for Aspies to have a comorbid disorder such as OCD or ADHD.

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Postby David Loftus » Wed Jan 03, 2007 12:25 pm

David Loftus wrote:
FrankChurch wrote:Harlan is a pretty open book. I don't see him as very insular.



Being in a position to tell wonderfully intriguing and distracting tales about oneself is not necessarily the same thing as being an open book.

Consider the title of Mishima's autobiography, Confessions of a Mask.




I might expand on this notion by pointing out that many actors and comedians -- people who "bare all" on a stage in front of dozens, hundreds, even thousands of people -- are in fact shy in person, and introverted. Even colorless and boring, as I understand Peter Sellers to have been, when he was not performing.

Harlan may be more of an exception than an example in these respects. For the moment I will continue to oppose the notion that he is particularly honest or autobiographical in his work. I don't think he would be a very good writer if he was.
War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off. - Karl Kraus


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