2008 - Dreams with Sharp Teeth (movie)

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FinderDoug
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Re: 2008 - Dreams with Sharp Teeth (movie)

Postby FinderDoug » Thu Feb 11, 2010 10:20 pm

The thing is - without disputing that Harlan has had impacts well beyond that of merely writing fiction - Marty Shapiro has an argument as regards the literary world's criteria for remembering authors beyond their years. He does indeed seem in context to be speaking of a novel - a fully realized novel from a writer whose skills have matured - when he speaks of a "full-blown work".

Yes, Harlan has written novels. Three, by his own score, all published 1961 or earlier, plus three "shorter novels", with "All The Lies That Are My Life" as the youngest of those (1980) (I must discount the 1991 born-on date for "Run For The Stars" because that's really the revised date of the 1957 original - but "Run For The Stars" is more important, I think, than we might believe). It's something in the vein of "All The Lies..." - the work of a matured writer, writing in a longer form - that I think Shapiro is speaking of - a "classic novel" that fixes a point in the author's literary importance.

There are exceptions - Poe, certainly, but Poe is widely credited as the Father of the American short story; Doyle, but he's hailed as much for the character as the story, and his body of work encompasses both forms via Holmes as a result. But the "literary establishment" uses the novel more often than not as the measure of literary value to the general reader. Twain, for all his output, is remembered primarily for two key novels. Hemingway, Steinbeck, Faulkner, Melville, Hawthorne - they all worked in the short form, but they're all best known for what they did at full length. Even those who rise out of the genre ghettos have mostly done so on the strength of the long form, with a few exceptions (I think Bradbury's strength is in the short form; that he knows how to string short episodes together into long-form works is another matter, but in a hundred years, if for nothing else, he'll be remembered for Fahrenheit 451 before "Mars Is Heaven".)

Can Harlan's legacy be secured with short stories? I believe so. Borges stands on the strength of his short work; I admit a bias, but I would put Harlan's best work comparatively on that level of quality of content, theme and execution. Plus, a novel guarantees nothing - there are a PILE of skilled writers of novels who have simply never had a book hit the public the right way at the right time. A Blood's A Rover may be a killer book, but how a novel secures a reputation is as much dependent upon authorial skill as it is public temperature and timing.

For my money, if we're talking novel: I think a full-length expansion of Demon With A Glass Hand tying into the other meaty piece of the Kyben war universe Harlan set up (especially given the brilliant way Harlan has placed in opposition the potential primary protagonist and antagonist of such a piece - via two different works, but with such a fabulous symmetry when placed across from each other that thematically he's got a big fucking rabbit in that hat) could tie into something bigger than the post-apocalyptic soiree of Vic, Blood and Spike (ah, Spike - the joy of life is in those little magazine introductions and their tidbits...) - Demon has many potential handles for statements on the meaning of being human (and of humanity) than can transcend the SF war scenario; of all the known potential long works*, my feeling is that it's the one that could silence the naysayers if completed and published.

That said - I don't necessarily agree with Marty Shapiro. I think Harlan's strength is shorts, and some of his tales are timeless in their thematic appeal. Put differently, as long as mankind is slave to a schedule, there's a place at the table for the Harlequin.



*I cannot speak to unknown potential long-form works; I'm still curious about the 10,000 words of "Don't Speak of Rope" with Avram Davidson, despite the caveat in the intro to Partners In Wonder. I'm a literary sadist.

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FrankChurch
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Re: 2008 - Dreams with Sharp Teeth (movie)

Postby FrankChurch » Fri Feb 12, 2010 9:37 am

Very nice perspective, Dougie Fresh. We may make a literary critic out of you just yet.

Two things we need to pray about--a long life for Harlan and a decent Prince album.

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Re: 2008 - Dreams with Sharp Teeth (movie)

Postby Jan » Sat Feb 20, 2010 4:06 pm

Gwynneth wrote:Harlan is not only a fabulous writer in his own right, he is also a catalyst for, and conduit of, the work of other writers, poets, painters, artists, graphic artists, sculptors.

Definitely true.

Doug wrote:Hemingway, Steinbeck, Faulkner, Melville, Hawthorne - they all worked in the short form, but they're all best known for what they did at full length.

Here I was criticizing Shapiro for his choice of words, and you make the same mistake, Doug. Their short stories all have full length.
The same goes for Harlan's "shorter novels": They are novellas. A well-established from in Europe.

Regarding the future, Harlan hans't found his real audience yet (or vice versa), so I see potential. For a number of reasons, he has a better chance now than before of being discovered by the right people, and occasionally he takes steps in the right direction. After him, it will be up to other people to keep his works alive. He has many friends and fans in important places.
(In the meantime, we should keep cataloging his books and stories as best as we can.)

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FinderDoug
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Re: 2008 - Dreams with Sharp Teeth (movie)

Postby FinderDoug » Mon Feb 22, 2010 11:49 pm

Here I was criticizing Shapiro for his choice of words, and you make the same mistake, Doug.


No, Jan; less a mistake, I think you're merely caught in semantic differences. When I say "full length" I'm talking about a work the accepted length of a novel - which begins at 40k to 50k words, depending on who you ask. Harlan has three, the last published in 1961. In a country where literary merit is more often than not (rightly or wrongly) measured by novel-length product produced, the lack of a novel-length work from the period where Harlan's skills were more seasoned and honed creates an uphill climb for Harlan's posterity and legacy.

And you know I'm not saying that any of the short fiction by any of the authors I mentioned are not fully-formed, complete works. That's nonsensical.

I used "Short Novel" in lieu of "novella" as it's the nomenclature/designation Harlan uses in his book list for the (correcting my earlier number) four novellas that have been published in a stand-alone book form (read as: not only as a magazine publication or as part of a collection of fiction). While Harlan only lists the ones that were specifically printed as stand-alones, "A Boy And His Dog" (Best Novella Nebula Winner / Hugo Nominee) and "The Region Between" (nominated in the Best Novella category for both the Hugos and Nebulas) also qualify categorically. There are probably others. I have not the inclination to go scouring for them.

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FrankChurch
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Re: 2008 - Dreams with Sharp Teeth (movie)

Postby FrankChurch » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:42 pm

Harlan's personality doesn't promote huge fandom, plus a commercial writer has to be a good huckster. Harlan has never been that.

Elitism doesn't sell well here.


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