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

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Jan
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Postby Jan » Sun May 17, 2009 7:56 am

As some of you know, Webderland has a forum for discussion of Harlan's works in the forum area.
It is called S.P.I.D.E.R. - Symposium Performing Incompetent Discussion of Ellison Releases.
I think it would be a good thing if, over the years, every story and book of Harlan's had some words written about them there, with some works hopefully getting read and commented on by two or more people.
Lately it's been mostly me, and I can't do it alone in my lifetime.
Specifically, there are several books that I have purposely avoided, and maybe we can find some people who'd like to take the lead on untouched sources such as:
Over the Edge, Mind Fields, Dream Corridor 1, Spider Kiss (chapter by chapter), Memos From Purgatory, Web of the City, No Doors, No Windows, I, Robot, Hornbook, and others.
It is also possible to devote threads to the stories of writers connected to Harlan. Possible examples are Farmer, Bradbury, Poe, or Leiber.
Also the threads already there are open for everybody to expand. We always welcome people to express their views on stories already evaluated.
SPIDER is a very long-term project that also grows and changes, and there is no set way to write entries, so whoever does is relatively free to do it his or her own way, as long as the book or story is at the center.
I'm opening a thread to discuss these matters further - suggestions appreciated.
I've also asked Rick some time ago to make SPIDER more visible and rename it something like Literary Forum so that people find it and know what it is.

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Jan
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Postby Jan » Mon May 18, 2009 9:21 am

Or to ask a more basic question:
Do we *want* to discuss and survey Harlan's oevre at all?
Does everybody feel inept at talking about literature? Why is that? Literature is for the people. Whatever you don't understand you just admit you don't understand and perhaps somebody else does.
Some of us have disagreed with opinions expressed in Harlan's essays and disliked some stories of his - no big deal - not for us, not for Harlan.
Are we honest, feeling, intelligent readers with opinions and thoughts of our own or are we just here to suck up to the master, accept everything he does and says and writes, and tell him how great he is? (He said provocatively.)

The truth is that, by and large, Harlan's (and most genre writers) works do not receive very much attention here or anywhere else on the net or outside - most of the attention these days is directed at Harlan's personality or particular works like the computer game, Harlequin, Boy and His Dog, Nelson's film, or the Trek episode. To my knowledge SPIDER is the only place that collects thoughts and information (some of it contributed by Harlan when we ask him) on ALL his stories and books. I know it doesn't look like much now, but a few years ago it wasn't there at all. If all of us, who are interested, carry a little bit of the responsibility, it will change and grow. (One day we will also have a newer software.)
The other thing I feel strongly about is that SPIDER be fun. So if we can't find a way for you to see the fun in exploring Harlan's world, his art and his ideas, his triumphs and failures, then there is of course no need for the forum anymore.

Regarding myself, I want to make clear, as I did in the beginning, that I consider it my responsibility to get/keep SPIDER on the right track and so on, but it was always a group project, even though lately it hasn't looked like it. I am not the eternal god-given moderator or boss.

To give you a concrete idea of what you can do, unless you have a different idea, is that, if you want, you choose one book and write about it, story by story, over the course of, say, a year. Presumably some of you *are* reading Harlan's books, and it's only the commenting part that's a leap.

The discussion thread is open.

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Postby Moderator » Mon May 18, 2009 12:19 pm

As I've noted elsewhere, I would be quite surprised if there's no desire for a discussion forum. To me, a basic function of a website forum dedicated to an artist would be a discussion of that artist's work.

I don't participate simply because literary deconstruction isn't something I do terribly well. My comments are of the "I liked the imagery in the story, but didn't understand the ending". Not a great contribution.

I CAN do visual deconstruction much more effectively, which is why I intend to tackle Mind Fields.

But my vote, Jan, is that we continue the forums but get a better understanding of why people aren't participating. As you're doing here.
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Postby markabaddon » Mon May 18, 2009 1:14 pm

Jan,

The reason I do not contribute more to the SPIDER threads is, honestly, because it is very intimidating to me, even though I enjoy writing critical pieces on literary and film topics.

There are people in these Forums such as Barney, David, and Doug whose knowledge of Ellison related material outstrips mine by measures that could best be described as galactic (none of whom I should add have ever been anything other than gracious and kind in email discussions, I list them purely for illustrative purposes).

I say this knowing that it paints me in a less than favorable light but it is simply easier at times to discuss the vagaries of Star Trek or to lambaste Frank's latest nihilistic rant than to analyze a work that means a great deal to you. Also, the critic often reveals as much about himself as the piece he is deconstructing and that ain't always a comfortable action.

Nevertheless, I recognize that what is easy is not often what is best and I will make a much more concerted effort to contribute to this section and to provide my thoughts where I can.

Mark
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Postby Lori Koonce » Mon May 18, 2009 2:21 pm

Jan

I don't participate for two very good(IMHO) reasons. Mark hit the first one on the head.

But, second of all and more important to me is the reason I read HE in the first place. I don't think many people would be interested in my rather emotional reactions to most of what I read.

But, if others don't mind, I'm more than willing to give it a shot.

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What Ellisonn Means To Me (or, Oh My God...)

Postby shagin » Mon May 18, 2009 10:47 pm

I'm much with Lori on this one. I can deconstruct, but as I said in the pavillion my deconstructing Harlan's stories is much like critiquing a talent higher on the foodchain.

What I wouldn't mind doing is taking as shot at a thread that addresses those emotional reactions, at what HE's stories symbolize for each of us. Things we liked, didn't like, didn't care for, didn't understand, on a more visceral level. Rather than critiques, speak to what the stories did for us/mean to us.

Assuming any of that made sense.


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Postby Jan » Tue May 19, 2009 12:04 am

Thank ye guys and gals!
Bad Don: You are intimidated by those pussies?
We did the analyzing and "deconstructing" thing with some difficult stories early on, years ago - personally I stick to the basics - what's it about, what sort of story is it, what was the context, did I like it? My comments are also short unless the story gives me something to talk about.
The only thing I reveal about myself is that I'm vicious, but people already knew that.
Duane's review of Purple Wage is also a good example what an entry can look like, with quotes and all. No psychoanalysis of Farmer.
It will also be less intimidating to post here when more people do on a more regular basis.
Think about it and let me know if perhaps you would like to take over a book.

One of my ideas is that eventually we might turn some threads into single documents for use in an improved and esasier-to-find Webderland review section.

Lori: We used to have quite a few openly emotional reactions back when there was more discussion. I would say my reactions are emotional too, but I try to get to the bottom of them - why did the story affect me the way it did? And so on. My comments benefit from my emotions but are about the story.

(continued)

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Postby Jan » Tue May 19, 2009 12:37 am

Peluquero: There is no need to deconstruct anything (oh, so it's you who said that, sorry Mark). And I wouldn't worry about contributions not being "great", personally. Any comment is better than none and might prompt someone else to comment as well. I sometimes solve the problem by posting about two stories at once.

I will try to get editing functions for people who want to open and moderate their own thread(s). Until then, people should send me changes and corrections as PM.

The head postings should include things like links to a bookshop or the E-Reads shop (if applicable) and so on but you can always add useful things later, and so will I.

Sandra: That's what SPIDER is there for. As long as the comments center on a particular book and/or particular stories of your choice. But I think that's what you mean. You are more than welcome to give it a shot and see how it works out.


Those who want to start and supervise new threads in the near future, apart from Peluquero, let us know when it's definite and about which book(s) (unless you use existing threads) and I'll talk to Rick about editing functions.

Also thanks and keep talking.

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Postby Duane » Tue May 19, 2009 3:48 pm

My issue is, simply, time. But this is something I want to be involved in, so I will set aside time in my reading to 1> read (or reread) an Ellison story, and 2> comment meaningfully on it. Spider Kiss has been on my bookshelf for a while now, and I think I'll start with that.

Also, F&SF has been reprinting classic stories in its issues this year, and Harlan is slated to pick the next one (later this summer). It probably won't be one of his own, but it will be interesting to see what he chooses.

**

Speaking of, how about a thread of general SF commentary? I can create it, either in this forum or the Pop Culture one (or the General one, depending on where you and Steve think it should go), and we can discuss SF in general, authors, stories, the future of the genre, etc.

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Postby Duane » Tue May 19, 2009 3:51 pm

Yeah, no art school "deconstruction." I read Harlan's stories for their entertainment value, and while I try to figure out what it is that makes the story work, I don't want to waste my time stroking my Gen-Y "brain beard" goatee and wondering what the protagonist's pressing the red button instead of the blue one has to do with the Alaskan salmon run, if you know what I mean.

(Be very afraid of me.... ;) )

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Postby Jan » Wed May 20, 2009 12:22 am

I knew Duane had enough honor left inside of him to show up!!

Nothing would be more desirable than sections devoted to things not written by Harlan, but a sober look at our collective capabilities makes it advisable, I think, to avoid genre-spanning macro-discussions. (Even in the case of SF, we don't have enough experts - you'd be talking to yourself mostly or dealng with a lot of uninformed opinions.) But that's only part of what you meant.

It would be better, I think, to have something like a "various writers" thread about specific stories and books (or even whole issues of F&SF) that we happen upon and feel like commenting on. A sort of "What are you reading" thread with opinions. Or a blog-like version(s) of same dominated by a single individual(s) like you a la the personal threads in some other forums. For example, Duane's Magazine Shelf or something like that.

Just throwing out ideas and hopefully making sense.

Regarding SPIDER KISS: Would you be dealing with that chapter by chapter, treating them almost like a series of short stories? As I said in the Pavilion, that's what I had in mind for the book, though I'd never get around to it. If you do it like that, slowly, there would be a chance of audience participation.

I am aware of everybody's lack of time, so I can only recommend that everyone participate at their own leisure - when and how they want and to the extent that they are comfortable with.

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Postby Moderator » Wed May 20, 2009 9:53 am

Jan -
I plan on opening the Mind Fields thread this evening (PST). You might want to add graphics and whatnot once it's open.

SB
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Postby Jan » Wed May 20, 2009 10:45 am

I asked Rick this morning (my morning) to give Barber and Duane all the magic powers they need, so that's in the pipeline, I think.

Regarding graphics, my headers look like this:

[img]http://img222.imageshack.us/img222/3299/spideralternativuy3.jpg[/img]

[b][size=24]LOVE AIN'T NOTHING BUT SEX MISSPELLED[/size][/b]

Logo and title. I also get the covers, resize them and put them on imageshack, but since there is only one cover for Mind Fields, I suggest you just paste this in:

[img]http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51VX95P56VL.jpg[/img]

In case someone doesn't know, the link to the Mind Field product page at amazon would look like this:

Buy at [url=http://www.amazon.com/Mind-Fields-Fiction-Harlan-Ellison/dp/1883398665/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1242836737&sr=8-2]Amazon[/url]
The basic tags are [url=address]text[/url].

I'm very excited by people coming aboard and by Barber jumping in so quick.

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Postby David Loftus » Wed May 20, 2009 10:55 am

markabaddon wrote:Jan,

The reason I do not contribute more to the SPIDER threads is, honestly, because it is very intimidating to me, even though I enjoy writing critical pieces on literary and film topics.

There are people in these Forums such as Barney, David, and Doug whose knowledge of Ellison related material outstrips mine by measures that could best be described as galactic



Oh, fer cryin' out loud.

That ain't what these forums should be about. Ellison's work, when it's good, is often very personal, and some of the best, most illuminating reader responses to it are apt to be just as personal.

I don't believe any sort of literary, historical, or other academic knowledge should form a necessary basis for understanding what Ellison is doing. And when people have strikingly personal responses to the stories, even the most -- make that ESPECIALLY the most -- academically minded of us will take a back seat, listen, and learn.

I haven't contributed all that much to these discussions in recent years because I suffer from something of the opposite problem of some of the rest of you -- a surfeit of Ellison. I've had too much, too long ago, to make it that interesting for me to reread and discuss Ellison's work here, when there's so much else I want to read and do.

However -- and I think I've admitted this here before -- I've never read Mind Fields, even though I own several editions, I think. I've dipped into it, but it never caught fire for me. If other folks commit to getting a discussion going, I'll try to make an effort, both because the pieces are short and because I'm less conversant with the visual that Barber talks about.


>> Bad Don: You are intimidated by those pussies?

My sentiments exactly.
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 Jan » Wed May 20, 2009 11:42 am

Addendum to earlier: Barber and Duane can now edit posts to their hearts content as moderators. (Rick was here.)

This is for regular posters so they can correct their typos, add links, change images and be a general nuisance to everyone else. As we know, Rick will be updating the software at some point, so all people can edit themselves.


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