August 22nd, 2007

Flimsy Plot Device


Tonight, I went to the BSFA, and, among other things, thought about labels. The guest of honor, Steph Swainston, began by rejecting being labeled as part of the "New Weird" movement by people prone to labeling - like critics. She explained how old Weird is, how her work fits in the longer continuum of it, and how can there be a movement among people who don't communicate with each other?

Successful labeling is by no means always a voluntary activity. The Middle Ages didn't asked to be so named - it was a retrospective label. Equally, "new" doesn't always mean "novelty, or innovative variant". It's also used for revivalist movement. By this logic, neoclassical things should be simply classed as classical; they're continuing an earlier tradition, albeit with some variations. Labeling isn't always fair, no, but in this case, I couldn't figure out what the downside was to it.

I may have felt ornery about the labeling comments, but in general, it was an excellent interview.* The interviewer asked interesting questions and gave the interviewee lots of room to answer. There were moments of particular vividness in the interview: the formative moment in the author's childhood when a wall was literally build down the middle of her school - playground, classrooms, kitchen, everything - and it was divided into two different ones, two different faiths, two different scholastic achivement levels, where the year before it had been all one space.

* And I could even hear pretty much all of it! Even though I'm temporarily deaf in one ear!