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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!


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 23rd, 2007 01:49 am (UTC)
That last paragraph is apparently about a bit of English history I'm not familiar with. A bit of explanation, please.
Aug. 23rd, 2007 08:06 am (UTC)
The wall built through her school? It was literally just her school affected by this, in Bradford I think. It was a Catholic primary school, increasing attracting more interfaith children, which worried the school's priest governors. So over the summer when Swainston was 8, the school sold half of itself off. The other half of the school became a Muslim school and, to permanently separate the properties, a wall was built down the middle of the whole thing, through playground, classroom, kitchens, toilets - everything. Even though they couldn't see anything through the wall, they could still smell each others' meals cooking (and curry smelt much better than spam fritters, as she said).

In the previous years at that school, she and her multifaith friends had played a sort of RPG using the playground as their land - and the wall meant that half of the land was now inacessible to them, as well as breaking up friendship circles, presumably. And that was where the wall dividing insects from the known lands came from in her books. (I'm quoting approximately here since I haven't read any of her work yet.)

The story was new to most people there I think - and a very powerful and formative one.
Aug. 23rd, 2007 03:02 pm (UTC)
The story was new to most people there I think - and a very powerful and formative one.

It is.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )