Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

BSFA Event

I can't remember if I posted about this before, but a reminder's probably a good thing anyway, so...

Wednesday 28th March I'll be down in London, at the monthly BSFA meeting, for a short reading followed by an interview and Q&A. This'll take place upstairs in the Star Tavern in Belgravia (6 Belgrave Mews West, London, SW1X 8HT). Details can be found here but basically people will be gathering downstairs in the bar from about 5.00-5.30, heading upstairs around 6.00 (for the meeting, as I understand), with the interview proper kicking off around 7.00.

All are welcome; you don't have to be a member of the BSFA to attend. So if anyone wants to pop by, the more the merrier. I'll be trying to get there relatively early to hang out and chat, and hopefully won't have to rush off afterwards, so if ye can make it I look forward to seeing ye there.


On another note, I got an email from a chap called Michael Saler in the States who's currently working on a history of imaginary worlds, coming at it from a perspective very much simpatico with my own -- Modernism as blend of Rationalism and Romanticism. Anyway, he included a link to an essay of his, a historiographic overview of recent works on Modernism and enchantment, which I highly recommend. It's a fascinating analysis, and there's a lot that will resonate with writers and readers of strange fiction, I reckon, in terms of the respect or disrespect for "enchantment", the association of disenchantment with reason, the privileging of disenchantment as a mechanism in the construction of elites. It's highly pertinent, it seems to me, to some of the perennial debates as regards Elitism versus Populism and (Rationalist) SF versus (Romantic) Fantasy. Great stuff and well worth a read:

But within this exuberant excursus on the social and cultural meanings of griffin claws, unicorn horns, magical devices, mechanical automata, monsters, Wunderkammern, and peculiar emanations celestial and terrestrial, there are three innovative arguments that are important for histories of modern enchantment, no less than for the medieval and early modern periods. For their chosen period of emphasis, Daston and Park challenge the traditional, linear historical narrative concerning the gradual naturalization of wonders, arguing instead that elite attitudes toward them were undulatory and sometimes cyclic. Specific fractions among the elite had distinct attitudes toward wonders at different times, and it was not until the late seventeenth century that they united to promote the idea of disenchantment. Prior to this, seemingly unique, "marvelous" objects and events had a numinous aura that many elites hoped to appropriate for more worldly aims. Princes and courtiers collected marvelous items and categorized wonderful events to further their political, military, and cultural goals; for similar reasons, physicians and naturalists had recourse to wonders in their respective practices. Natural philosophers, on the other hand, were more ambivalent about wonders between the twelfth and the fifteenth centuries, as extraordinary objects and atypical occurrences challenged the habitual workings of nature upheld by scholasticism. By the seventeenth century, however, the development of the scientific method and the new understanding of empirical "facts" led natural philosophers to be more enthusiastic about investigating wonderful objects and events. In this respect, enchantment waxed rather than waned by the time of the Enlightenment, countering more linear narratives of progressive disenchantment.


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