Now the writer, as I think, has the chance to live more than other people in the presence of this reality. It is his business to find it and collect it and communicate it to the rest of us. So at least I infer from reading Lear or Emma or La Recherche du Temps Perdu. For the reading of these books seems to perform a curious couching operation on the sense; one sees more intensely afterwards; the world seems bared of its covering and given an intenser life. Those are the enviable people who live at enmity with un-reality; and those are the pitiable who are knocked on the head by the thing done without knowing or caring.
I must say in passing that on the few occasions that I have been inside a Board-school, I have been much depressed by the mechanical drill that was too obviously being applied there to all the varying capacities and moods. My heart sank before Mr M’Choakumchild and his method, and I thought how much luckier I was to have been born well enough off to be sent to a school where I was taught—nothing; but learned archaeology and romance on the Wiltshire downs.
And then supposing the worker to be really educated, to have acquired both the information and the taste for reading which Mr McChoakum-child’s (sic) dole will allow to him under the most favourable circumstances, how will this treasure of knowledge and sympathy accord with his daily life? Will it not make his dull task seem duller? Will it not increase the suffering of the workshop or the factory to him? And if so, must he not rather strive to forget than strive to remember? Will not nature force him to that? I cannot help thinking that as a rule it must be so, unless he has joined the ranks of the discontented; in which case he will gain something of pleasure from mere bitterness and railing if he is not a Socialist, and how much more than that some of our readers know well, if he is one.
Now if I am told that this is à priori reasoning, I am prepared to fortify it by my own observation. I have often been told by working-men (Socialist and others} that they cannot read books; are too tired with the day's work to do so, and the like. Also amongst my middle-class acquaintances, who believe that they work hard, I meet with men who clearly do not read books, and therefore, I suppose, cannot; and I move in each case in a circle that has decided literary tendencies. So that other person's experiences will, I am sure, lead them to conclusions on this point not more favourable than mine.
I don’t teach writing workshops but reading workshops. The reading workshop is less concerned with analysis or explanation of individual poems than with finding ways to intensify the experience of poetry, of the poetic, through a consideration of how the different styles and structures and forms of contemporary poetry can affect the way we see and understand the world. No previous experience with poetry is necessary. More important is a willingness to consider the implausible, to try out alternative ways of thinking, to listen to the way language sounds before trying to figure out what it means, to lose yourself in a flurry of syllables and regain your bearings in dimensions otherwise imagined as out-of-reach, to hear how poems work to delight, inform, redress, lament, extol, oppose, renew, rhapsodize, imagine, foment …
[To understand science fiction,] you have to be able to make the two images that are coming at you from science fiction cohere into a single image like 3D glasses.
So, on the one hand, science fiction is stories set in the future. It’s as simple as that. You set a story in the day after tomorrow and it’s science fiction; if you set it 5 million years from now it’s science fiction even though those are two very different story spaces. And therefore science fiction is related to prophecy, a very very ancient power. A lot of the books of the Old Testament are saying “Look this is what’s coming because of the way you people are.” It’s a little admonitory and a little Thoreauvian scolding of one’s fellow citizens for not being good enough. And this power of prophecy that’s so ancient is not to be denied. Some of my fellow science fiction writers will say, “Oh, science fiction is not really about the future.” Why would you say that? It’s a great powerful thing to have, saying, “Science fiction is about the future.” It’s a serious attempt to portray a possible future and one that could happen given what we know right now. You even run out a timeline often. And it’s not that this will happen; it’s not prediction. Because the future cannot be predicted. It’s too multi-variant, and too unpredictable. But it could happen this way, and so you’re running a scenario or a modeling exercise. . .
The second lens is indeed that science fiction is about right now; it is a metaphor for right now. Nobody can ever talk about anything but their own time, and when you look at older science fictions you see that very clearly. It’s hilarious, they didn’t get it right, it’s nothing like what came to pass, but if you want to know about 1954 when you were in 1954, you need to read the science fiction of 1954 to get that this is what they felt was in potention in their own time.