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11/12/09

A big thank you to Doug Casey (this week's coveted award)

Thank you for the laugh. I'm still chuckling full 12 hours after reading it.

A. Person sent me this thing called "Conversations With Casey" last night, which is an e-mail that has Doug Casey chewing the cud with some dude called Louis James. So yesterday's version (on line here) had the guy that is getting ripped off by his cattle ranch managers in Argentina (but he doesn't know that) talking about science fiction ('SF' or 'speculative fiction' if you like, Duggie) that includes this exchange:

Doug: Yes. I have little use for English professors. Their standard complaint is that SF isn't "great literature" – which is nothing more than a foolish and unsubstantiated opinion. The relevant fact of this matter is that a variation of Pareto's law applies: 80% of everything is crap. And of the 20% that's left, 80% of that is just mediocre. So, of course 80% of SF is crap – but so is 80% of everything else. And the best speculative fiction, the top 4%, is world-class literature. And it has much greater ideational content – by an order of magnitude – than any other genre of literature. That more than makes up for the lack of poetry in some of the prose.

L: What matters more; a book that challenges your mind to think in new directions, or onomatopoeia?

Doug: Exactly. No question. Anyone who wants to claim to be a well-read person has to read speculative fiction. In fact, my two favorite areas for reading have long been ancient literature and speculative fiction – bracketing the two ends of the spectrum of time, if you will.

L: Perhaps so, chronologically. But I suspect the ancients would have been looking around at a world that was new to them and full of mysteries and unexplained frontiers – just the sort of things SF authors tend to write about.

Doug: Yes, it's very interesting. Paradoxical, in some ways. The Greek and Nordic myths are actually a form of SF.


How anyone who claims to have read the classics can come out with a statement as crass as "the Greek and Nordic myths are actually a form of SF" is pretty impressive in itself, but to actually allow it to be published with his name at the side is another level altogether.

Anyone who has even scratched the surface of the subject will have heard of the mythos/logos issue. In fact, calling them "The Greek And Nordic Myths" as Casey does is a direct entry point to the mythos, as that's what the myths were based upon. The "mythos", the "myths" as manifested by the Greeks (and their Nordic counterparts) were not written or enacted by ancients trying to fathom the world as they see it. Myths weren't created to be 'reasonable'; that was left to the logos, which was the part of the Greek philosophy that has influenced western society to this day. The ancient myths were "mythos-to-logos" whereas a modern SF tale is "logos-to-mythos", when a writer (SF writers typically have strong scientific background) create their fantasy to explain where they see the future of their logical, scientific discoveries. Misunderstanding the mythos a freshman level error of judgement that has been refuted more times than can be imagined by those that really what the hell they're talking about.

Really there are reams that could be written on this one, but to cut a long story short taking a logos-based literature (SF) that has grown from modern society and saying that the mythos-based literature laid down all those years ago is the same thing would get you an immediate and unequivocal "fail" score in any classroom worth its salt. Any idiot can read the classics and go "oh, neat story dude". This is not about the validity or otherwise of Asimov (an extremely good read, fwiw) his peers or a literature such as SF; it's about a man called Casey that's spouting crap and trying to sound way smarter about a subject than he clearly and really is.

I always suspected there was intellectual mediocrity behind that facade of arrogance. Now the evidence is clear. Doug Casey, you don't have the slightest clue as to what you're talking about and therefore win this week's coveted award; enjoy, dumbass: