December 13, 2006

Holiday thoughts from Our Jane

This foggy, dim, and rainy weather is the best time of all to go down into the basement of your favorite independent book re-seller(dear old Copperfield's) and browse among that sweet, dry, used-bookish smell. Normally, I love old books, and have found some great treasures I missed by not being born in the 1960's, including books by Dodie Smith and some great old Joan Aikens -- and I am always trying to palm off my favorites from bygone eras on my poor hapless siblings, niece, former students, and random strangers on the street. UK author Sarah Burnett also found some great old books at a charity sale, and blogs about her old faves - reading them, and discovering that they are racist, classist and sexist. Um, what they? Do you still try to get people to read them?


Meanwhile, in my continual and timid adoration of Jane Yolen (timid in that I have yet to actually speak to her, continual, in that I plan months ahead to attend a conference where she will speak [psst! don't forget to REGISTER, guys!]) I continue to haunt her online journal (or, I guess they call that lurking), and this week found quite a funny screed about her work habits vs. the work habits of the rest of the world, and how writers simply cannot just assume that because they work a particular way, they are going to be a good writer or a bad one. However something else caught my particular attention, and in light of the fact that sometimes writing seems like a rather frivolous occupation in view of the continuing situations in myriad locations around the globe, I've been thinking about it. A reader asked her the question, "How can a fantasy writer help innocent people dying on another continent?" Her reply is excellent:

Alas, just the way anyone else does -- by sending money to the Good Guys, like Doctors Without Borders, or clothing and food through recognized charities; writing your congress critters, voting your conscience.

Oh, perhaps you mean how to help
using one's writing? We fantasy writers, like all writers, are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. Our words can make people think, can change minds, can influence opinion. But our job as fiction writers--as opposed to sermon writers--is to do all this through the medium of story.

So how can you help, etc? Work hard, BIC, write characters who sing and don't preach. Make landscapes that replicate in odd ways the underlying passion of your literary creations. Remember "May the metaphors be with you." Don't be fooled into thinking you are just an entertainer. But don't be fooled into thinking you are more than one, either

Hm. Well, here's to making people think.