“The ability of writers to imagine what is not the self, to familiarize the strange and mystify the familiar, is the test of their power.”
The featured image is a detailed crop of Robert McCurdy’s stunning portrait of Toni Morrison. It currently hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. I encourage you to check out the full piece. Morrison’s impact on American culture and literature cannot be overstated. She lived an inspirational life and left this world a better place. Her voice will be missed, but her legacy will last forever.
“[The first version of the novel] was read by Terry Pratchett, aged forty-three, who said: hang on. I wrote that in the days when I thought fantasy was all battles and kings. Now I’m inclined to think that the real concerns of fantasy ought to be about not having battles, and doing without kings.”
This quote comes from the Author’s note from the revised edition of Pratchett’s debut novel, The Carpet People. He wrote that book when he was seventeen, and it’s no surprise that twenty-six years (and many many many books) later, his thoughts toward fantasy had shifted. As a writer who tends to work outside of fantasy’s categorical delineations, I appreciate this perspective. I find myself thinking along similar lines quite often.
In an article for Stanford’s Arcade, Rutger’s professor Andrew Goldstone explored this quote further and examined how it related to Pratchett and his writing in “Terry Pratchett: ‘Not having battles, and doing without kings'”—it’s an excellent piece and worth checking out.
“Forget talent. If you have it, fine. Use it. If you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter. As habit is more dependable than inspiration, continued learning is more dependable than talent.”
—Octavia E. Butler
Back around the beginning of the year, I shared a quote from Butler that’s quite similar to this one, but instead of talent, that previous quote focused on inspiration. The reason they sound so similar is that they’re both are taken from the same essay on writing advice: Furor Scribendi.
The essay was initially published in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Volume IX but luckily you can find a reprinting of in her collection Bloodchild: And Other Stories which I’d recommend for the titular story alone.
“[Writing is] hostile in that you’re trying to make somebody see something the way you see it, trying to impose your idea, your picture. It’s hostile to try to wrench around someone else’s mind that way. Quite often you want to tell somebody your dream, your nightmare. Well, nobody wants to hear about someone else’s dream, good or bad; nobody wants to walk around with it. The writer is always tricking the reader into listening to the dream.”
This is taken from a 1978 interview for The Paris Review. The whole conversation is worth reading, but this quote really jumped out at me.