Writers that Changed My World

I saw a meme, I from lesboprof, that listed 25 authors that were influential to her. It was fun for me to read, because there was some overlap with what my list would be and because she's (presumably) a feminist-studies type as well. I thought I'd give it a stab, though in typical tychoish fashion, this is going to be really eclectic. Also, because it's a meme, please feel free to comment and join in.

1. Samuel R. Delany - Delany was probably the single most cited author during my college career, and was my root back into science fiction after college. Good stuff, because it combines feminist/queer/race theory interests with science fiction.

2. Kim Stanley Robinson - My "intro to college" class was built around Robinson's "Mars Trilogy." While I put the books out of mind for many years, I've recently come back to them, and am surprised how much my own "Mars stories" draw on Robinson's influence to varying degrees. His work is Masterful and I quite enjoy it.

3. Gayle S. Rubin - Rubin's essay "Thinking Sex," really defined my interest in queer studies and queer theory, and remains terribly important to my world view.

4. Melissa Scott - I read the "Silence Leigh" trillogy when I was in high school (twice!), and it rocked my world, seriously rocked my world. I've read two of her other books more recently, and was similarly influenced by them. Good stuff.

5. Anne Lamott - Contemporary/mainstream fiction isn't often my thing, nor are (particularly) memoirs; however, I find Anne Lamont's fiction (and non-fiction) quite powerful. Someone got me Bird by Bird as a gift, and I ate it up (again, during high school). I've since read more of her work, and I'm particularly fond of All New People.

6. Issac Asimov - I read the Foundation series twice in high school and it was amazing. There's so much more Asimov out there, and while I'm not on a huge project to "read the SF canon," every time I come across an Asimov story it often succeeds at being really awesome.

7. Robert Heinlein - In high school I took a class where I had to read Like 12 books in 4 months (sophomore year.) It was intense and I swear the only book I finished reading for that class was Stranger in a Strange Land. It's good. I'm not a particular Heinlein fanboy, and a lot of his material creeps me out, but

8. Cherie Moraga - I have a copy of Cherrie Moraga's Loving in the War Years next to my desk and it's a book that I find incredibly powerful. Many, I think remember and cite Moraga's work with Gloria Anzaldúa (This Bridge Called My Back) which is indeed powerful stuff, but her creative work hit me a couple of times during college, and I think I'm better for it

9. Elizabeth Zimmerman - I knit the way I do because of Elizabeth, and I think about my knitting seriously because of Elizabeth.

  1. Meg Swansen - See above only more so.

11. Paul Connerton - I read this little book called How Societies Remember, in this nifty seminar I took durring my last semester on historiography, which was one of the very few classes I took in college "just cause I wanted to," and it was a great thing indeed. This book was a collecting point for a lot of the cultural identity, cultural memory ideas that guided my thinking durring the first two attempts at graduate school (long story), and much to my surprise continue to affect my thoughts

12. Orson Scott Card - I listened to an interview with OSC last week and he said that he recomended the "Speaker for the Dead" (post-Ender's Game trillogy) for people over age 18. I was certianly much younger than that when I plowed through all of the (at the time) existing Ender Books. I think I was 14 or so when I read all of them. In any case, big effect.

13. James Tiptree, Jr. - I named my cat (Kip) after a character in Brightness falls from the Air. I don't think I need to say much more than that.

14. Cory Doctorow - A huge force in contemporary science fiction, and despite the fact that I think our politics are at least mildly divergent (and as a result I find a lot of his more political fiction frustrating), he's a great influence.

15. Barbara Kingsolver - I've not read the complete bibliography, for sure, but I read a couple of her books in high school, and do quite enjoy her writing on a stylistic level.

16. Nancy Kress - Amazing. Kress was on my radar before college, but I've really started to read her work since my return to SF. I quite enjoy her blog, and I learn something about writing short fiction every time I read one of her stories.

17. Arthur C. Clarke - I worried about picking too many canon names. It'd be like a theatre type saying "I'm really into Anouilh, Shakespeare and Johnson." Frankly, however, I think it's true that a lot of the--particularly science fiction--that really influenced me on this list were things that I read when I was in high school. I think it's something more to do with "that stage," but Clarke's good stuff.

18. Armisted Maupin - The Tales of the City books are an amazing thing. I spent a week one summer, sitting in a chair, where I'd get a bottle of water, some crackers, and I'd just read book after book.

19. Irving Yalom - I have of course mentioned on this site that I majored in psychology in college. Throughout most of this period, I wasn't particularly interested in clinical work, despite the fact that all of my classmates were. In any case, the last semester I took a class on a clinical/treatment topic, and while all of my classmates who so wanted to help other people gave reports on depression, and anxiety, and personality disorders; I gave a report on Death, Dying, and Grief, through which I discovered Yalom, and I think as a result gave one of the more uplifting reports in the class. Changed my world.

20. Judith Butler - Not much to say, except I spent a lot of time with Butler's work in college, and like so much of the feminist and queer stuff that I read then, has really shaped my thinking. Butter, had a great impact for better or for worse on a lot of people, an I'm one of them.

21. David Eddings - I seem to have a thing for "books I read in high school," particularly long series. I read one of Edding's major sagas and it was delightful. I also enjoyed one of his non-fantasy books as well, somewhat later. I'm not a big fantasy lover, and but I do like saga's and Eddings tells a damn good story.

22. Ken Macleod - If I'm only half as cool as Ken Macleod when I grow up, I'll be one happy camper.

23. F. Scott Fitzgerald - Ok, I must confess, I read The Great Gatsby once in high school, and I'm convinced that this is the Great American Novel.

24. Theodor Holm Nelson - He wrote a book on hypertext that you probably haven't heard about called Literary Machines, but it's hugely inspiring in both it's scope and vision.

25. Lionel Bacon - He collected dance notes and music for Morris dancing. While it's not the kind of thing that you read, it is the kind of thing that my team has at every practice just in case we need some sort of arbiter.

widely synthetic

During my middle year of college, I took a class on gender and literature where we had to write a series (10? 12?) of "journal" entries. The assignment was to write 250-300 (hard boundaries) words due by midnight on Friday during most of the weeks of the semester. And there were other rules regarding the speed or frequency you could turn them in that I don't remember, but there were notably few restrictions on what they could be about.

A few interesting things happened. One is, that though we could write all of them in a weekend, we never did. My roommate(s) and I would write them while everyone was drinking on Friday night. We got pretty heroic about how close we'd cut these to the deadline. There was even a night when I was driving a friend to the airport (3-4 hours in the car) and I argued for an extension through an intermediary whilst driving quite assertively on I-90. Another is that we all got very good at editing our writing to a limited number of words, and it's a good skill to have. But the most important thing is that all my classmates wrote about the texts we were reading. I wrote about, g-d knows what. Not the things we were reading, except in loose tangential ways.

A roommate asked about if this was, an acceptable thing to do, and I wrote the professor somewhat worried that maybe my journal entries had strayed too far afield. In fairness, the professor's lectures had a similar tendency to stray, as near as I could tell, but it seemed like the thing to do.

The response was something along the lines of "Don't worry [tycho,] I quite enjoy your widely synthetic entries. You've received credit for all that you've submitted."

Needless to say "widely synthetic," became my new slogan. [1]

I think my blagging style developed in that class, such as it is, which is all sorts of scary.

I started writing this post with the intention of discussing the Sapir-Worf and programing languages. Which I think certainly qualifies as being "widely synthetic," hence the story, but I think I'll have to save that for next time.

Take care of yourselves, dearest readers.

[1]That same semester I took another feminist/queer literature class from the college's resident poet, who wrote in the margin of a paper I wrote that my phrasing was "awkward, but endearingly colloquial," which was the slogan of this blog for quite a long time. That was one of those semesters that just stays with you, I guess.

Popular Memory and Narrative Study Group Blog

An academic group, interested in memory and narrative started to write a blog in october, but hasn't had the follow through that one might hope for. But then it's an academic blog, and getting academics to collaborate on projects like this, is terribly difficult. Maybe we'll see some more. I'm pulling out interesting bits from the intro post, and I'll keep you all posted, if more interesting things start appearing.

This interesting little bit from the first post. Not so much a summary, just something that got my eye....

Introducing the Popular Memory & Narrative Study Group:

"...the starting point for sociology, almost by definition, has been ‘society’ and its ‘institutions’; whilst in versions of structuralist social theory the individual has been something of a vanishing point, disappearing without trace under a deluge of language and discourse. Instead, a reinvigorated focus on narrative begins with individual stories, memories and life-histories and traces these outwards (and upwards) to the social structures and collectivities of which individuals are a part."

(Via Memory and Narrative blog.)


Dangerous Ideas

Ok, this was fascinating. From my stash of cool academic blogs..

The end of insight?

"In my own field of complex systems theory, Stephen Wolfram has emphasized that there are simple computer programs, known as cellular automata, whose dynamics can be so inscrutable that there's no way to predict how they'll behave; the best you can do is simulate them on the computer, sit back, and watch how they unfold. Observation replaces insight. Mathematics becomes a spectator sport."

(Quoted in Marginal Revolution.)