“Beatles in dialog with Buddy Holly…”

“Fans began to take over creative responsibility in the world of Science Fiction as early as the mid-thirties; I doubt that by the mid-seventies there were many major practitioners in the genre who had not started out as a passionate, Con-going, zine-compiling fans. The second great age of American cinema was entirely created by fans (Coppola, Scorsese, Rafelson, Ashby, Spielberg, Lucas, et al) ; The Godfather is as much about the intensive study of gangster films as it is about gangsters. Same goes, even more so, for Scorsese. Rock and roll, same deal. The Beatles work is fan fiction on the work of Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers: It’s not simple (or even complex) imitation; it’s elaboration, infilling, transformation, a strategic redployment of the tropes and figures of the source material/primary text; the Beatles are in dialog with Buddy Holly, as Badfinger was in dialog with the Beatles and Jellyfish with Badfinger. Or you could go Stones/Stooges/Sex Pistols. The word “influence” is insufficient and too one-sided to describe a relationship that is much more accurately reflected by the system of tribute/ appropriation/critique that fandom employs. This kind of process, by which one generation of fan/critics (because anyone who doesn’t understand that a fan is a critic doesn’t know what a fan is, and there is nothing sadder to contemplate than the idea of a critic who is not also a fan) becomes the creators whose work inspires and obsesses and is critiqued by the next generation of fans, who in turn become critic-creators, has occurred in every popular art form across the board going back fifty or five thousand years. The apostles wrote fan fiction on Torah…”

Q: Why do you think such a high proportion of alternate history novels revolve around World War II in some way or another? Do you think it’s different for authors who weren’t alive during World War II and the Holocaust to imagine them turning out differently, than for someone like, say, Philip K. Dick, who was in high school during the war?

“Well, of course PKD did a pretty fair job of imagining just that in THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE. I think the thing about WWII is that it was so huge, so important, so clearly one of the two or three most significant periods in human history — and yet even a cursory study of it reveals it to have been woven of dozens if not hundreds of teensy little frail threads which, if pulled or tucked a different way, might easily have produced a completely different outcome. Say, for example, that the British Navy had not captured a German cypher machine from a sunk U-Boat in 1941. Cracking of the navy codes is delayed… key messages are never intercepted…”


Geeking Out About Genres with Michael Chabon
, io9

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