No, not a political campaign – a refresh of Brandon Sanderson’s famous writing lectures at BYU, English 321. Here’s my playlist on Youtube for the original:
However, Sanderson just announced on his blog that there’s a new version, updating the material, and with more professional recording. The first episode just went live – English 318R, #1:
I am only about halfway through the original series and I have extensive notes that I want to put up online here. I am also greatly inspired by Auston’s and Jonathan’s examples. Watching Sanderson’s lectures break down the writing craft into what feels like more manageable pieces. These are essential viewing for anyone like me who has any aspiration to be a SF writer.
Here is a short recollection by writer Junot Diaz, in the New Yorker, about his oppressively non-diverse, anti-racial experience in a creative writing program. It’s worth reading in full, but in a nutshell, his MFA program suffered the same flaw as most MFA programs: it was too white. To elaborate,
Too white as in Cornell had almost no POC—no people of color—in it. Too white as in the MFA had no faculty of color in the fiction program—like none—and neither the faculty nor the administration saw that lack of color as a big problem. (At least the students are diverse, they told us.) Too white as in my workshop reproduced exactly the dominant culture’s blind spots and assumptions around race and racism (and sexism and heteronormativity, etc). In my workshop there was an almost lunatical belief that race was no longer a major social force (it’s class!). In my workshop we never explored our racial identities or how they impacted our writing—at all. Never got any kind of instruction in that area—at all. Shit, in my workshop we never talked about race except on the rare occasion someone wanted to argue that “race discussions” were exactly the discussion a serious writer should not be having.
From what I saw the plurality of students and faculty had been educated exclusively in the tradition of writers like William Gaddis, Francine Prose, or Alice Munro—and not at all in the traditions of Toni Morrison, Cherrie Moraga, Maxine Hong-Kingston, Arundhati Roy, Edwidge Danticat, Alice Walker, or Jamaica Kincaid. In my workshop the default subject position of reading and writing—of Literature with a capital L—was white, straight and male. This white straight male default was of course not biased in any way by its white straight maleness—no way! Race was the unfortunate condition of nonwhite people that had nothing to do with white people and as such was not a natural part of the Universal of Literature, and anyone that tried to introduce racial consciousness to the Great (White) Universal of Literature would be seen as politicizing the Pure Art and betraying the (White) Universal (no race) ideal of True Literature.
I know enough English majors that this is bound to come in handy for reasons of pure mischief:
Indeed, It is incendiary, to be taunting English majors in this manner; and to innocently pretend that no sentence can be left behind, because the detailed, precise rules of writing are important, in a way that ordinary people have zero comprehension of.
My friend Dean Esmay is reading Atlas Shrugged, out of a misplaced sense of due diligence. To stay sane, he’s blogging it. I actually read and even enjoyed The Fountainhead, but Atlas is pure literary masochism. I mean, come on:
Her leg, sculptured by the light sheen of the stocking, its long line running straight, over an arched instep, to the tip of a foot in a high-heeled pump, had a feminine elegance that seemed out of place in the dusty train car and oddly incongruous with the rest of her. She wore a battered camelâ€™s hair coat that had been expensive, wrapped shapelessly about her slender, nervous body. The coat collar was raised to the slanting brim of her hat. A sweep of brown hair fell back, almost touching the line of her shoulders. Her face was made of angular planes, the shape of her mouth clear-cut, a sensual mouth held closed with inflexible precision. She kept her hands in the coat pockets, her posture taut, as if she resented immobility, and unfeminine, as if she were unconscious of her own body and that it was a womanâ€™s body.
I’m not interested in debating the merits of any philosophy so pretentious as to label itself objective – to me, Atlas is a work of literature, and should be treated precisely as such, nothing more and nothing less. However, since the Randians roam the internet like the Burning Legion, laying waste to blogs that dare refuse to prostrate at Ayn Kiljaeden Rand’s throne, I can’t resist a little visual defiance, hence the admittedly rude image above for which I humbly beg my regular readers’ forgiveness.