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bear by san

March 2017



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bear by san

this is not a manifesto

There is no such thing as the eco-gothic movement. *g* t's just a handy label Chelsea and I have slapped on certain writerly characteristics that intrigue us.

[21:57] cpolk: (is this why we're a movement?)
[21:57] matociquala: the eco-gothics? *g*
[21:57] matociquala: I think so.
[21:57] cpolk: yes.
[21:57] matociquala: I think Bob Wilson may be the founding father of the trend.
[21:58] matociquala: Although The Word for World is Forest is probably the ur-text.
[21:58] cpolk: and I camp myself firmly with the eco-gothics, because that's where my SFNal ideas lie.
[21:58] matociquala: I mean, I was joking when I coined the term. But there's something there.
[21:58] cpolk: yes.
[21:58] cpolk: and it will probably become common usage.
[21:59] matociquala: I dunno, there's been no assimilation of it so far.
[21:59] matociquala: but it's useful to me.
[21:59] matociquala: I mean, what is eco-gothic?
[21:59] matociquala: John Brunner is.
[21:59] matociquala: And Bob Wilson is.
[21:59] matociquala: And I think Peter is, and I am, and you are....
[22:00] matociquala: What do we have in common, though?
[22:02] cpolk: that we look around at the world
[22:02] cpolk: and we're fucking scared.
[22:02] matociquala: there's this underlying idea of the implacability of the universe
[22:02] matociquala: and the smallness of humanity.
[22:02] cpolk: because we were the secondclass geeks who took life sciences instead of physics with the hard line geeks.
[22:02] matociquala: heh
[22:02] matociquala: or anth, or psych, or medicine
[22:03] cpolk: we know that there is no guiding caring force. that life is amazing in its tenacity and persistence, but that ultimately, it's completely pitiless
[22:03] matociquala: Yes.
[22:03] matociquala: That's it, I think
[22:03] cpolk: and if you take it too far, if you unbalance it enough, it will crush you.
[22:03] matociquala: this idea of the tenacity of life in a pitiless universe.
[22:03] cpolk: and nobody else seems to fucking GET IT.
[22:03] matociquala: because life is tenacious
[22:03] matociquala: but.
[22:04] matociquala: humanity is disposable.
[22:04] cpolk: we are.
[22:04] matociquala: and you know what?
[22:04] matociquala: It's not a tragedy that the passenger pigeon perished.
[22:04] cpolk: there's a metaphor in spin - the outstretched arms metaphor?
[22:04] matociquala: And it won't be a tragedy when we go either
[22:04] matociquala: yeah.
[22:04] cpolk: yes, exactly.
[22:04] matociquala: I was on a panel with Lyda Morehouse
[22:04] matociquala: the SF Disaster Novel
[22:04] cpolk: we're the white stuff you trim off your fingernails.
[22:05] cpolk: we care if we perish.
[22:05] cpolk: life does not. it'll just keep being tenacious.
[22:05] matociquala: And at one point I was talking about the coolness of something incredible destructive.
[22:05] cpolk: mmm.
[22:05] matociquala: And Lyda looked at me and said "This woman is not on our side."
[22:05] cpolk: LOL
[22:05] cpolk: but that's the thing.
[22:05] cpolk: we are.
[22:05] cpolk: we'd like to see humanity live.
[22:05] matociquala: It got a huge laugh--
[22:05] matociquala: And of course I am.
[22:06] matociquala: I am totally invested in humanity.
[22:06] cpolk: it wouldn't fucking scare us down to the cells if we didn't.
[22:06] matociquala: But I also know that God doesn't care if we persist.
[22:06] matociquala: We're not special.
[22:06] cpolk: we're not essential.
[22:06] matociquala: No, we're not.
[22:06] cpolk: the universe doesn't love us bestest of all.
[22:06] matociquala: But we're special to us.
[22:06] cpolk: yes.
[22:06] cpolk: and so we have to take care of us.
[22:07] matociquala: Which is, oddly enough, something that gives me sympathy to ethnic literature.
[22:07] cpolk: and that means taking care of where we live
[22:07] matociquala: *insert scare quotes above*
[22:07] cpolk: and taking the blinders off because we've Got to Go.
[22:07] cpolk: here's your lunch honey, have a good time on your new planet.
[22:07] matociquala: Because you know, there's this critique that a Black Novel is not Relevant because it's about Blackness, not Humanity
[22:07] cpolk: and don't fuck it up this time, 'kay?
[22:08] matociquala: Which upon I call bullshit.
[22:08] matociquala: Because a human novel isn't relevant.
[22:08] matociquala: Because it's about humanity.
[22:08] matociquala: six point five billion ugly bags of mostly water on a second-class planet in an arm of a barred spiral galaxy
[22:09] matociquala: Pretending like Hell that we signify.

The rest of the conversation, which touches upon Butler, Le Guin, Watts, the future of SFF, and why Robert Charles Wilson's Spin just might be the book of the decade, is here.



"Eco-gothic." Actually, I really like that. A lot. I could get a lot of utility out of this word...
See, you know exactly what we mean, right?

It's etymologically obvious.

By the way, if you haven't read Starfish, I think it would be up your alley....

See, you know exactly what we mean, right?


By the way, if you haven't read Starfish, I think it would be up your alley....

Thanks. Will do.
My mom, a geologist, gave him advice on techie details in a newsgroup, so he named a geological feature after her (Beltz).

Then a USGS guy read the novel, realized that that patch of features didn't HAVE names yet, and put things in train to make Watts' names the official ones. So omgSQUEE my geologist mother may have an actual crustal feature named after her soon. :->
Hee. That's pretty cool.
you may have createda monster... expect the fbi by morning.. first peta, then the vegans, and then the eco-goths..
John Brunner, Bob Wilson, Peter Watts, you... yeah, I can see that.

While there may not be a movement, eco-gothic strikes me as a potentially useful grouping.
Grouping is probably better than movement.

Movement implies, you know, intent. Grouping is more like a statistical cluster.
Exactly. It notes similarities without implying coordination or collaboration.

(Just finished Scardown, btw. Good book.)
[22:02] matociquala: there's this underlying idea of the implacability of the universe
[22:02] matociquala: and the smallness of humanity.
[22:03] cpolk: we know that there is no guiding caring force. that life is amazing in its tenacity and persistence, but that ultimately, it's completely pitiless

This also describes most of Stephen Baxter's work (especially Evolution).
*writes it down*

The epigraph for Evolution:
Judging from the past, we may safely infer that not one living species will transmit its unaltered likeness to a distant futurity. And of the species now living very few will transmit progeny of any kind to a far distant futurity.
--Charles Darwin, 1859
Most of the rest of the book is the history of mammalian life on Earth, told as a series of short stories (of which the ones around the extinction of the dinosaurs and the development of language are the best), framed by a present-day story of ecological meltdown. The last part of the book sweeps into the future to show that humans ain't no different.

Also, you realise I'm going to use "eco-gothic" in a review, and credit you, ASAP, right? :p
It tells me that I have created a monster.

I think I coined the term in a OWW chat in 2003 or so when talking about Peter Watts and why he wouldn't stop writing the damned books I wished I was writing. Chelsea, katallen, leahbobet, and a few others in that crew have been using it as an occasional thumbnail description of the kind of spiritual heirs of John Brunner-cum-running joke since then.

Now it can be told.
Obviously this is the real reason the fundies don't like evolution: not because it means the Bible isn't literally true but because it means humans don't count for jack. I started that sentence sarcastically but now I'm pretty sure it's true.
Why else would they be so insistent on the "created in God's image" meme? They want to feel *special*.
special, but not responsible for taking care of the planet or its inhabitants... :(
See, when I hear the word "eco-gothic", I'm imagining pale vegans in black, wearing recycled rubber,and listening to music made with geothermal powered drum machines.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
I still insist that your guy is the other Bob Wilson.
Bob C. Wilson.
Don't mind me, I'm just a cranky old fart, though maybe I haven't changed that much. 40 years ago, I was searching the bookstores for this great writer I discovered and getting pissed off when I kept seeing Hal Ellson instead.
*g* It's a doom. I've read an awful lot of R.A.W. over the years, though....
Will you be annoyed if, after further consideration, I eventually write a Wikipedia entry on "eco-gothic"? You and Chelsea would be credited, of course... :)
Not at all. Does that mean I should try to define it? Because that scares me....

What I mean when I point at it is a vague sub-subgenre of speculative fiction (fantasy or horror or SF) characterized by: a certain baroque darkness, lush or careful writing, and a character-driven sensibility that is nevertheless subject to the realization that the environment is pitiless and has bigger fish to fry than whatever the narrative concerns itself with--but that's okay, because you know, it's a bit hubristic to think of ourselves as the center of anything. Except our own valid, but itty bitty, concerns.

So, Gothic in the sense of "characterized by gloom and mystery and the grotesque" also, Gothic in the sense that our arches are pointed. ;-)

That the eco-Gothic sensibility is summed up in the phrase, "Nobody is coming for you," is what I said to Chelsea, originally. Which is probably the most useful description. And definitely encompasses Lovecraftian influences.

*holds up the rubric so Cait can scuttle under it*
And I just googled, and it looks like Stephen Palmer used the phrase in 1996:

Stephen Palmer is a thirty-something writer, artist and musician who lives and works in Exeter. In addition to many short stories and articles his first novel, Memory Seed, an ‘eco-gothic catastrophe in the style of John Wyndham’ was published by Orbit in 1996 and drew comparisons with Mervyn Peake, Brian Aldiss, Gill Alderman and Storm Constantine.