I meant to post this link a couple of weeks ago when it was first published, but this piece by the wonderful John Lanchester about video games is well worth a look. Lanchester is essentially trying to think his way around the question of what the aesthetics of a form which is built around interaction and creativity might look like. They’re not new questions, and anyone with a passing interest in science fiction would be able to invoke a half a dozen examples of imaginary worlds in which video games and their descendants are genuine art forms, but Lanchester is canny enough to grasp that there’s a gap between imagining such a thing and actually creating it, and that the question of how that gap is bridged, and in what context, depends in large part on the ways in which the conflicting desires of the visionaries who are driving the form’s development and the studio heads who are financing their vision are resolved.
John Lanchester: Is it Art?
I’m very excited to say I’ll be a guest at Adelaide Writers’ Week in March. The full list of guests, which includes the brilliant John Lanchester, Michel Faber, Joan London, Jenny Offil, John Darnielle, Ceridwen Dovey, Jane Gleeson-White and Willy Vlautin is available on the Writers’ Week website, where you can also check out events day by day or download a pdf of the full program, but you can catch me in conversation with Delia Falconer at 1:15pm on Sunday 1 March and talking about love and apocalypse with Michel Faber and Canadian poet Ken Babstock at 5:00pm on Monday 2 March. I’ll also be interviewing Mountain Goats frontman and novelist John Darnielle about his terrific new novel, Wolf in White Van, at 5:00pm on Saturday 28 February (an event I’m really excited about).
If you’re going to be in Adelaide please come along; in the meantime here’s Writers’ Week Director Laura Kroetsch talking about Clade a couple of months ago.
I’ve got reviews of Nick Harkaway’s Angelmaker and John Lanchester’s Capital in this morning’s papers. You can read the Lanchester piece unpaywalled at The Weekend Australian, but because the Harkaway isn’t on the Sydney Morning Herald site I’ve posted it over on my Writing Page.
If you’re interested you can also read my review of Harkaway’s first book, The Gone-Away World, but in the meantime I thought I might post the first couple of paragraphs, which touch on some ideas about the way changing cultures of reading are transforming literary culture I’ll be exploring further in the not too distant future:
“I sometimes wonder whether the real transformative force in contemporary writing isn’t digitization but fandom, and more particularly the technologies that underpin it. For while digitization is transforming the publishing landscape, the internet is breeding not just a new breed of highly engaged readers deeply invested in their particular area of interest, but also a new hierarchy of taste, founded not in traditional literary verities but in ideas of delight and generic awareness.
“Fandom’s rising power is visible in phenomena as seemingly unconnected as the hegemony of the superhero movie and the influence writers such as Neil Gaiman wield on Twitter. Yet it’s also visible in the rise of a new kind of fiction, one whose playfulness and generic promiscuity might once have seen it labelled post-modern, yet which more effectively elides the boundaries between high and low culture and art and entertainment than the writers of the 1980s could ever have dreamed of doing.” Read more …