Friday, April 12, 2013

'This is beginning, this is happening!'

'The world begins, not necessarily for the first time.

Not with a bang, but a tumble.  In the beginning was noise.  A cataract of worlds or entities rolling and cascading in fearful clatter.  The cosmic atom, the world-box, has disgorged.  Here is bursting galactic expansion into free area.  Avalanche of noise and bright color.  Not chaos, but thunderous exodus; and every particle bearing its own thunder sign.  This is beginning, this is happening!  Let no least part of it ever forget the primordial tumble that is the beginning!

Then, the stable state - and memory.  The first thought ever thought anywhere, anywhen:  It's as though I've been here before.'

-R. A. Lafferty, 'Symposium', collected in Omega, edited by Roger Elwood (1973)


Kevin said...

Hopefully with the Centipede Press (overpriced) edition and with Andrew's biography and with Locus Foundation taking an interest, we can say "This is beginning, this is happening!" about the republication of Lafferty's works!

Andrew said...

Ray actually thought he pulled one over on Elwood with this story, as it was just chatty objects. It always reminded me of Calvino's Cosmicomics though.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Yeah, Kevin, me too!

Andrew, I only noticed that on a recent re-read. I thought 'this is not a story at all! It actually is a symposium.' Not a few of Lafferty's stories seem like academic lectures to me - the best, most imaginatively delightful and mind-bending 'lectures' I've ever heard!

(Also, it wasn't hard to 'pull one over' on Elwood The Anthologising Machine Gone Beserk, heh. The dude pumped out a LOT of crap. But even Laff's cast-offs made any of Elwood's anthologies worth the price of admission and often were the prize and centerpiece. Also, I bet there were more than a few editors that saw 'R. A. Lafferty' in the byline of a story submission and automatically stuck it in the 'publish' pile!)

Ross said...

Lafferty may have appeared in more Roger Elwood anthologies than any other author.

I read OMEGA when it came out, but I remember almost nothing about the Lafferty story. "After King Kong Fell" by Philip Jose Farmer and "The Empty Field" by Morio Kita were the stand-out stories for me. "The Empty Field" also appears in THE BEST JAPANESE SCIENCE FICTION STORIES edited by John L. Apostolou and Martin H. Greenberg (Barricade Books, 1997).

Elwood (who died in 2007) was a devout Christian, by the way.

Andrew said...

Yes, though as a devout Protestant (Methodist, I think; could be wrong) he was often uncomfortable with the particular mode of Lafferty's religious expression.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

I'm familiar with Elwood's devout Christian faith for a very embarrassing reason. Growing up in the American Evangelical subculture, I actually read a number of Elwood's 'works of fiction' (not actually worthy of the label I'm afraid) in the late 80s/early 90s. I used to be excited that he, as a Christian, was so ubiquitously involved in American s.f.'s New Wave era right as it was flourishing (and declining) in the 70s. But he's since been shown to have had a bad effect on the scene and market with his enthusiastically well-meaning but harmfully hyperactive output of anthologies and his lack of artistic standards for what he published in those books.

Due credit for anthologising lots of the edgiest authors and teaming up with some biggies (e.g. Robert Silverberg) for what might be some good anthologies in the history of the genre. But thinking of him as a Christian 'in the scene' pretty much just embarrasses me.

I'm not surprised to hear he was uncomfortable with Laff's mode since Elwood's own attempts at speculative fiction were mortifyingly inept and the *opposite* of Lafferty's subtlety, beauty, wildness, hilarity, joy, intelligence, and relevance. (Elwood pretty much bashed you over the head with his faith in his cringeworthy 'fiction'.)

Ross said...

Elwood may have been "uncomfortable" with Lafferty's Catholicism, but that didn't stop him from publishing a large number of Lafferty stories. I read quite a number of Elwood's anthologies as they came out back in the 1970s, and I think nearly all of those I read contained work by Lafferty.

Elwood's brand of Christianity did influence his editorial judgment. I recall him stating in an interview that he would not publish a story that depicted homosexuality in a positive light.

Elwood was no literary reactionary, though; as you mention, he did publish quite a lot of progressive, "New Wave" SF. I give him credit for being broad-minded in that regard.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Yes, Ross, definitely - credit where credit's due. My embarrassment of Elwood is probably mostly coloured by the 'fiction' books he wrote for sub-standard 'Christian publishers' rather than his anthology work of the 70s.

'It was all strong talk with the horns and hooves still on it.'
(R. A. Lafferty, The Devil is Dead)