in the club

by uzwi

Writing in the London Review of Books about reading comics as a child, Jonathan Lethem gives up trying to context his experience outside himself:

“I’m breaking down here. The royal we and the presumptive you aren’t going to cut it. This is a closed circuit, me and the comics I read and which read me. Stan Lee’s rhetoric of community was a weird, vibrant lie: every single true believer, every single member of the Make Mine Marvel society or whatever the fuck we were meant to be called, received the comics as a private communion with our own obscure and shameful yearnings, and it was miraculous and pornographic to so much as breathe of it to another boy, let alone be initiated by one more knowing. We and you don’t know a thing about what I felt back then, any more than I know a thing about what you felt.” [15.04.04. His italics.]

To an extent, this is how I feel about my New Wave experience between 1965 (when I first read the Moorcock New Worlds) and 1979. Mike had learned how to use club consciousness to raise the morale of the audience. This exercise extended naturally to the writers. It was, in that sense, a team building culture, always in tension with those “obscure and shameful yearnings”.

Lethem’s point is equally applicable to the broader experience of being a writer of sf. Sf has always celebrated itself as a communal effort, an “ongoing discussion” or conversation.

It’s also applicable to the concept of influence as defined by the genre, in which the myth of the communal sharply conflicts with ideas of precedence, provenance and intellectual property, a conflict which, once you’ve noticed it, is both illuminating and deconstructive.

But the broader, more interesting point is about the communality (and communicability) of experience itself. Signs of Life (1997), p192/3: Choe was always more articulate than me.