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Meeting with a fan_Isabelle Stengers_06/19/03

Stitch and Split
I met Isabelle, the 19th of June, at le Ptit Yoyo at Brussels University, a dark place painted in red. We had expressos, and chatted about the project called ‘Stitch and Split’. Well maybe it is time that one of the first draft of this project should be on this blog, so next post will contain it. One of the thing Isabelle told me was: ‘Never destroy a text before you write a new (better?) version of it.’ She told me also that we should write a diary of this project, to document it. So these posts are part of that diary, and I guess most of this blog is part of that too, in a way. Again Isabelle: that may be this project, will be a way we could visit one another library, exchange experience of reading, exchange books, texts, characters. Have fan activities, as this diary could be like a fanzine. One of her questions, trails for this projects: ‘What is about science fiction which allows fans to enter it, and be creative with it, and use, develop their imagination? May be because there is the creation of precise world, with its rules, its geography, its ecology, and characters. And this framework allows imagination at work.’ And she told me about Marion Zimmer Bradley, who published fan stories in some of her books. Fans were welcome to create new characters in her world, but not allowed to take and write the characters she created first.
She talked to me also about David Brin, CJ Cherryh, Samuel Butler. If you want to follow this conversation, go on reading.

Before entering a conversation on fan activities, Isabelle reacted by e-mail saying: “You should have look on Kiln People, by David Brin, if there is something ‘stich’ that is!” so I went to David Brin’s website and on Kiln People (2002)
“Take the notion of golems — temporary clay people (not clones!) — and now imagine a near future when everybody can make them. Using a “home copier” you ditto your memories — perhaps even a genuine imprint of your soul — and off goes the duplicate to run your errands, attend your classes, or do all the drudgery work. Then, at day’s end, you download the golem’s memories.
As a citizen of this near future, you’ve duplicated yourself a zillion times and take it for granted, sometimes being the original, sometimes the copy. You live your life in parallel, sending expensive “study golems” to the library while cheap models clean the house and your real body works out at the gym. Two thirds of the Earth’s population consists of temporaries made of clay. People seem to have even adjusted to this new way of life, until….”
And talking about fan works, did I know that ” authorized by the Isaac Asimov estate, the Second Foundation Trilogy continues Isaac Asimov’s famous Robots and Foundation universe. Gregory Benford started the series with his book Foundation’s Fear, which tells the origins of Hari Seldon, the Foundation’s creator. Greg Bear’s Foundation and Chaos, the second book in the series, relates the epic tale of Seldon’s downfall and the first stirrings of robotic rebellion.
Foundation’s Triumph written by David Brin, the concluding volume — wrapping up all of the loose ends, including clues left by Isaac himself, which carries the theme of Asimov’s epic universe to its logical (and satisfying) conclusion. Hari Seldon is about to escape and risk everything for one final quest — a search for knowledge and the power it bestows. The outcome of this final journey may secure humankind’s future — or witness its final downfall.” (from David Brin’s website) It seems according to Isabelle, that David Brin knew very well Azimov’s work, to write such a book, but also that Azimov himself let doors, enigmas open to allow such a reappropriation.

Describing what we wanted to underline in ‘Stitch and Split’, that science fiction is more a neo realistic genre, a way to make visible, tangible, the present, thoughts, deconstruction, assemblage… It was obvious to mention colonies and territories, I mean resistance and occupation of others, of oneself, of lands.But also negociations, control, diplomacy, surveillance.
Then, if I do remember well, Isabelle mentionned Samuel Butler, a book from 1872, can you imagine?
A fragment from Samuel Butler,Erewhon, 1872 (there you can find the entrie book online)
“If the reader will excuse me, I will say nothing of my antecedents, nor of the circumstances which led me to leave my native country; the narrative would be tedious to him and painful to myself. Suffice it, that when I left home it was with the intention of going to some new colony, and either finding, or even perhaps purchasing, waste crown land suitable for cattle or sheep farming, by which means I thought that I could better my fortunes more rapidly than in England”.

I found that Samuel Butler is the same who translated into English ‘the Odissey’, and ‘The Illiad’ by Homer. These texts used asinspiration for mangas (I guess Inuyasha is closed to the Odyssey, isn’t it?), animes (like Ulysse 31, do you remember). These texts are hosted completely on a named Joel’s website, who hasn’t updated his web site in Oregon university for 3 years now. Amazing how people work to archive what they love, then disappear, but he beloved texts, images, stay for us.

To go on colonies, and others, and first encounters, Isabelle then told me about
“Foreigner: A Novel of First Contact”, by C.J. Cherryh
Then I found it reviewed by a fan, April Dawn Duncan
“In the history of our world, the first meeting of any two cultures with differences in language and belief has almost always included war and bloodshed before any understanding could be reached. Sometimes the two cultures reached an understanding and were able to cohabitate, sometimes it ended with one culture destroying or overpowering the other, and sometimes the war never ended at all. But at least in those cases, both cultures shared one thing in common. They were human beings with the same genetic hard wiring. Imagine what first contact with an alien race that is hard-wired differently from us will be like. A frightening prospect considering our bloody history.
In “Foreigner”, C.J. Cherryh boldly takes on the telling and detailing of just one such encounter. In the far distant future, mankind has outgrown its home planet Earth and reaches out into the universe to find other inhabitable worlds. They search always tentatively, listening carefully for intelligent life. If intelligent life existed, it was mankind’s policy to leave it undisturbed. It was easier that way. No one had to deal with the mind-boggling idea of first contact. Though after centuries of learning how to deal with their own internal conflicts, humankind might be more ready then they thought. But they don’t want to risk that, so instead, they stick to their policy of avoidance. That is, until the star-cruiser Phoenix has a critical malfunction occur in its guidance system. The humans aboard the Phoenix find themselves lost in the vastness of space and thrust upon a world full of intelligent life, the fierce and proud atevi. Two generations pass, and it is both shocking and uplifting to see just how they have survived.”

Then it was time, june, students month, then i forgot some parts of it, then we will go on chatting, eventually…

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