John C. Wright on moral valence

John C. Wright is interviewed in Raygun Revival. Here, as a taste of the gig, is Mr. Wright on moral valence in popular fiction:

If you wish to argue that there is no such thing as clearly defined good and evil in real life, all I can say in reply is that your notion of real life is missing an essential dimension. This does not mean, of course, that our stalwart hero cannot be caught in a moral paradox, but it does mean that the moral paradox must be a real one, with white and black as sharply defined as squares on a chessboard. It does not mean that our characters need always to be Bishops, always ending on the same color where they began.

I heartily endorse this view of the matter, and I will add this on my own account:

People who extol the so-called virtues of moral ambivalence are, in my experience, generally lazy thinkers. They have not the patience to solve difficult problems (and most of the moral problems that actually engage our attention are difficult); so they pretend that the problems are insoluble and that one answer is no better than another.

If someone says there is no black or white in moral matters, you should carefully consider the possibility that he cannot see them because he is looking with his eyes tightly shut.

John C. Wright on writing fiction

John C. Wright has recently reposted an excellent introductory essay on the mechanics of fiction-writing. In his survey of the subject, he blows the gaff on one of our more undeservedly disreputable techniques:

This, by the way, is why writers use stereotypes. Far from being the evil thing all the rest of the world regards them as being, writers cannot write without stereotypes of people, places and things, and this is because our entire art consists of creating the illusion of a complete picture or a complete world out of a splinter or fragment of description, with the reader’s imagination filling in the majority of the details. One cannot do this without knowing what pictures the reader is likely to have in his imagination beforehand.

What the writer wants not to do is to be asked by the writer to use the stereotype in his head in a tired, trite, shopworn, or expected way, because then the reader notices, and is rightly put off, by the trick being pulled on him.

Incidentally, I still want to see someone write Old Men Shall Dream Dreams. Go and read, if only to appreciate the opening scene he offers as an example for dissection.

John C. Wright on fairy-tale logic

If the kiss of a princess is the only thing that can turn a frog into a prince, then that kiss and nothing else must be had. Being kissed by a Duchess or a Countess will not do, not even if Parliament so decrees. In a medical thriller or a science fiction story, perhaps, you can have someone discover an unexpected miracle cure, or have Scotty use the Transporter to turn the frog back to his true shape. Science fiction is all about problem solving through technology. Science fiction is about daydreaming. But Fairy stories are about logic.

—John C. Wright, ‘What to Do When Your Outline Breaks

John C. Wright on the Nebula Awards

John C. Wright explains how they pick the Nebula Award winners:

The selection process is relatively simple: the survivors of a Deathball tournament are examined by the Colossus-Skynet system for irregulationary defects, and if found acceptable, are sent to the haunted planet Arisia for mind-to-mind examination by the alien superbeing known as Mentor, and those who return sane are conducted to Wallach IV where the Bene Gesserit Witches test the candidate with a “gom jabbar” and the Box of Pain to distinguish the true humans from the mere human animals. Survivors are taught the Martian Language in order to achieve fourth level consciousness and exposed to the mind-altering rays of the Evolutionary Granolith, and expected to make at least one “drop” in full kit onto a planet controlled by the Klendathu. Then any remaining candidates are sent to Trantor, or maybe some other world covered entirely with buildings, and examined by the Jedi Council and the Psychohistorians to see whether passing the candidate will cause a disturbance in the force or throw off the predictive plan of history. The remaining candidates then cover themselves with walrus grease and wrestle nude with Harlan Ellison, or his evil twin Zebulon Ellison, in the Arena of Death, on a tightrope above a field of radio-active radium-knives. The winner is granted by the Padishah Emperor any space-kingdom on any of the garden-planets accidentally created by the Genesis Machine in the Multiple Green Sun system at the core of the galaxy, and any space princess for his bride, with the one exception (obviously) of the voluptuous yet deadly Princess Venomia, the Black Widow of Outer Space. The year Leigh Brackett won, instead of a space princess, she demanded her beloved World-Wrecker Hamilton be released from his disembodied confinement within the death-asteroid of the limbo dimension. The Padishah Emperor was loathe to set free so dangerous a planet-killer, but he had no choice.

I always thought SFWA was up to something fishier than meets the fishy eye.