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Speculating on Fiction

May 24, 2011

Program Locations:

Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, South Court Auditorium

PLEASE NOTE THE CHANGE OF VENUE AND THE TIME CHANGE

Spend an evening in the realm of speculative fiction! From sword wielding creatures to clanking machines to Russian fairytales, get a peek inside some of the most creative minds in fiction today.

Lev Grossman – The Magicians
John Scalzi - Fuzzy Nation
Cat Valente – Deathless
Scott Westerfeld – Behemoth

With MC Gavin Grant - Small Beer Press

Original Music by Brian Slattery

 

Part 8 located here


Part 9 of Nine lessons

 

9. On How to Behave in Fairyland

Because you have been such an attentive audience, I will tell you one of the secrets of Fairyland. Not everyone knows it, even here—do you know every secret and hidden nook in your town, let alone your whole world? Certainly not. Secrets are like jaguars or a rare species of butterfly. One hears of them, sometimes a rich person will bring several together in one place so that people will pay to learn about them. But to find one in the wild one must be both daring and lucky.

The secret to doing well in Fairyland, should you ever be so daring and lucky as to find yourself in our jungles, swimming our seas, plucking lilac coins from silver chests, or fighting in our many and interesting local wars, is to be a hero.

I do not mean: be a strapping blonde man with a strapping blonde sword and a secret parentage that gives him a right to the crown. What I mean is: be a protagonist. That is one of the most powerful words in the world, and since it begins with P, it belongs to me. Once upon a time in a faraway and mystical kingdom, it meant: the person who strives for the prize. Then it meant: the chief actor in a play. And that’s more or less what it means now. Except that in Fairyland we tend to take things rather literally. Your very best chance at survival and a good lunch at the end of it is to behave as though you are the striver after the prize, as though you are the chief actor in the play of this world.

That does not mean being high-handed or rude to others—after all, they will also be behaving as though they hold the prime role. What it means is: do not wait for someone else to save you, especially if you are a princess. It means: if the situation looks dire, remember who you are, take up arms, be they a sword you’ve raised from babyhood or a dictionary or a time traveling bear, and start changing the way the tale is told. It means: never ask ‘why me?’ It is you because you are the protagonist. The person things happen to. What a question, I mean really! It means: do not hope that someone else will come along to fight the battle or solve the puzzle. The buck stops with you. The story is about you. You are not the sidekick, or the love interest, or the comic relief.

The story is also about everyone else. That’s the trick of living in Fairyland.

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Wondering what this all means? Check out the introduction to Cat's story here.