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Archive for the ‘Woolf and science fiction’ Category

We Woolfians who aren’t in Saskatoon need a few chuckles to take our minds off the conference we’re missing. I hope these silly and somewhat subtle sightings help and also serve to remind us that Virginia Woolf appears in the most unexpected places.

I just started watching the “Midsomer Murders,” which have been running on Brit TV since 1996 – these frothy mysteries are a wonderful diversion from everyday life’s woes, and there are enough of them to keep me entertained for quite some time.

In an episode from the first series, “Death of a Hollow Man,” two men involved in a village theatre production also own the local bookshop. In a scene at the shop, Avery remarks to Tim, “Why don’t people put things back where they belong?”, upon finding that someone has placed A Room of One’s Own under Interior Decoration.

Moving on to the current New Yorker. One of the filler pieces in the June 4 science fiction issue is by China Mieville, an award-winning fantasy-fiction author (unknown to me). “Forward Thinking” is presented as an email sent back in time to a young sci-fi fan, describing  his or her progression in the genre. Here’s one bit:

Orlando DVD

“You’ll read Orlando,because you heard it has a sex-changing time-traveller in it. Your English teacher will tell you witheringly that, for that reason, it’s very minor Woolf. Give it a few years. The movie will come out, and his opinion will look foolish and rote.”

Next year in Vancouver!

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booksDid Virginia Woolf like science fiction? Did science fiction influence her novels? Those questions never occurred to me until I read a Web site post titled “The Science Fiction Writer Who Received Fan Mail from Virginia Woolf.”

The piece reports on an article by Kim Stanley Robinson in New Scientist that discusses Woolf’s correspondence with the influential science fiction writer Olaf Stapledon.

In it, Robinson says Woolf did more than just read science fiction. She also allowed it to influence her writing. Robinson cites Orlando and the “Time Passes” section of To the Lighthouse as evidence for her claim.

She also cites correspondence from Woolf to Stapledon found in his papers at the University of Liverpool and not included in her Collected Letters. In her letters, Woolf praises Stapledon’s work, particularly the novel Star Maker, which he sent Woolf.

Of Star Maker, Woolf wrote: “sometimes it seems to me that you are grasping ideas that I have tried to express, much more fumblingly, in fiction.”

Robinson says Stapledon’s 1937 novel influenced Woolf’s Between the Acts. She describes the novel as ending “with Stapledonian imagery,” and writes that its final pages are “a kind of science fiction.”

After reading Patrick A. McCarthy’s introduction to Star Maker on Google Books, I am intrigued enough to read some Stapledon on my own.

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