sexta-feira, 3 de setembro de 2010

Robert Silverberg - Other Spaces, Other Times

Nietzsche once wrote,“My memory says I did this,my pride says I did not. My memory yields.”

That’s sufficient warning, as though we needed it, that the autobiographies of writers are not to be trusted as factual documents.

Writers of fiction make stuff up.That’s what the word “fiction” means — it’s derived from the Latin verb fingere, which means “to imagine,”“to invent,”“to fabricate.” Out of fingere comes the noun fictum, meaning “that which is invented,” and out of fictum comes our English word “fiction.”

Those two Latin words have some secondary meanings that are of some relevance here. Fingere also means “to arrange,” “to put in order.” And fictum can mean “a lie.”

You see where I’m heading here.The fiction-writer makes things up, and also puts the things he has invented into some sort of rational order so that the reader can make sense out of them.This is especially true, alas, when the fictionwriter is talking about his own life. Even people who aren’t fiction-writers tend to arrange their own memories in a kind of rational order for the sake of having a coherent view of their past.
That involves some editing, which is to say, some revising, and very often some unintentional modification of the facts. (The modifications may not be all that unintentional, either. It isn’t at all unusual, of course,
for people, writers and non-writers both, to create ficta — downright lies — about their pasts.)

One special problem for fiction writers in this area is that after having applied their particular inventive gifts to their stock of personal memories during the process of putting it in order, they aren’t always sure where a little artistic embellishment may have taken place.We are story-tellers by first nature, and we want to tell good stories.We usually want them to be truthful stories, too, but sometimes, after having told the story of our lives often enough,we lose track of the enhancements we have introduced in the interest of artistic verisimilitude.

I have no doubt I’ve done something of that sort myself from time to time.
I have a very retentive memory, but by now it stores more than three score and ten years’ worth of events; so it is altogether likely that some of those events, rolling around in my fiction-writer’s mind for all those decades, have undergone some modifications all unbeknownst to their custodian.That doesn’t mean I’ve  been telling a lot of lies about my past, but it does mean that I may very well be serving up fictionalized versions of some events, narratives that have been subconsciously  tinkered with by my inner editor to turn them into better stories.

They aren’t lies, because there’s been no intention to deceive, but they may not exactly be the truth, either.
I don’t like to lie — about my past, or anything else. (Though I will, if forced to a choice between lying and revealing something that might cause injury to someone else.) But if I prefer, on the whole, to tell the truth, I feel under no obligation to tell all of it.There are things I have done — especially in my troubled and troublesome childhood — that I would just as soon forget, though I am unable to. I have, however, outlived nearly all the witnesses to those relatively trivial but embarrassing things, and those that remain have almost certainly forgotten them.

Fine. I will not, therefore, bring all those sorry episodes back to life by writing about them. (Though I have embedded a good many of them in the lives of characters in my stories and novels.) Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote a book that among other things tells of all the vile and shameful deeds of his life — it is rightfully called The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau — and though it is a fascinating book that has never lacked for readers in the past two and a half centuries, I don’t care to emulate it.
(I haven’t done very many vile and shameful things, anyway, and I’m probably the only one who would think they’re particularly vile.)

So I’ve never written a formal autobiography, and I have no intention of writing one.This is in part because, for the reasons I’ve just enumerated, I don’t trust myself to get all the facts entirely straight, and also because some of the facts that I would feel obligated to include, about my childhood, for instance, would probably make me look like a nastier little boy than I really was.Then, too, a proper autobiography would, I believe, require me to describe my interactions over the span of a long and complicated life with various people who might not care to have those interactions publicly described.Therefore I have avoided writing anything
like a conventional autobiographical book, and I intend to go on avoiding writing one to the end of my days.The closest I’ve come to it has been the lengthy essay called “Sounding Brass,Tinkling Cymbal,”first published in 1975 and updated several times since, but even that leaves out much of the personal data and concentrates mainly on my career as a science-fiction writer.

That career, though, has been a long and busy one. I’ve been a significant player in the science-fiction field for more than half a century.That can be said of very few sf writers, apart from such phenomenal examples of longevity as Jack Williamson and Frederik Pohl. My timespan as an active writer has already outlasted those of Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and Poul Anderson, to name just a few who maintained notably lengthy and prolific careers, and I’m closing in on that of Arthur C. Clarke.

I’ve seen a lot of history in all that time. In the course of my six decades of writing, I’ve witnessed the transition of science-fiction publishing from being a pulp-magazine-centered field to one dominated by mass-market paperback companies, and I’ve known and dealt with virtually every editor who played a role in that evolution. For much of that time I was close to the center of the field as writer and sometimes as editor, not only deeply involved in its commercial mutations but also privy to all the personal and professional gossip that it generated.All that special knowledge has left me with a sense of my responsibility to the field’s
historians. I was there, I did this and did that, I worked with this great editor and that one, I knew all but a handful of the major writers on a first-name basis, and all of that will be lost if I don’t make some sort of record of it. Therefore it behooves me to set down an account of those experiences for those who will find
them of value.

Which I have duly done, piecemeal, in a long series of introductions to many of my published novels and nearly all of my short stories, and the anecdotal data out of which I have built those introductions, based on my extensive correspondence file and my own still pretty exceptional memory, form a kind of collective serial autobiography that will have to do in lieu of a single formally constructed one. Non-Stop Press has brought much of that material together in this book.

As my initial warning should indicate, all memoirs are open to a certain degree of suspicion, including mine. I may not have attained perfect factual accuracy here. My memory is an excellent one but is not infallible; some of my correspondence files and business records were lost or defaced in a fire that wrecked my house in 1968; and there is always the unavoidable tendency of any writer to reshape rough facts into smoothly rounded stories that must be taken into account. But if I have made free with reality in any of the essays that follow, I urge you to believe me when I say that I did none of it intentionally.You will find here the story of my life in science fiction as I remember it and as I have recorded it, and though I may have unknowingly retouched or misinterpreted some of that story, I have, at least, not consciously distorted it.Trust me on that,won’t you?

In any case, very few of the people I mention here are still alive to contradict me.

As Frederik Pohl said to me long ago, one big advantage of outliving your friends is that your version of the story is the only one that counts.

Here’s my version, then, of how I spent close to sixty years writing science fiction. It’s as close to being the accurate one as I can produce.

And from here on, it’s the only one that counts.

Introduction by Robert Silverberg - September, 2008


One: Beginnings 
two: On writing sf 
three: Autobiography
four: Miscellany of a life 
five: Silverberg bibliography 
list of illustrations 

Robert Silverberg - Other Spaces, Other Times - A life spent in the future [ Download ]