Christopher Priest and George R. Stewart

The last few weeks have brought some interesting comments and communications from several places.  A student in Germany who’s doing a dissertation on science fiction and GRS, an academician who wants to translate one of GRS’s books into an Asian language, a professor in Philadelphia who sent his students’ reviews of Earth Abides, and the Keeper of one of the Disney blogs (THE Disney Blog, in fact), asking to mention the posting about GRS and Disney.  But the most interesting of all popped in just a few days ago – Christopher Priest, sending a link to his article about the influence George R. Stewart had on his work.

I knew Priest’s name, but went to the web to find more detail.

Christopher Priest is a distinguished, award-winning author of complex, literary science fiction written with a light touch.  One of his novels, The Prestige, was made into a film  by Christopher Nolan.  (The ending of the film differs from that of the book,  and seems to weaken the effect Priest so skilfully created in the novel.) Priest’s other novels get excellent ratings from readers and critics.  Here‘s a list.

Priest’s comment to the EA/GRS weblog was short, a link to a review of another author’s book.   “Standing On Shoulders” refers to Newton’s comment that he was merely standing on the shoulders of the great minds who preceded him.  In his case, Priest writes that he stands on the shoulders of filmmaker Ingmar Bergman and George R. Stewart.

As a young man, Priest saw four of Bergman’s films in two weeks – “Sawdust and Tinsel”, “Summer With Monika”, “Wild Strawberries”, and “The Seventh Seal” — and, he writes, the films transformed him.  Having seen three of those four myself, and at about the same age, I second his statements about their power.  (Years later, when I taught Film as Art in high school in San Francisco, I showed “The Seventh Seal”.  The students were so affected that they did not stir when the film – and the period – ended.  It was several minutes before anyone got up to leave, in complete silence, with none of the typical high school bantering back and forth as they left.)

At about the same time, Priest discovered Earth Abides; and, thus, George R. Stewart.  I”ll not go into detail here – read his article if you will – but I’ll say that in our brief conversations since his first comment to the web logwe’ve had some interesting talk about GRS and his brilliance.

Priest and I also had an interesting back-and-forth about the definition of “science fiction.”  Stewart’s best novels are all, in the purest sense, science fiction – that is, fiction based on and about solid science. But few readers would see Storm or Fire as conventional science fiction. Only Earth Abides qualifies.  Does that mean we need to come up with a new term to describe the type of fiction which is set in the future, or a parallel universe, or on an alien world?  Priest has proposed “visionary realism,” an excellent term but not yet popular with fans of the literature.  Maybe one of the readers of this post will have an idea?

If you’re on this page as a Stewart reader, I  strongly encourage you to pick up one of Christopher Priest ‘s novels. (I’m ordering a couple on payday.)  If you’re here as a Christopher Priest reader, welcome – and I suggest you read Earth Abides.

I also suggest GRS’s  Sheep Rock.  That novel has some of rich complexity and layers of truth which are the hallmarks of Christopher Field’s work.

It was a pleasure to learn that Christopher Priest found this weblog interesting, and I’m honored that he’s joined this conversation.   The circle of George R. Stewart is growing; and in the best sense of the STEAM movement, connecting art and science.  A small interdisciplinary fellowship of GRS followers is building, and that’s a good thing.

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