A Letter worthy of Thanksgiving

The attached text is from the comments section, but I wanted to highlight here.  It came this morning, quite by surprise.  Like the comments by other distinguished authors including Christopher Priest and James Sallis, it reminded me why I slog along this path of the honoring of George R. Stewart and his great novel, Earth Abides.

My original intention was to edit the message.  But it is so integrated that it shall stand as sent.  The only change  is to add links to Terence Green and his work.

Just finished your biography of George R. Stewart. Enjoyed it immensely — a very fine book. Like all good biographies, it gives a sense of the times and the place as well as the individual — especially the UC Berkeley milieu of that era. (In short, I learned a lot.)

I’m a Canadian writer and teacher, born in 1947, currently in my 12th year of teaching creative writing at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada (this London is a city of some 300,000, 2 hours south-west of Toronto). Before that, I spent 30 years teaching high school English, primarily in Toronto. I’m also the author of 8 books [That’s a review of one] (7 novels and a collection of short stories).

I bought and read the Ace paperback of EARTH ABIDES back in the early 60s (62? 63?) as a high-school teenager, and was duly impressed… So impressed, I might add, that I still have that particular 50-cent edition (more than 50 years now) on a bookshelf here in my office — an old favorite, and probably a collector’s item of sorts. I rank it with A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ — also never out of print — as transcending any genre, moving people, and opening eyes — touching the mind and the heart, as the best literature does.

When I spotted the trade paperback edition published by Del Rey about a decade ago, I bought it and re-read it. I was impressed once again. It more than held up. And just recently, I read it for the 3rd time, still moved and impressed — enough to search the internet for more information on Stewart. This is how I found and ordered your book.

I just wanted you to hear yet another story of how far-reaching his work has been, and by extension, how far-reaching your own appreciation has been.

Many thanks for the scholarship (and work) involved in spreading the word. I like to think there’s a potential, significant, continuous groundswell for the book, and that it will indeed abide long into the future, like Ish’s hammer. And you’ve helped.

Thanks to Terence Green, and to all those who understand the greatness of George R. Stewart and Earth Abides; and who take the trouble to let others in the “Fellowship of the Hammer” know their feelings.

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.

POST 102 – Taking Stock, Taking a Break

This is the 102nd  post on the George R. Stewart pages.  It’s been challenging and enjoyable to summarize his work and life and to describe the work of those who have been inspired by him.The posts are read in many countries – 45 at last count.  That’s rewarding.    Some readers have posted appreciative, or helpful comments.  That, too, is rewarding.

Now, due to the approach of reconstruction, I’m leaving the historic Walking Box Ranch. This means that internet access will be infrequent, until I settle into some future assignment.  So I’ll be taking a break.

In this century of posts,  I’ve shared the life and work of George R. Stewart with you: from his early decision to write beyond the traditional English Professor’s milieu to his paradigm-shifting use of the ecosystem – “the land” – as the principle protagonist in a history (the first Whole Earth work) and in a series of ecological/geographic novels. The last book explored on these pages was EARTH ABIDES,  the summit of Stewart’s ecological fiction.  Since we’ve taken a long look at that novel and its influences, this is a good place to take a break.

But we’re not done.  There’s much more to say about Stewart and his influence.  He wrote two more novels, both with geographic/ecological themes.  (One of those has been called the first “post-modernist” novel.)  He invented other types of literature:   the odological – “road study” – book and the Civil Liberties work.  He was one of the inventors of the micro-history.  In the 1960s, as the Environmental Movement (inspired in part by his work) took hold, he wrote the first popular work about the need to deal with waste, offering therein the first popular description of “global warming.”

In fact, in 1949, the year of the birth of EARTH ABIDES,  Stewart was only half-way through his creative life. He would go on to write more than a dozen books before he hung up his pencil.  So there’s much more to write about, and to share with you, when time and conditions permit.  In the meantime, thanks for reading this and sharing your ideas with me.

May the roads be good.

Read lots of books.

Viewers from many lands

WordPress is a great resource.   Checking the stats page, I discovered that nearly 1300 people, from more than 40 countries, have viewed these posts – very satisfying. Just for fun, here’s the list from the last 12 months.  Imagine — 22 from Japan, 13 from Brazil, 5 from India, 2 from Russia, 4 from Australia, 1 from Zimbabwe, and, of course a lot from the USA and Canada. And many others.   But no Antarctica yet:

United States 1,190
United Kingdom FlagUnited Kingdom 92
Germany FlagGermany 43
Canada FlagCanada 40
Japan FlagJapan 22
Indonesia FlagIndonesia 15
Brazil FlagBrazil 13
Denmark FlagDenmark 7
Switzerland FlagSwitzerland 5
India FlagIndia 5
Australia FlagAustralia 4
France FlagFrance 3
Turkey FlagTurkey 3
Pakistan FlagPakistan 3
Colombia FlagColombia 2
Mexico FlagMexico 2
Ukraine FlagUkraine 2
Philippines FlagPhilippines 2
Thailand FlagThailand 2
Russian Federation FlagRussian Federation 2
Greece FlagGreece 2
Sweden FlagSweden 2
Taiwan, Province of China FlagTaiwan 2
Puerto Rico FlagPuerto Rico 2
Iraq FlagIraq 2
Serbia FlagSerbia 2
Korea, Republic of FlagRepublic of Korea 1
South Africa FlagSouth Africa 1
Venezuela FlagVenezuela 1
Bangladesh FlagBangladesh 1
Zimbabwe FlagZimbabwe 1
Paraguay FlagParaguay 1
Egypt FlagEgypt 1
Lithuania FlagLithuania 1
Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of FlagMacedonia, the Former Yugoslav Republic 1
Singapore FlagSingapore 1
Netherlands FlagNetherlands 1
Norway FlagNorway 1
Ecuador FlagEcuador 1
Armenia FlagArmenia 1
Kuwait FlagKuwait 1
Bahrain FlagBahrain 1
Argentina FlagArgentina 1
Belgium FlagBelgium 1
Georgia FlagGeorgia 1
Romania FlagRomania