Saturday, November 22, 2008

FICTION and LIBRARIES


I've started reading science fiction again lately. I used to read tons of the stuff, all through high school and well into my thirties. About ten years ago I kind of lost interest and haven't read much of it since. But the other day I was in the Iliad used book store in North Hollywood and they had a couple hundred of the kinds of titles I used to devour all for about $2 a piece. So I bought some and took 'em home and started reading. I'd forgotten how fun some of that hogwash can be.

Which brings me to a couple questions that I get asked from time to time. Every so often a writer with aspirations to Buddhist practice will write and ask me if I think it's OK that he (it's always been guys so far) writes fiction. I don't know why they think they need my approval. But I always say it's fine with me. The word "fiction" doesn't mean lying (although I think Robert A. Heinlein in Stranger In A Strange Land has a Martian character who believes that). There are areas of the human condition that are very hard to describe in any other way than in a work of fiction. A work of fiction can often be far more truthful than a work of non-fiction. Shee-oot. I was in a Buddhist book shop the other day and I'd say at least 90% of the books in there weren't just fiction or even science fiction. They were works of pure unadulterated fantasy being pawned off as "spirituality." I'd much rather see truthful fiction than that kind of codswallop.

The other question I get, semi-related to this, is whether I, as a writer, think it's OK to take books out from the library rather than buying them. I take books out of the library all the time myself so I often ponder this one. Yeah, as a writer I'd rather you buy my books. But I know not everyone can afford to buy books and lots of people are far more voracious readers than their wallets could handle if they had to buy everything they wanted to read. Some people, like me, will take books out of the library and, if they like them, buy them even though they've already read them, just to support the writers. So libraries are OK by me. Anyway, libraries buy the books too.

When I lived in Japan libraries weren't really an option. In fact one of the main reasons I learned to read Japanese was because I wanted to stop spending so much money ordering books from Amazon. If I could check the Japanese editions out of the library it'd be so much cheaper.

It's a good thing to support writers you like by buying their books. It's also good to support book stores you like by buying those books from the shops even if it means paying a little more. You're paying that little bit extra to keep that book store open in your community. I don't have anything against Amazon. I like them a lot, in fact. But book stores have it tough these days. I always try and support them when I can.

So write fiction and buy fiction (or non-fiction, or pop-up books, or whatever).

Good? Good.

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

tattoozen said...
whats all that got to do with RIGHT NOW?

The fictions of the past create
the nonfictions of the present.

"Never underestimate the power of denial."
-- American Beauty

clark said...

I've wondered about the amount time a person needs to fantasize about his story and how that seems a lot like what I've been tying to avoid on the zafu.

Max said...

Someone, not me but it's worth repeating, said: "Fiction lies in order to tell the truth."

A-P said...

Another useful "fiction" is our dreams at night. Those works of art can paint our feelings far more realistically than we ever could with our daytime-mind. There isn't such a filter and such a need to make it understood as there is when we'll try to explain it verbally (or even by music, drawing etc).

It just is what it is.

Flor de Nopal Sangha said...

Why in the WORLD would anyone think libraries or borrowing a book from a library is.....un-Buddhist?! Shoot. If it wasn't for libraries, I would not have learned about Buddhist in the pre-Internet era. And, yes, Buddhist monasteries have libraries for the same reason that public libraries exist for.

PhilBob-SquareHead said...

Isn't all writing a work of fiction though? No matter how detailed the ideas on a page are, the words are still just writing on the page. Maybe you bring the images to life in your brain with your imagination. Not sure. This idea itself may be what I've read defined as deconstructuralist or general semantics.

I agree about the local bookstore thing. I get tired of relying on Barnes & Noble and Borders.

desotofloridaCIRCLE said...

i remember i once emailed brad asking him if it was "buddhist" to be a composer.

i've since learned that whatever you do, if you put your heart into it, that's it.

Jinzang said...

I was in a Buddhist book shop the other day and I'd say at least 90% of the books in there weren't just fiction or even science fiction. They were works of pure unadulterated fantasy being pawned off as "spirituality."

I'm not sure what you're referring to here. There seems to be a new category of books, Buddhist memoirs, where the author recounts their interaction with Buddhism. Most books, as you have noted, are edited collections of transcribed talks. Then there are translations, which are getting steadily better as the years go by. I'm grateful for all the books as I remember the old days when little was available other than the Nineteenth century translations from The Sacred Books of the East, Daisetz Suzuki's books, and Jiddhu Krishnamurti's talks.

Jinzang said...

American Beauty bookends:

"I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me…but it’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst. And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold onto it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life."

Anonymous said...

writing fiction
good fiction that feels truthful about things as we have felt as we lived them
is good
living a fiction
living as if you were truthful, as if you felt certain things and held certain beliefs....
well....sometimes as if is as close to being truthful as you're going to get.

it takes all of us a lifetime at least
that's what a lifetime is for, right?
even though most of us are fucked up (some of us sooner rather than later) for at least a certain portion of our lives,
we have an opportunity, even if we live an as if life through zazen to meet 'as it is'

good stuff, that zazen--takes a while though, so don't put it off! Especially if you're fucked up: get all the help you can find that is helpful.

And you 'as if'ers out there--just don't buy your own lies/fictions--that's the start

ben said...

The Mars Trilogy is so bad ass that it will kick your ass and then smoke you cigarettes.

Anonymous said...

"i've since learned that whatever you do, if you put your heart into it, that's it"

So if I really put my heart into being a good murderer...that's it? If I really put my heart into being a rapist...that's it?
I can create new forms of germ warfare, drop bombs on kids, become highly skilled at waterboarding prisoners...and as long as I do it "mindfully"...really put my heart into it....
...that's it?

Now I see why Jundo and other's think it's so important to emphasize the precepts and buddhist basis of zen. Otherwise, you get understanding such as that.

Anonymous said...

I think there are 'good' murderers and 'good' rapists and if I had to be murdered or raped (sure hope NOT) I would rather it be done by one of them.

dm_music said...

I wanted to thank you Brad and also say that some fiction / some non-fiction spawns or inspires other works.

Your Hardcore Zen inspired me to write a song called 'Remember Who I am'

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
I think there are 'good' murderers and 'good' rapists and if I had to be murdered or raped (sure hope NOT) I would rather it be done by one of them.

So does that mean that you'd prefer
to be tortured by a 'good' CIA torturer?

Assuming here that by 'good' you mean
technically proficient, the 'bad' CIA
torturer would be more likely to screw
up and not know how to maximize your pain.

Personally, I'd rather be tortured by
'bad' torturers.

And now for something not so
completely different...
House Resolution 1531

Stephanie said...

Let us know if you get into Philip K. Dick. (Or if you've already been into his stuff.) I find there's a lot in his books that points directly at the nature of mind. The way reality is constantly constructed and deconstructed in those books often has more power to get me thinking about how I make assumptions about reality than even some of the best Dharma books. There's a real heart, and humanity, and compassion in Phil Dick's books too.

Solaris by Stanislaw Lem was another one that I thought did a good job of using the fiction format to lay out the nature of mind.

Anonymous said...

filtering fiction from nonfiction

Anonymous said...

"I think there are 'good' murderers and 'good' rapists and if I had to be murdered or raped (sure hope NOT) I would rather it be done by one of them."


So the purpose of zen is to become technically proficient?
This is so far removed from what was taught by the Buddha it is amazing. It's like the sects that chant in order to acquire wealth. Forget all the stuff about compassion and wisdom, just sit in the right posture and whatever you do, do it with all your heart.

I shouldn't be surprised. Christians took the teachings of jesus (giving what you have to the poor, turning the other cheek) and twisted them so far that they support rich, right-wing war-mongers. Now zen buddhists twist the Buddha's teachings to justify killing, rape, war...as long as you put all your heart into it. Sad.

Will Sargent said...

There's an entire subclass of science fiction which deals with the problem of identity given clones, A.I., malfunctioning teleporters and altered memories. They're fun.

I think you'd enjoy Warren Ellis's Crooked Little Vein. Not because it's "buddhist" but because it's really, really funny.

Jinzang said...

Let us know if you get into Philip K. Dick. ... I find there's a lot in his books that points directly at the nature of mind.

I like reading Philip Dick. My favorite novel by him is Valis. He wrote a lot about illusion and reality that makes you think. But he was a schizo druggie and not a spiritual teacher. He's about the LAST person you should look for pointing to the nature of mind.

Jinzang said...

So the purpose of zen is to become technically proficient? This is so far removed from what was taught by the Buddha it is amazing.

Um ... we're not arguing about what Brad said. We're arguing about what some anonymous poster said. Which is fine, but anonymous commenters on blogs don't carry much weight in deciding what is or isn't Zen. It's like arguing the purpose of Zen is not to investigate 9/11.

Rick said...

My favorite science fiction is the old stuff by Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlien.

mike the dog said...

"But he was a schizo druggie and not a spiritual teacher. He's about the LAST person you should look for pointing to the nature of mind."

Jinzang is my favorite science fiction writer. Philip Dick was a schizo druggie spiritual teacher. He was all of that.

Kevin said...

Fiction can often point more accurately towards reality then the mainstream narratives we consult on a day-to-day basis. The former draw upon imagination in an active process whereas the latter are just the least-common denominator that we passively accept; living vs. dead thought.

Anonymous said...

wudeverhappendta Porno Buddhist?
kinda went the way of the dinosaurs I guess
I wanted to talk about truth and fiction between the sheets in that what can feel so true, so very true can be a real experience, but a fiction at the same time
very confusing and heartbreaking to first encounter this situation.

Stephanie said...

I relate to troubled folks better than I relate to "normal" folks. I think there's plenty of truth to be found in Phil Dick's works. You don't have to be a perfected being with no personal troubles to broadcast the truth. Else no one would ever broadcast it. Y'know? And Dick wrote about this, too--the feeling that the truth transmits itself through us, with our without our conscious participation. One could dismiss this as "schizo," but I think anyone who pays attention to their mind long enough has moments like that--where you notice stuff is happening in it, but it doesn't feel like "you" doing it. Folks articulate it in different ways. Few as deftly as Dick, IMO.

anonyposter said...

"Um ... we're not arguing about what Brad said. We're arguing about what some anonymous poster said"

And...Um...where did you get the idea I was talking about Brad or what he said? It's silly enough when the fanboys jump to defend Brad from every criticism, real or imagined. But when you jump to his defense when no-one even mentioned him...that's out there dude. I was talking about the fact that anyone could hold such distorted views about zen is...sad.

We aren't allowed to argue with each other now? Only with what Brad says? Damn! But I liked what he wrote about scifi.

Anonymous said...

drifted off to sleep
while reading of
Valentine Michael Smith
and dreamt of
angels
not
ordinary angels
but
terrible angels
all groovin
in one of those giant
total grokkin blow-out Martian orgies
then
i woke up
into this land of disease, aging, and loss
:(

Anonymous said...

lame-os, how do you pluaralize that ish? well, llamas then.
write freely.
we lost a generation of writers, real writers, because they didn't even know how to use the library...

Rich said...

" but I think anyone who pays attention to their mind long enough has moments like that--where you notice stuff is happening in it, but it doesn't feel like "you" doing it. Folks articulate it in different ways. Few as deftly as Dick, IMO."

Intuition is real and trustworthy because everything - body/mind and everything else - is interconnected, so somenthing happens thru one of your senses but sometimes you don't even know which one and now you have a feeling or thoughts about doing something which you act on or put down. Just one more articulation.

professor said...

hogwash and codswallop

Welcome to the 1920s :)

coburn said...

Yeah. "Fiction." This is all fiction. And we are all "aliens." We are after all, spinning through space on a rock aren't we. Take a look in the mirror. Oh! It's an alien. I'm sure we will look just as novel to some creature from planet Necto. "Truth" can only be found in "fiction." It can only be pointed at, after all; like the finger and the moon. The poetic, whether it's doing a send up of one of your buddies quixotic behaviors, or Euripides, or Grateful Dead interpretive dancing...is the only way to "live" the truth. I think it was Oscar Wilde who said "life imitates art." How on that was. We see life through the prizm of the fictions we started around the campfires to explain this utterly unknowable and sometimes overhwhelming pagent we find ourselves in. Oh, and Mr. Warner. You are so full of...good fiction. Thanks for the turn on to Van de Wetering, god rest him. Empty mirro was great, (Gary Snyder included!) Just finished "Oursider in Amsterdam," equally fine. Raise a glass to Janwillem. The cat had in going on.

Anonymous said...

To be good at murder or rape means you have to deny awful feelings - your argument is awful! If that does not make you feel bad you are a psycho - and psycos are as real as nice intellectuals as you. Must be a reason they are on this earth.

elmo said...

"I was talking about the fact that anyone could hold such distorted views about zen is...sad. "

No you weren't. You said:

"Now zen buddhists twist the Buddha's teachings to justify killing, rape, war...as long as you put all your heart into it. Sad."

How do you know the anon comment was from a zen buddhist?

ellen said...

Yeah, I read a ton of science fiction when I was a kid; not that many other girls seemed to, unfortunately. Heinlein, Asimov, Pournelle and Niven, Orson Scott Card - I used to love those digest-sized copies of Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Amazing Science Fiction. Funny, I hadn't thought about that for a long time.

Love the Phillip K. Dick and Stanislaw Lem stuff, too, but nothing like a good space opera to while away the hours.

btw: Warren Ellis is pretty funny. His graphic novels are great, too.

I don't think going to libraries would be non-buddhist. Non-capitalist maybe?

But I think everyone should purchase and discuss books of all different kinds. And not only because it helps me make money - LOL.

R0ss K!err said...

hey braddo. just thought i'd take this moment to whore out my new sci fi insane zine. since it's you know like on topic on this post. so here goes

BETRAYED! Zine

yup. planning on buying your new book. and lending it to my poor friend ;)