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Caitlin R. Kiernan

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I cannot force it. I have never been able to force it. Like I've said before, writing is a wild magic (at least it is for me). It comes when it's ready, and then, if I'm lucky, I have some small say in where it goes and what it does. This is one reason I can't comprehend why some writers talk so much about "craft." Crafts are something you learn how to do. I never learned to write. I write better now than I did ten years ago, and far better than I did twenty years ago, but I'm not exactly sure why. To me, it is an almost ineffable thing. I try to explain what it is I do, and how it is I do it ... on those extremely rare occasions when I try to explain ... and, for me, it's like grasping at air. I have no craft talk, no theory, no dos and don'ts, no discernible process. I sit here in my chair at my desk in front of the iMac, and when I'm lucky, it happens. It's not so much that I think the "writing as craft" people are wrong. They can't be wrong, not if they are crafting stories and know they are crafting stories. But I don't craft stories. So, for me, we have here these two different paradigms. I spark. They craft. Two incommensurable world views. I cannot explain to them what it is that I do. I cannot even explain it to myself. And I cannot comprehend what they do.
--
(5 August 2007)

 
Caitlin R. Kiernan

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Arabic writing at the beginning of Islam was, therefore, not of the best quality nor of the greatest accuracy and excellence. It was not (even) of medium quality, because the Arabs possessed the savage desert attitude and were not familiar with crafts. One may compare what happened to the orthography of the Qur’an on account of this situation. The men around Muhammad wrote the Qur’an in their own script which, was not of a firmly established, good quality. Most of the letters were in contradiction to the orthography required by persons versed in the craft of writing.... Consequently, (the Qur’anic orthography of the men around Muhammad was followed and became established, and the scholars acquainted with it have called attention to passages where (this is noticeable). No attention should be paid in this connection with those incompetent (scholars) that (the men around Muhammad) knew well the art of writing and that the alleged discrepancies between their writing and the principles of orthography are not discrepancies, as has been alleged, but have a reason. For instance, they explain the addition of the alif in la ‘adhbahannahU "I shall indeed slaughter him" as indication that the slaughtering did not take place ( lA ‘adhbahannahU ). The addition of the ya in bi-ayydin "with hands (power)," they explain as an indication that the divine power is perfect. There are similar things based on nothing but purely arbitrary assumptions. The only reason that caused them to (assume such things) is their belief that (their explanations) would free the men around Muhammad from the suspicion of deficiency, in the sense that they were not able to write well. They think that good writing is perfection. Thus, they do not admit the fact that the men around Muhammad were deficient in writing.

 
Ibn Khaldun
 

Always at bottom there is a divine revelation, a divine act, and man has only had the bright idea of copying it. That is how the crafts all came into existence and is why they all have a mystical background. In primitive civilizations one is still aware of it, and this accounts for the fact that generally they are better craftsmen than we who have lost this awareness. If we think that every craft, whether carpenter's or smith's or weaver's, was a divine revelation, then we understand better the mystical process which certain creation myths characterize as God creating the world like a craftsman. By creating the world through such a craft he manifests a secret of his own mysterious skill.

 
Marie-Louise Von Franz
 

I found Robert A. Heinlein in back issues of Astounding, and also in The Saturday Evening Post, and I read everything of his I could find. I was completely hooked on his "juveniles": Space Cadet. Red Planet. Starman Jones. Between Planets. Farmer in the Sky. Wonderful stories, and the only thing "juvenile" about them was that he took the trouble to explain what was happening. Robert once told me that young people want to know how things work, and you can tell them more in a "juvenile" than you can in an adult novel. In any event I devoured everything of his I could find, through high school, the army, college, and I couldn’t have cared less that many were "juveniles". They were wonderful.
I met Robert Heinlein years later, and through some kind of rare magic we became instant friends. We corresponded for a decade. In those days I was an engineering psychologist, operations research specialist, and systems engineer in aerospace. Most of my work was military aerospace, but I did get to work on Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. We were helping to make the dream come true!
I went from there to a professorship, and then into political management and city government. Robert visited me when I was working for Mayor Sam Yorty. "You probably don’t know this," he said, "but my political career ended when Yorty beat me for the Democratic nomination to the State Assembly."
When I finally decided to get out of politics, academia, and the aerospace industry and try my hand at writing, Mr. Heinlein was enormously helpful. Years later, when I was an established writer, I asked him how I could pay him back.
"You can’t," he said. "You don’t pay back, you pay forward." I never forgot that, just as I never forgot the wonderful things his ‘juvenile’ stories did for me.

 
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Strategy is the craft of the warrior. Commanders must enact the craft, and troopers should know this Way. There is no warrior in the world today who really understands the Way of strategy.
There are various Ways. There is the Way of salvation by the law of Buddha, the Way of Confucius governing the Way of learning, the Way of healing as a doctor, as a poet teaching the Way of Waka, tea, archery, and many arts and skills. Each man practices as he feels inclined.

 
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It has been said, "History is written by the victors." I take this to mean we can make ourselves victorious by writing, and then rewriting our own stories. In a country and culture so dominated by media, by the manipulation of words and stories, telling the tales of people whose stories historically have not been told is a radical act and I believe an act that can change the world and help rewrite history.

 
Jennifer Beals
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