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Ellen Willis

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For a decade Americans have been steeped in the rhetoric of "zero tolerance" and the faith that virtually all problems from drug addiction to lousy teaching can be solved by pouring on the punishment. Even without a Commander in Chief who pledges to rid the world of evildoers, smoke them out of their holes and the like, we would be vulnerable to the temptation to brush aside frustrating complexities and relieve intolerable fear (at least for the moment) by settling on one or more scapegoats to crush. To imagine that trauma casts out fantasy is a dangerous mistake.
--
"Dreaming of War," The Nation (15 October 2001)

 
Ellen Willis

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Fantasy allows you to shine a different kind of light on human beings. I believe the only valid use of fantasy is to illustrate important human themes. Magic in my novels is used in three ways: the simplest is as a metaphor for technology. A good example is a magic carpet. There's no magic carpet in my novels, but if someone needs to travel a great distance, they could use a magic carpet, while in a contemporary novel they'd use a car. The second way, and I think the most important, is as a metaphor for individuality and individual ability. The mediocre world doesn't want individuals to rise above what everyone else is doing. The third way I use magic is as a metaphor for coming out of an age of mysticism into a Renaissance. So, in a way it's the struggle between the Dark Ages and the Renaissance. ... I never allow my characters to use magic to solve their problems. Some of their peripheral problems are solved through their magical abilities, but it's couched in terms of overcoming those problems in a thinking way. The major conflicts in the books are always solved through human intellect, through thinking out the problem and coming up with a solution. It's never "I'll just wave my magic wand over the bad guys and have them all fall down dead!"

 
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I hear addicts talk about the shakes and panic attacks and the highs and lows of resisting their habit, and to some degree I understand them because I have had habits of my own, but no drug is so powerful as the drug of self. No rut in the mind is so deep as the one that says I am the world, the world belongs to me, all people are characters in my play. There is no addiction so powerful as self addiction.

 
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Constantly ask yourself, 'What level is above this one?' This makes things different. Take personal problems for example. Problems are not solved by choosing between this and that. The very need to choose indicates misunderstanding. Problems are solved by outgrowing both this and that."

 
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