“Good fiction should feel seamlessly necessary”

And why exactly are we being told all of this? It’s the first big question that any working novelist must ask of him or herself. Good fiction should feel seamlessly necessary – as if someone has grabbed your wrist and begun to whisper a story so urgently that you have no choice but to listen. So would such a narrator really stop to let you know that their morning alarm wakes them with “polyphonic pleas” or distract the narrative with an unwieldy image such as “diarrhoea-conquered toilet”? Would they really want to break the suspense with a line such as: “The past rises up like the heat pimples that itch along the scalloped neckline of my top”?

There comes a painful moment in every writer’s life when they must concede that the thrillingly descriptive phrase they’ve been fashioning for hours or days (or even, sometimes, in my case months) must go if it interrupts the story. If you let mere words muscle in between the tale and the telling – or, worse, allow them to push your reader away (or, as in this case, give her a severe case of brain-ache) – then daylight rushes in on the magic. Your fiction doesn’t live.

Julie Myerson

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‘A mouse is richer in information than a Caravaggio painting’

An expert on the unphotogenic ant, Wilson wryly acknowledged “the natural human affection for big organisms”, for sleek dolphins and cute chimps. But he also knew that even a mouse “is richer in information than a Caravaggio painting, Bach fugue, or any other great work of art”.

Meet Britain’s Willy Wonkas: the ideas factory that could save UK industry, Aditya Chakrabortty

“my main interest as a story-teller is in the way that real people behave in different situations, what it really means to be a human being”

I think of myself as a realist, not a fantasist at all, because my main interest as a story-teller is in the way that real people behave in different situations, what it really means to be a human being. If I write fantasy, it’s only because by using the mechanisms of fantasy, I can say something a little bit more vividly about, for example, the business of growing up.

Philip Pullman, interviewed in imagine … Philip Pullman: Angels and Daemons
(also see review of the programme here)

“let’s remember watching a film is not a brave act of resistance”

Without succumbing to hyperbole, this feels like an important moment in pop culture history, and I’m happy I got to witness it.

However, some of the early responses to Black Panther illustrate the lofty and unfair expectations which we often place on black art. For example, that Beyoncé’s seminal 2016 album, Lemonade, was criticized for not outright destroying the patriarchy showed how our culture refuses to allow black art to exist as entertainment. And it’s tempting to imagine that Black Panther will not only improve black representation in media, but radically change the state of our politics too.

But by conflating the film with the the resistive efforts of grassroots activists and organizers, we risk disrespecting our radical traditions, which are increasingly being commodified by corporations whose interests have never been with the people.

That “self-care” and “community” have been reduced to catchy self-help and festival slogans proves how easily these ideas are rendered meaningless under late capitalism. If we behave as though purchasing a ticket to see a film produced by Disney is a form of resistance, we fail to distinguish between black art that touches on revolutionary themes, and the actual work required for revolution itself.

There’s no denying how necessary Black Panther is for representation. In a world where diversity is so often treated as an act of charity instead of a reality, this film challenges the pervasive idea that our heroes can only be white and male.

It provides generations of dark-skinned girls and women with heroes who share the same features which society ridicules them for. But as people descend upon their local cinemas to see what’s been touted as an excellent film, let’s remember watching a film is not a brave act of resistance. There’s plenty more work for us to do.

Khanya Khondlo Mtshali