Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Escape Does Not Work

From "Books," by Joanna Russ, in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, November 1979:

It isn't the realists who find life dreadful. It's the romancers. After all, which group is trying to escape from life? Reality is horrible and wonderful, disappointing and ecstatic, beautiful and ugly. Reality is everything. Reality is what there is. Only the hopelessly insensitive find reality so pleasant as to never want to get away from it. But painkillers can be bad for the health, and even if they were not, I am damned if anyone will make me say that the newest fad in analgesics is equivalent to the illumination which is the other thing (besides pleasure) art ought to provide. Bravery, nobility, sublimity, and beauty that have no connection with the real world are simply fake, and once readers realize that escape does not work, the glamor fades, the sublime aristocrats turn silly, the profundities become simplifications, and one enters (if one is lucky) into the dreadful discipline of reality and art, like "The Penal Colony"....
There is no pleasure like finding out the realities of human life, in which joy and misery, effort and release, dread and happiness, walk hand-in-hand.

We had better enjoy it. It's what there is.

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