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Sunday April 21, 2013 I ran a discussion for Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers (MinnSpec): "At what age are cows housebroken? What urban and suburban writers should know about rural life before writing about it."

I started with a reference to the Cheers theme song: "A place where everyone knows your name" isn't something country people need to search out. Where I grew up (Ulster County NY; between Kerhonkson and Accord, which at the time had populations of a couple hundred people each), people would be more likely to want a bar where everyone didn't know your name. And your grandfather's name. And your great-grandfather's prison record.

Several other people were from other rural parts of the US. I learned some things I hadn't known before.

And a couple of people had moved to the country; they had a different slant.

Other topics brought up: Some urban neighborhoods are rather like very small towns in some ways.

Fantasy writers can get horses very, very wrong.
´╗┐SCIENCE FICTION,Today and Tomorrow. Ed. Reginald Bretnor. Harper & Row, 1974. Note that I'm only commenting on the essays which interested me on this rereading.

First section is SCIENCE FICTION TODAY: Ben Bova, Frederik Pohl, and George Zebrowski.

Fred Pohl "The Publishing of Science Fiction" gives a good picture of sf publishing as it was at the time.

His predictions of sf publishing's future? He gives two tentative predictions. The one he considers less likely is people printing out books with their home computers. More likely, he thinks, is microfiche. No mention of reading on a screen.

And no anticipation of fantasy publishing's rise. Fantasy used to be the redhaired stepchild; now it outsells science fiction.

George Zebrowski's contribution should have been rejected. "Science Fiction and the Visual Media" with no mention of television sf? Years after Star Trek came along?

Second section SCIENCE FICTION, SCIENCE, AND MODERN MAN: Frank Herbert, Theodore Sturgeon, Alan E. Nourse, Thomas N. Scortia, and Reginald Bretnor.

Third section THE ART AND SCIENCE OF SCIENCE FICTION. James Gunn, Alexei & Cory Panshin, Poul Anderson, Hal Clement, Anne McCaffrey, Gordon R. Dickson, and Jack Williamson.

Poul Anderson's "The Creation of Imaginary Worlds" and Hal Clement's "The Creation of Imaginary Beings" are both useful for writers.

Anne McCaffrey, "Romance and Glamour in Science Fiction" -- the only contribution by a woman. Much intelligent discussion of female sf writers, and of men writing female characters -- well or badly. But also this passage:

"One top-flight writer of sf has been chided for using only one type of heroine: the sort of earnest, if attractive, females who joined the Communist party in the '30s, the Army in the '40s, did social work in the '50s, and started communes in the '60s. A girl who would 'die' for a principle. Great, but girls don't 'die for principles. Men do. A girl marries the clunk and converts him to her way of thinking later. In bed."
Three intelligent, language-using species.

The first intelligent species had a Final War between competing nation-states. They left really, really permanent records.

Second intelligent species (which developed some millions of years later) learned from those records. Those who thought a universal state was the only safe alternative triumphed.

Their Final War was over control of the world state.

The three species which evolved after them decided the safest course was to try as many different types of government as possible.

Outside the human culture reservation, different branches of government occupy different areas.

Runagate's executive branch (which has only one permanent paid employee, known as "Gov") is centered in Runagate. The legislative branch is headquartered in Edge City. Judicial branch in Equitable Commerce. Philosophical and religious branch in Naglfahr Landing, aka Old Spaceport Museum.