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PO Box 95787
Seattle, WA 98145-2787

Narrative Power: Encounters, Celebrations, Struggles

edited by L. Timmel Duchamp

$19 (paperback)

There is a reason for the existence of clichés: the easiest stories to tell and to listen to are the ones that everyone knows already, the ones that reinforce the listeners' beliefs. The less sophisticated the listeners are—the younger the children—the less likely they are to tolerate change or ambiguity. A bedtime story about Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Richard will drive a three-year-old slightly bananas if she knows anything at all about The Tale of Peter Rabbit. (Parents: try this at home!)

Adults, as a rule, also like to hear the same stories, although they prefer that the stories have some differences—the human brain loves to detect differences. The popularity of familiar stories that reinforce the status quo is not limited to television and popular literature: historians repeat themselves. Horatio-Alger stories thus become the narrative for male public figures who rise to success from poverty; for women, the story is more problematic, because female public figures are anomalous. In either case, the politics of the narrator inform the story being told. In narratives about women, as Joanna Russ has pointed out in her classic How to Suppress Women's Writing, the narrator may simply deny that the woman actually accomplished anything worth noting.
   — from the introduction by Eileen Gunn

This collection of essays on narrative inclued essays by Samuel R. Delany, Lance Olsen, Nicola Griffith, Lesley A. Hall, Alan DeNiro, Carolyn Ives Gilman, and others. It is commonly said that history is written by the victors: the narrator chooses the events that will be part of the story, and the narrative explains their meaning. In fiction, narrative conventions and clichés make writing and reading familiar stories easier, but also impede writers' efforts to tell unfamiliar stories. This volume asks: Is narrative inherently dangerous? Empowering? Or even liberating? A mix of established and new writers join several scholars in considering the politics of narrative manifested in fiction, history, and science.


...In this collection of essays, edited by L. Timmel Duchamp, narrative power is examined from sixteen different perspectives. The volume's subtitle—Encounters, Celebrations, Struggles—explains why its essays linger in the mind. Its writers have skin in the game. Many of their insights have that bittersweet flavor peculiar to autobiographical accounts. Some of the essays are reprints, but most originated from a Wiscon 2009 panel session. This might explain the informal, leaning-towards-the-microphone quality of the writing. All the essays are worth a second read and an individual response....

...Dachau started out as an artist's colony. Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda and Hitler's BFF, started out as a novelist. Narratives do strange things to people and places. There is no final protection against malign narratives and the Pied Pipers of history except the steady pressure of conversation. We owe a debt of gratitude to L. Timmel Duchamp, Aqueduct Press, and the many contributors. Volumes such this keep us alert, awake. May its tribe increase. (Read the whole review)
    — Anil Menon, Strange Horizons, 30 August 2010

ISBN: 978-1-933500-34-8 (13 digit)
Publication Date: Mar 2010
paperback 272 pages