Once upon a time, in a usenet exchange devoted to that hoariest of topics “Is Science Fiction Literature” Ray Radlein and I wandered off into never-never land, producing the following exchange:
Indeed. And who decides which works are powerful, vibrant works of literature?
Me. I do.
I scour the literary universe, making important decisions about which works constitute The Canon, and then Universities, Reviewers, and various and sundry Literati call me up, pay the licensing fee, and receive my official decisions about which works have enough literary merit to warrant inclusion in The Canon.
Unfortunately, due no doubt to recent budget shortfalls and funding cuts, the affected individuals and institutions have been unable to afford my really quite reasonable licensing fee, and have therefore not received any Canon updates in some time now.
Get with it people! I have a mortgage!
I suppose, in the interest of fairness, that I should mention that there *are* other entities performing much the same service. For instance, the American Society of Canonical Academics Production provides its susbscriber institutes with a lower-cost, lower quality version of The Canon. And some especially desperate Community Colleges and Tech Schools have even begun using Arbitron.
For that matter, one University was so desperate that it actually attempted to pay its licensing fees to me using *counterfeit money*! Of course, I *pretended* that I hadn’t noticed.
I won’t reveal the identity of this miscreant institution, but suffice it to say that they are the college which ill-advisedly established a tenured chair in John Norman Studies.
Ah, the notorious chair in John Norman Studies. Perhaps you haven’t followed recent events at said institution which we have agreed to leave un-named. Recently there have been an astonishing number of untoward events at said institution which would have further lowered its academic reputation – that is, they would have if it had one.
The institution was initially quite embarrassed at establishing such a chair and was concerned that there would be a wave of student protest. Money, however, speaks. The chair was quite generously endowed, you know, and they had no scruples about getting their hands on it if they could but avoid getting caught with their hands in the cookie jar.
They avoided the threat of student protest by quietly establishing the chair while student attention was focussed on the occupation of the president’s office. This is a regular event at said institution, so much so that the president has two offices, one for being occupied and one for working at. Why the board of trustee’s does not object to the fact that his second office is located in a building owned by his mistress is beyond me. I suppose it may be in the nature of hazard pay.
Although they had skirted the problem of student protest they had to deal with the question of filling the chair. They took the view that said chair should be viewed as being similar to having a place open for a resident poet or philosopher – the holder need not be an academic. This was a matter of some concern. The MLA had quietly informed them that if this post was filled by a certified academic the right of the faculty to publish papers in the J. of Unreadable Literary Criticism would permanently terminated.
In the end they found a 17 year old John Norman fan, one Rodney McFinister, who agreed to take the position. Since Rodney was an innocent when it came to financial matters, the administration arranged that the entirety of the endowment (with the exception of a small stipend for Rodney) was placed in the administrative budget and was forthwith transferred to the general fund. Having conducted this sleight of hand they assumed that their problems were over.
Not so. Rodney was a young man of enthusiasm and he set out to organize John Norman appreciation as a student activity. In short order he organized a dining club, the GorMands, a branch of the Society for Creative Anachronism, the GorGets, and, most ominously, a choral and dancing group, the Gorrettes. The administration was sublimely unaware of this until they discovered that the Gorrettes were putting on a major operetta, student written, called The Dancing Slave Girls Of Gor. Initially they were puzzled as to how such a thing could happen without the usual protests; they were shocked to learn that the entire leadership of the feminist action group were members of the Dancing Slave Girls of Gor.
Before the administration could bring itself to act the ill fated production took place. The protests they expected from the politically active groups never took place; too many of the leaders were on stage. However the SF fans, normally the most politically inert element of the student body, took umbrage. The entire membership of the Nerds’R’Us club, armed with water pistols, paint guns, and loud hooting voices, occupied the front row seats of the theater. Their rough and ready methods of artistic criticism quickly turned the production into a shambles.
The disaster came, however, when an unnamed chemistry student tossed a stink bomb on the stage. This ended the production. As people rapidly vacated the immediate area the rumor spread that the stink bomb was radioactive and the theater was emptied in a mass panic in which 43 people (students, actually) were injured. The institution, accustomed to dealing with these sorts of results, quietly settled all complaints out of court with the usual promises of life time employment at MacDonalds.
While this fracas was occurring the administration also had to deal with the problem of Elfrieda Eppingham vonBasingstoke, the Resident Poet of Feminist Studies, who had been convicted on a charge of looting (she had eaten an apple from a fruit stand which had been overturned during a riot whe was supervising) and was technically ineligible for the position she then held.
The administration resolved both of their problems by forcibly persuading the hapless Rodney to resign and installing Elfrieda in his place. Elfrieda immediately took the view that a proper study of John Norman could only be conducted by performing a feminist analysis of the sort of society that could produce and reward such a writer. This the administration expected.
They were unpleasantly surprised to learn that Ms. vonBasingstoke had considerably more financial and legal acumen than the unfortunate Rodney. She spotted a legal loop hole in the transfer of the endowment funds and recaptured them for the use of the Chair. These, in turn, were used for an immediate expansion of the activities of the feminist action group.
Currently things have quieted down. However there are ominous rumors that the Gorrettes are back in rehearsal.
A link to this page may be found at From the scribes, The Writings of Gor. Go and enjoy, you sick puppy.
This page was last updated April 19, 1998