July 15th, 2011
Rough liveblog in progress.
Panelists: Chesya Burke (CB), John Kessel (JK), John Crowley (JC), Graham Sleight (GS), James Morrow (JM).
Tolkien defined the term. Quotation from “On Fairy Stories.”
Discussion of examples
Lord of the Rings, of course.
(JC: On the table in OBWAT: Charles Fort’s Lo!)
JM: I wrote a critique of the Book of Job (Blameless in Abaddon)
Does it imply a belief in god?
GS: ”it implies belief in an author”
JC: Read religious story about a miracle, and notes that the trouble with this in fiction is that it’s clear that the author, not the deity, is performing the miracle.
JM: Darwin’s Idea is eucatastrophe—it seems like blood and bleakness and destruction, but in the end, it implies that everything that has ever lived is bound together and goes on and on…
JK: For Tolkien, building eucatastrophe into his stories was a reflection of what he believed to be in life—of his own spiritual reality.
JK: Flannery O’Connor—her stories purport to be (missed it—realistic? nonreligious?), but are actually eucatastrophic, as in Everything That Rises Must Converge.
CB: The eucatastrophe is always a catastrophe for someone else—the horse in LoTR, the weasels and stoats (here JC) rousted at the end of The Wind in the Willows.
JK/JC: Can atheists be moved by eucatastrophe?
JC: Yes! “The Man Who Was Thursday”—doesn’t matter that it’s explicitly an allegory, it’s still thrilling. Because things happen in stories that do not happen in real life. Atheists don’t get the eucatastrophe from Sunday mass, so it has to come from art.
GS: Isn’t that especially poignant? The feeling at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life.
JK: But it’s like drinking a lot. The end of IaWL feels like I’m right at the edge of having too much and swearing off booze.
JC: When eucatastrophe DOESN’T work, it’s the worst failure.
JK: IAWL is so over the top it’s almost a (Luis) Buñuel movie
JM: My heroine (?) is nailed to a cross and gets the vinegar on the sponge but it turns out the sponge as a drug that gives her the appearance of death. The sponge…is god. And…hol(e)y. (Groans all around.)
Question period (not taking real notes here)
JC: Secret of fiction is that causality is backward. The ends produce the causes.
JM: ”Jesus doesn’t put the slipper on her foot…”
JM: Odysseus is going to have war memories…they’re not going to go away
GS: Refuses to give you eucatastrophe: Behold the Man.