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Re: CHAT: facing your own mortality (as a conlanger)

From:Jim Henry <jimhenry1973@...>
Date:Monday, June 30, 2008, 13:31
On Mon, Jun 30, 2008 at 5:50 AM, andrew <hobbit@...> wrote:
> Treading in No Cross Waters seeking > immortality in this world is a denial of the possibility of another > world. In the other hand in a finite material universe perhaps the > best we can hope for is that once we existed.
If not an outright denial, anyway a kind of hedging our bets. Yes; sometimes it seems to me that trying too hard to ensure the survival of our creative works -- beyond just casting our bread on the waters, saying "publish/reprint/copy this if you like it, or ignore it if you don't" -- is a species of vanity that needs to be mortified. OTOH we need to distinguish between (1) wanting to make the world a better place, preferably in ways that will still continue to benefit people generations after we're gone, and (2) wanting our *fame* and *reputation* to last for generations after we're gone. Ideally we would work as hard as possible to make the world a better place, while not caring a fig whether people three generations from now know that we existed. And to what extent do our creative works, as opposed to more obvious kinds of charitable works (planting trees, visiting sick people, busing tables in a soup kitchen, etc.) make the world a better place? I think we are the worst possible judges of that; we can't objectively judge which if any of our own works are best, or even worth reading/viewing/etc. Isaac Asimov said somewhere that even late in his career he still got regular rejections, and could never tell in advance when a story was likely to sell quickly or get rejected a bunch of times. Mark Twain thought that _Joan of Arc_ was his best work; I like it better than most of his fans, but even I wouldn't say it's as good as _Huckleberry Finn_. I love gzb and most of my better-developed conlangs and finished stories, but I have no idea whether they're really any good -- whether they deserve to be preserved for the delectation of conlangers and readers of centuries to come, or to be forgotten as soon as I die or drop off the 'net. I guess the way to find out is to give people permission (which I hereby do) to mirror my website; if enough people think some or all of my writings are worth a little trouble to copy and pass on, they'll survive me, and otherwise they won't.
> Putting on an archivist hat (mainly paper, ephemera and artefacts) it is > so easy for records and documents to be lost. They end up underneath > the bed, or the equivalent thereof; and the next generation places no > value on them. Electronic records are even scarier. We have no > guarantees for the survival of electronic records, their preservation > or access to them on the time scale that archivists would like to work.
"Hard copy Hard copy Hard copy everything that you do, for Hard copy Hard copy Hard copy lasts longer than you." -- Leslie Fish -- Jim Henry Conlang fluency survey -- there's still time to participate before I analyze the results and write the article