We Are Not Alone

By John Hertz: The 2017 Worldcon has concluded, and we return to our regular program – or programme, which reminds me: thanks, Jukka! thanks, everyone!  When I happened on this passage in Chapter 51, the antepenultimate of Trollope’s Barchester Towers (1857), I could have thought the song was about us.

What novelist … can impart an interest to the last chapter of his fictitious history?…  And who can apportion out and dovetail his incidents, dialogues, characters, and descriptive morsels, so as to fit them all exactly in … without either compressing them unnaturally, or extending them artificially at the end of his labour?  Do I not myself know that I am at this moment in want of a dozen pages, and that I am sick with cudgelling my brains to find them?  And then when everything is done, the kindest-hearted critic of them all invariably twits us with the incompetency and lameness of our conclusion.  We have either become idle and neglected it, or tedious and overlaboured it.  It is insipid or unnatural, overstrained or imbecile.  It means nothing, or attempts too much….  Guided by my own lights only, I confess that I despair of success.

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