Friday, October 22, 2021

Gradually, Then Suddenly

This important principle occurred to me on three separate topics recently.  Though attributed to several writers, the best case can be made for Hemingway using in The Sun Also Rises, about going bankrupt. There was a reference to the idea a few weeks ago about the start of the Industrial Revolution. When we trace retrospectively, whatever element we isolate is likely to trace back much earlier than what we would call the beginning. If we choose the steam engine as the key item, Greeks in classical times sorta kinda had that.

I mentioned just a few days ago in discussing the History of Rock 'n Roll that early artists who came up with something that turned out to be the key ingredient (the backbeat - Western Swing, well, polka music, well...there were 19th C pianists who used it in popular music; electric guitar prominence - Charlie Christian in, gulp, 1939 - is that R&R?) can be said to have influenced other important figures just downstream, who in turn influenced...well everyone.  Yet there are lots of "not quite" attempts, that get most of the elements or mostly get them, that just don't quite get the sound. It all has to come together.  And in the case of Rock, I would push the timeline very late until I said "There.  That's it.  That is indisputable Rock." Irritatingly late, in fact.

Today I heard discussion of the origins of civilisation - which has undergone revision among historians as the 1960s high school model of Sumer...then Babylon and the Assyrians... then the Greeks - has proved unsupportable. Even agriculture, supposedly not occurring until about 12,000 y/a, is being pushed back nearly twice that far in some tellings.  There is evidence of hunter gatherers having gardens.  Maybe for medicinal plants, or for ceremonial plants.  Just not major crops supplying the bulk of calories. Though even those are getting pushed father back, mostly famously by Gobekli Tepe, which increasingly shows as being a continuity from earlier villages and gatherings rather than a new thing. 

When did the Renaissance begin?  Isolate any factor and you will be able to trace it back 300 or even a thousand years before 1500. There are even situations, briefly, in a few places, where all of them seem to be in place, but then it all just dissipates.  No Renaissance for you, Alfredo.


james said...

So it isn't so much a matter of development as of critical mass of like-minded people...

SJ said...

It's not necessarily Rock, but it's comparable...Science Fiction.

There are some stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne that look like Science Fiction. One was called Rappacinni's Daughter.

There's a well-known story by Washington Irving, called Rip Van Winkle which appears to be an experiment in writing a time-travel story.

There are histories of science-fiction which include these as precursors, and others which don't. When these stories were written, the concept of science-fiction didn't really exist as a separate category of literature.

Once the idea transitioned from gradual-growth to sudden-growth, people tried to name this new focus in fiction, and called it science-fiction.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

In the 30's it was still called scientifiction, which older writers in Britain continued to use into the 1950s.