Interview with Stacie Hanes, contributor to An Unofficial Companion to the Novels of Terry Pratchett
Stacie Hanes holds degrees in English from Youngstown State University. She is a Teaching Fellow at Kent State University, teaching composition and writing her dissertation on nineteenth-century British fantastic literature. Her critical specialties are nineteenth-century British literature, Jane Austen, and modern British science fiction and fantasy satire. She has published essays on British satirist Terry Pratchett in "Terry Pratchett: Guilty of Literature," "The Sandman Papers," and Vector, the news magazine of the British Science Fiction Association.
Her proudest critical achievement to date is managing to work the phrases "Victorian secret" and "biting wind" into a paragraph about Lucy Westenra's lingerie. Her private ambition is to be a pioneer in the field of serious comic literary criticism.
You can reach Stacie at http://www.esmeraldus.blogspot.com
She has written a number of other papers analysing Pratchett's work including "Not-So-Modest Proposals: The Satiric Reality of Samuel Vimes and the Ankh-Morpork City Watch". Mel Pedley quizzed Stacey about her recent work, the contribution of 7 pieces to Andrew M. Butler's latest book "An Unofficial Companion to the Novels of Terry Pratchett" due for publication in early 2008.
How did you get involved with this book?
I know the editor, Andrew Butler, from several professional organizations. That's how I got involved in Guilty of Literature, too, by just jumping into the scholarship with both feet, and not worrying (much) about whether I was in over my head. I started attending academic conferences as an undergraduate, and you just meet people as a consequence of that. It goes both ways; I had done my Master's thesis on the Discworld novels, and it was a chapter of the thesis that made it into Guilty of Literature. Something else I wrote, about Greebo, made it into Vector - so Andrew knew me, and knew that I've written about Pratchett.
What other areas of fiction/non-fiction interest you?
I'm a big fan of history. I minored in history, because it's so useful as a supplement to literary study, and because it's fascinating in its own right - it's another kind of narrative. History books still make up most of my nonfiction leisure reading.
As far as fiction is concerned, I read and write about some science fiction; William Gibson and Robert Heinlein are two favorites.
But the big thing is 19th-century British literature, stretching back a bit to Jane Austen. I love Jane Austen, and everything she wrote; it just kills me when people don't see how *funny* she is. The whole nineteenth century is great. It was a time of such change that the literature is deep, layered, and even self-contradictory. There is a huge body of really good nineteenth-century British literature, but that's when the fantastic got a solid foothold, starting in about 1818 with the initial publication of Frankenstein, and then H.G. Wells took it and ran with it, and you've got Dracula near the end of the century.
So all of my literary interests are really the same interest, from different angles.
Perhaps because of Pratchett's humour, his books often aren't taken as seriously as, say Heinlein's. What's your view on this?
Well, I think it's a mistake not to take them seriously. Funny isn't the opposite of serious, and humor is a sophisticated rhetorical tool that's been used for thousands of years. One criticism of Heinlein, especially his later books, is his preachy didacticism. As much as I love Heinlein, I think it's possible that Pratchett's novels may have a more subtle popular effect, because he doesn't preach.
What does literary criticism offer to the reader?
Sometimes, not much. It's a sad truth that a lot of it is written by the pros, for the pros, and often as a requirement for keeping your job or advancing in it. And there's a place for that; I'm not saying it's wrong for professional scholars to write for each other - I don't expect to be included on many discussions of theoretical physics. Some of it's not for everyone; heck, some of it's not for *me*.
But literary criticism can open up new ways to see books. Done right, it allows you to see something familiar in a radical new light. I got this secondhand, but when I gave my talk at the last Discworld convention, I left the room not knowing really whether people had been listening. But it had gotten back to Mr. Pratchett, and he told me the next day that several members of the audience had said that they had come away from the lecture understanding more about the Discworld.
At its best, literary criticism can let you read the same book over again, as if it were new. And that's *valuable*.
What are your Top Five books?
You don't mean the top of the huge stacks on the coffee table do you?
If it's the top five Discworld novels (hey, did you see me sneak in an extra five books?), then: Witches Abroad, Carpe Jugulum, Jingo, Small Gods, and [five minute pause] I'm having a hard time deciding between Reaper Man and Hogfather.
An Unofficial Companion to the Novels of Terry Pratchett by Andrew Butler is due for publication in early 2008 by Greenwood World Publishing.