There will necessarily be changes to the list of classics from time to time, and doubtless many factors must contribute to making a book a 'classic', but we should be able to come up with a rigorous definition that will endure. To do that, we need to understand what we're even trying to accomplish by categorizing something as 'classic.'
Audience and Word Choice
For whom you are writing matters, and whether your story is enjoyed or not will depend almost as much upon who is reading it as on what you put into writing it.
Reflections on the Performative Nature of Language
When we consider the organic and evolving nature of language, it becomes clear that the medium in which we as writers work is at once both a static means of information storage, and a dynamic, independent artform allowing the author to engage in a unique interaction with each reader.
Compare these two sentences: 1) LyttIeton hypothesized long ago that Triton and Pluto originated as adjacent prograde satellites of Neptune, and 2) A physical unclonable function (PUF) is a hardware security primitive that exploits the inherent randomness of its manufacturing process to enable attestation of the entity wherein it is embodied.
Magic is Science is Science is Magic
Long before Arthur C Clarke coined the phrase “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” before Howard Taylor riffed on that claim to assert that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a big gun,” and probably even before Mark Twain wrote A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, people, and especially writers, have been fascinated by this idea of an equivalency between science and magic.
That single, two-word sentence sent me along a tangent about the role and purpose of imagery and sympathetic nature in writing, and why certain concepts, like that of lightning flashing, have such a powerful, dramatic effect on a scene.
Effect and Cause
A recent Writing Excuses episode to which I listened discussed the ideas of disordered storytelling, and means of writing stories that are intended to be read in an order other than from the first page to the last page. Unfortunately, it didn't really dig into the topic the way I hoped it would engage with it.
A Common Mythos
I came across this essay recently on "The Power of Our New Pop Myths," which makes the argument that franchise-based storytelling in the style of Star Wars or Marvel is popular because it fulfils the same societal needs that have historically been filled by religious storytelling.
Definition, Connotation, and the Function of Language
A long time ago, there were no dictionaries, no modern language associations, no Oxford standards. Language is a fundamentally organic system that has been evolving for thousands of years, as complex and intricate as something like the economy, and for most of its existence its rules have not been explicit.
Back and Forth on Pacing
My recent reading of Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy set me to thinking about pacing in a more rigorous way than I have before.