December 13th, 2005

bear by san

More on the SF/F divide. Also, BPAL: Arachne

Gregory Benford and Darrell Schweitzer on science fiction and fantasy.

scott_lynch responds.

Grr. Okay, I am annoyed by the implication there that George R. R. Martin has somehow betrayed the genre by writing fantasy instead of SF.

I obviously need to order one of those "science fiction is dead" t-shirts. Whenever I encounter somebody who thinks that science fiction is ultimately forward-looking and fantasy is ultimately nostalgic, I want to force them to read different books. And different online arguments. Especially the ongoing Truesdallian argument that SFF was so much better in the old days--if that's not scary nostalgia, I dunno what is. (And what Darrell said about Lovecraft. And even more especially about Crichton: there's where the real anti-intellectualism lies. If fantasy writers could tap into that kind of egghead-hate, man, we'd be rolling in the dough.)

It seems to me that science fiction limits its own audience--especially so-called "hard" science fiction, or the current subgenre that tends to get called "post-Cyberpunk" but is really post-New Wave, except apparently Cyberpunk made such an impression on the genre consciousness that we've somehow managed to forget the revolution in craft and literary sensibility that took place between 1960 and and 1980 (and by this I mean Charles Stross, Chris Moriarty, Mark Budz, Peter Watts, and other fine writers with an uncompromising prose style that kicks the reader in neck-deep and expects him to parse neologisms and work out complicated ideas on the fly)--is hard to read. It tends to lose readers when it gets inward-looking, and doesn't make allowances for the guy walking in off the street who maybe needs his hand held a little. It's the Heinleinian exposit on the fly technique taken to a logical extreme, and it's a literature of alienation, among other things.

On the other extreme is the science fiction that's hard to read because it exposits at length, and the story gets lost in the explanation--or the story is, at worst, a framework narrative tacked on around a bunch of theoretical nattering.

The problem here isn't that fantasy is stealing SF's audience. The problem is that SF isn't making itself accessible to a general audience. It's easy to whine about how nobody likes me when I'm not making an effort to be likable.

It's the Geek Problem. We want the pretty girls to like us, but we don't want to stop talking about Mecha-Godzilla all the damned time. (Why yes, I am still reading the Minister Faust book, How did you know?) Alternately, it's the Ghetto Problem. We want to be accepted, we want people to bring us their business, but we don't want no sellout gentrification here.

...and so it seems a little unwelcoming to those who aren't already in the club.

Also, we want validation as artists.

Dude, right there with ya.

Gotta say, (because I can only talk about my goals, and not the goals of The Genre(s)) as a whole--I don't think my SF is about embracing the future, or my fantasy is about nostalgia, though. I think they're both about finding ways to talk about people's choices, and tell stories about people's lives, and maybe promote a little understanding, and consider the ethicality (or inethicality) of what we do and how we do it. I think in both cases, I'm writing stories about how people suck it up and get through the day and try to hold on, a little, to their souls. There's certainly a pro space exploration theme in the Jenny books. (Corporate space flight, here we go!)

But man. The idea that all fantasy is about nostalgia for simpler times really ignores anything about the genre except the sappiest, sloppiest wish-fulfillment princesses-and-pretty-horses novels, and judging fantasy by that is like judging science fiction exclusively by E.E. "Doc" Smith.

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bear by san

BPAL: Kunstkammer

In a futile attempt to recapture my youth, I'm going to see King Kong at midnight tonight, and then I am going to report for the media monitoring at five AM tomorrow morning. King Kong is a three-hour and something movie.

I'm figuring sleep is pretty pointless.

*g* Watch this space for insomnia updates, unless I crash on the couch for a couple of hours.

LE, from elisem

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