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science fiction, what's that about, then? (part whatever it is) - The Villages

hutch0
Date: 2008-04-28 23:01
Subject: science fiction, what's that about, then? (part whatever it is)
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Location:the utility room in the sky
Mood:calmcalm
Music:bjork
Some time ago, back before the PreCambrian Explosion, when it was just me and Jean Marie and Selkie and the (even then sadly-LJless) OJM rattling around here, with occasional interjections by Lou Anders and brisingamen and peake (remember those days, guys? Before all these boisterous folk started moving in?) I posted a few rather clumsy and embarrassing rants about the state of science fiction today and my rather namby-pamby views on it.
Well, I'm indebted to Neal Asher for pointing me at this article by Richard Morgan (whose novel Black Man I'm currently enjoying enormously) which addresses a few of the points I sort of approached but veered away from. I think the man talks a lot of sense. Any thoughts?
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-04-28 22:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I've been publishing fiction a lot longer than Morgan (and if only you knew how much it swells my breast to write that, even though he's about a gazillion percent more successful than I am) but because I got into blogging quite late in the day I think he and I encountered the infighting in science fiction around the same time, and, as you'll remember, I was just as aghast as he was. And still am.
I'd disagree that the crime fans aren't as geeky and techno-savvy as the science fiction ones. I really think he's right: there's a greater sense of content among crime fans. And I think I have an idea why.
I think crime fans know what crime fiction is. They had it figured out years ago. Science fiction fans don't. It's fractured into a landscape of little warring kingdoms battling for supremacy, each with its favoured authors and its vocal camp followers. It's not a genre any more; it's a series of turf wars.
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pds_lit: Arthur
User: pds_lit
Date: 2008-04-28 23:39 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Arthur
"Before all these boisterous folk started moving in?"

Really now! Hutch, shame on you.

By the way...what is your latest word count on EA?
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-04-28 23:46 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Dammit, you are boisterous, and I would defend to the death your right to be so.
We are: 67,012. And it hurts.
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RealThog: sunset
User: realthog
Date: 2008-04-28 23:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:sunset

I'm pretty certain it was Damon Knight who defined sf as follows: "You know what it is when you see it."

That's always struck me as the perfect definition. However, far too many skiffers demand something more explicit. When I was working on The Encyclopedia of SF and Clute and Nichols were debating the issue, I suggested this: "SF is the subdivision of fantasy that panders to the scientific pretensions of its readers and writers." I still think that definition works, too. (Nichols didn't. Clute did, which is where The Encyclopedia of Fantasy in a way originated.)
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-04-28 23:58 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yep, I'd go with Damon Knight's definition, too. But that's where the bear trap is. Science fiction is what you perceive it to be. And that opens the doors for the turf wars. Clute's definition does the same thing (and you know I love Clute.) Science fiction has never had properly defined borders, unlike detective fiction. No one has said `This is what it is,' or at least nobody with enough clout. There's always been enough wiggle room - and thank god - for the cyberpunks and the mundanes and the weirds and everyone else. There's never been that doubt in detective fiction, never been a searching for the essence. And that's why detective fiction is the central fiction of our age rather than science fiction. It's gone forward without doubts, with a clear conscience, without people slanging each other off in its wake.
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calcinations
User: calcinations
Date: 2008-04-29 17:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I found "Altered Carbon" to be dull and pointless and never got more than half way through it, so have never read anything else by Richard Morgan. He does rather make sense in that article though.


It occured to me last night, as I looked at a Sunday Herald article in which the journalist was talking about peak oil, that I was moderately inured to future shock because I have read a lot of SF. After reading everything from Aldiss to Macleod to Haldeman to Clarke to Dick to Stross to Le Guin, I feel like I've seen so many possibilities that actually the reality doesn't bother me.

Which is of course what SF is about. I think it is about exploring possibilities of reality, science, society and individuals, in a story, with at least a nod to rigour and structure.
Does that statement make any sense to people. I think it is the equivalent of detective stories "person finds mystery, solves it" theme.
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calcinations
User: calcinations
Date: 2008-04-29 17:37 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Or to put it shorter, SF is about what if...

What if people were telepathic?

What if there had been world war 3?

What if we managed to invent hyperdrive in 1945?

What if aliens from another dimension popped by and tried to eat our brains?

Hmmm, I wonder if you can sum up all SF plots as "What if.."?
Anyone want to give it a go?
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-04-29 22:37 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I like the hyperdrive idea. I could do things with that.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-04-29 22:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
No, that makes perfect sense. At least, it sounds like the way I look at science fiction.
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jmward14: Duzell3
User: jmward14
Date: 2008-04-30 05:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Duzell3
Many and fine though his points are, Mr. Morgan has obviously not visited the right mystery boards. The slashing, flaming, backstabbing and wholesale slaughter of sanity and sub-genres on the Dorothy L. list make any half dozen "Wither SF" panels, including those titled "WTF" seem like kiddie tea parties. What makes it even more charming is on Dorothy L, it's ALL personal.
Then there's Romance Writers of America, which goes off the deep end on a regular basis. To take just one instance, about three years ago they tried to vote in a definition of romance that restricted it to one man/one woman, in that order.
To quote Anna Russell, I'm not making this up, you know. LOL
Hugs and grins,
Jean Marie
*who's covered all the genres long enough to know, ain't nobody got green grass on their lawns*
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jmward14
User: jmward14
Date: 2008-04-30 17:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think you've got it in one. Any activity with a following soon turns into a competitive sport. Cheers and best wishes, Jean Marie
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-05-01 20:40 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
So science fiction isn't unique, then. Okay, thanks for that; I'd presumed, from what little I knew of other genres, that it was something that only happened in science fiction. Actually, like brisingamen, I find that strangely comforting. Although, to be fair to Morgan, the Dorothy L Sayers boards are hardly where you'd expect behaviour like this to go on. Or do I have that wrong?

Edited at 2008-05-01 08:41 pm (UTC)
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jmward14
User: jmward14
Date: 2008-05-01 20:45 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Actually, the Dorothy L board is famous for that sort of behavior. But you're not likely to know that if you aren't heavily involved with genre, either as a writer or industry professional. Few civilians know the SEKERT PASSWRD. Same as in SF/fantasy. How many folks know about the various communities in LJ, for example, unless they touch on their business?
Hugs and smiles,
Jean Marie
*spreading a little sunshine wherever she, ah, goes*
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