December 06, 2007

Defending science fiction

I've listened to and read way too many elitists who think that scifi is a crap genre. I will grant you that a lot of what is written sucks, but I would add that most of what pretends to be literature also blows great big enormous chunks. Anyway, Megan McAardle links to what she calls "a stirring defense of science fiction". I can't disagree. Excerpt:

The big problem with being sniffy about SF is that it’s just too important to ignore. After all, what kind of fool would refuse to be seen reading Borges’s Labyrinths, Stanislaw Lem’s Fiasco, Orwell’s 1984, Huxley’s Brave New World or Wells’s War of the Worlds just because they were SF? These are just good books, irrespective of genre. But they are also books that embody the big ideas of the time – both Wells and Lem were obsessed with human insignificance in the face of the immense otherness of the universe, Huxley with technology as a seductive destroyer and Orwell with our capacity for authoritarian evil. Borges, like Lem, suspects we know nothing of ourselves. Interested in these things? Of course you are. Read SF.

As an addendum, here's a link to the short story Answer referred to in the article above.

Update: It appears that both Vox and Bane have started related threads, which mainly state that the vast majority of new scifi writers suck. A lot.

Posted by Physics Geek at December 6, 2007 10:45 AM | TrackBack StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble It!

I'm not a SF fan, with few exceptions, but I detest the snotballs who look down their "elitist" noses at it. They remind me of those people who love Formula One racing but look down on NASCAR.

Posted by: Ken S, Fifth String on the Banjo of Life at December 6, 2007 02:05 PM

Oh, and that story "Answer" is great.

Posted by: Ken S, Fifth String on the Banjo of Life at December 6, 2007 02:06 PM

BTW, one of the best reads ever is a collection called "1001 Best Science Fiction Short Short Stories". I can't remember if "Answer" is in it, but it's a collection of, well, short short stories, none more than two pages, most less than one.

Some of the stories are barely more than glorified jokes but it was a lot of fun to read. My favorite was the one about a planet with no animal life, only plants. There lived on it a vampire - he was a sapsucker. At the end of the story, they buried him with a steak through his heart.

Posted by: Ken S, Fifth String on the Banjo of Life at December 6, 2007 03:04 PM

Heh. I remember that sapsucker story. Now I have to see if I own that 1001 great scifi stories. I might because I own a lot of books. A lot.

Posted by: physics geek at December 6, 2007 03:53 PM

There are still a few apolitical (in their writing, at least) and right-of-center authors outside of the clique they complain about. At least, there are if you extrapolate from their stories in the magazines. (plus, when you hit a lefty-with-no-redeeming-qualities story in a magazine, you just move on to the next).

Two things: aside from Heinlein, most of the Golden Age types were classical liberals if not leftists, so it's hardly surprising that they lean left now. Also, 90% of new authors *should* suck, regardless of politics...

Posted by: Steve G. at December 10, 2007 01:23 PM