Thursday, March 3, 2011

Aetheric Ephemera: I Love Everything Edition

1) I have a new column up at SFSignal. It's about why I adore made-up stuff. I conclude that:
"It is a love that constantly reminds us that we are given all of the world, and always in exile, but that we can choose to engage nothing, to not sit at the table and just listen to our hearts beat, but to open them again and again, and gain sustenance, joy, and maybe even a few glimmers of wisdom from taking that leap of imagination into what isn't, but we wish could be."
2) I am going to guide the discussion of this month's Apex Book Club. We'll be talking about The Apex Book of World SF, edited by Lavie Tidhar. I'll have more specifics and a link once I am on a computer that does not arbitrarily shut down the web browser. But I suggest that folks are interested check out the free story at the book link, and also take a gander at The World SF Blog. There may be a quiz at some point. Just sayin'.

3) Over at Grasping for the Wind there's a guest post entitled "Science Fiction is Ridiculous," by David Goodberg. The title is pointedly provocative; what he discusses is how to distinguish SF beyond the idea of technological speculation, of how to separate SF from being just a thriller or drama with a tweaked setting. His thesis is that SF should be "ridiculous" and "extreme," a "new twist on the familiar." But it's difficult to see the distinction he is making because of the brevity of his discussion.

As an example he uses the film My Dinner with Andre, if it "actually took place on a distant planet and all characters were robots." But this is a straw-man argument: if that film had those elements, wouldn't the story be different? Why would those elements be there? It's true that the completely arbitrary addition of SF trappings is ludicrous, but it's unclear what his idea of ridiculous is implicated with the idea that "Science Fiction is a statement. It's a satire." What is the satirical statement being made, and what is being ridiculed in the process? I'm not sure that this notion opens up SF and moves it beyond the narrow idea of Orson Scott Card's that he invokes at the start (which seems truncated from a somewhat different idea that others quote).

In fact, it seems pulled down by Card's distinction, whether using the real/unreal comparison or the more precise idea of how rules work within the broader genres. While SF often utilizes speculative/extrapolative science based on current knowledge, unreal things can certainly happen. We know very little about alien biology, but people generally do not disallow SF about aliens from the canon because none currently exist. The rules distinction works a little better until you realize that some SF works to bend and sometimes break the rules in speculative fashion, while some fantasies have very specific rules (see Blake Charlton's invocation of "hard fantasy"). Both genres are fantastic, as all literature is, no matter how hard it strives to represent reality. The differences are often in the tropes, conventions, intentions, and types of knowledge used to give them a foundation. I like the initial idea of exploring what might be ridiculous in SF, but it needs more unpacking.

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