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 Gwendolyn2010
Joined: 1/22/2006
Msg: 9
In Defence of Science FictionPage 2 of 3    (1, 2, 3)
I LOVE science fiction and have since the 8th grade when I read my first science fiction book--a collection of short stories aimed toward teens. While my girlfriends read romance novels, I devoured Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, and Ellison--to name a few.

I used to be up to date on new writers and new books, but alas, I have too many other things to read--such as student essays.

One of my first literary loves was, and continues to be, sci-fi.

By the way, the genre has seen an upsurge in female writers, which is wonderful. One of the best books ever written about time travel is Connie Willis' The Doomsday Book.

But then, I have been classified as strange/weird for most of my life.
 CountIbli
Joined: 6/1/2005
Msg: 10
In Defence of Science Fiction
Posted: 1/26/2009 9:35:39 PM

Science Fiction, Science Fantasy, High Fantasy... it doesn't matter. Too many people dismiss some of the greatest works of fiction ever written because they can't wrap their heads around the setting. No work of fiction needs to be even remotely realistic in order to be relevant and meaningful- it only needs to be written by someone who is capable of conveying more than 'just a good story.'


I'm reminded of the episode of Star Trek where they encounter a race which is black on one half of the body and white on the other. Such a race isn't especially plausible. But arguing the genetics and evolutionary history of such beings misses the whole point. It's a story about the absurdity of racism.

Another good example is Plan 9 from Outer Space. The aliens' plan is completely insipid. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. However, the details of the plan are irrelevant to the point of the story: Man needs to temper technological advancements with wisdom.
 scorpiomover
Joined: 4/19/2007
Msg: 12
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History
In Defence of Science Fiction
Posted: 1/27/2009 1:29:22 AM
It's certainly true that a lot of people in the UK used to believe that you had to a be a billy-no-mates to be into Sci-Fi, especially women. But things have changed a bit more here.

Also, it's fiction. It's no different than those Mills and Boon bodice-rippers, or Stephen King horror thrillers. They aren't real either. But people are OK with them.
 Twill348
Joined: 12/20/2008
Msg: 15
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History
In Defence of Science Fiction
Posted: 1/28/2009 3:57:13 PM
Science fiction is great, but it's not what most people, who read books, would call literature.

War and Peace, Anna Karenina, now that's literature. "I, Robot" isn't. :)

The problem is, you have to spend most of your time, writing a science fiction work, just explaing the ideas, the world, etc. No time for personality development. It's just not people-centric. Most people want to read about other people. Myself, I could burn most any work of modern fiction and not miss it one bit, but that's me.

Some SF authors try, though. And succeed, somewhat. It's easier, now, that a lot of science fiction conventions are more well known, and don't need to be explained as much.

I like SF, but I can only think of about five books or so, that are also good books.
 Gwendolyn2010
Joined: 1/22/2006
Msg: 16
In Defence of Science Fiction
Posted: 1/28/2009 8:16:37 PM
Hey, Twill, I have an MA in British Literature, and in not only my expert opinion but that of many people who write about literature, all books are "literature." Movies and TV shows are literature. Not all books are in the literary canon (which can be quite arbitrary, but which has also changed a lot in the last 50 years to include women and men/women of color), but just because academics don't like a book doesn't make it not "literature."

When Willy-boy was writing his plays, he wasn't aiming toward being a major figure in the canon (which didn't exist)--he was out to make a buck and write plays that were popular. Now, he is a benchmark.

Stephen King is a highly underrated writer by academics, but does that matter to his audience? He is a master of catching the nuances and fads of popular culture and of the eras about which he writes. His short story "The Body" is one of the finest stories ever written.


. Most people want to read about other people.


SF and fantasy have changed a lot over the last few decades; I don't read these genres nearly as much as I used to, but my love for them haven't changed. There are many, many people who do read the genres, though: the NY Times bestseller list shows that.

I, Robot is a classic in its field, so are many other books by Asimov, Heinlein (whose characters are well developed), and Clarke. Walter Miller's novel A Canticle for Leibowitz is one of the best books ever written. "Soft" SF such as Anne MacCaffrey's Dragon Riders of Pern are immensely popular.

Beyond that, fantasy books such as Tolkien's LOTR triolgy, CS Lewis' Narnia books, and children's series such as Harry Potter and Susan Clark's The Dark is Rising series incorporate myth and are also wildly popular.


Myself, I could burn most any work of modern fiction and not miss it one bit, but that's me.


For decades, the canon was an old white man's club and they felt quite a bit as you do, but thank the powers that be (if any) that times and opinions have changed.

However, you do hit upon a key element: you wrote "myself." Taste in any type of art is highly subjective. Truthfully, I am a poetry snob, but I realize that people like greeting card verse and it is their prerogative. I also don't like velvet paintings of Elvis, but I don't have to hang one in my living room.

My opinion doesn't mean that those paintings aren't "art," regardless how artless they may seem.

I read books, loads of them; I also write, and I say that SF and fantasy are literature.

So, neener-neener.
 Beaugrand®™©
Joined: 3/24/2008
Msg: 17
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History
In Defence of Science Fiction
Posted: 1/28/2009 9:57:43 PM
A good story is a good story is a good story-

Gene Roddenberry pointed out that Matt Dillon doesn't explain the inner workings of his Colt Peacemaker, or the chemistry involved in how gunpowder works: he draws and fires, and the villain bites the dust.
The same with Kirk's phaser, we don't care about the miniature fusion reactor that hyperexcites the neutronium crystal that produces the coherent plasma of a phaser blast: he draws and fires, and the evil Orion slave-trader glows into incandescant vapor.

It's a persistent myth that much of science fiction writing has to do with explaining technology; that's only true of mediocre writing, and it applies to any genre. At its core, a good SF yarn still has to be a good story that grips the reader's imagination and allows the reader to suspend disbelief.

For example, we don't need to know how a Bergenholm generator supresses the inirtia of matter, we just have to know that it does; and that Kim Kinnison's DeLameter blasters will make short work of the Boskonian dictator...

There are rules to good SF writing, but the most important rules are exactly the same as they are for any good fiction, and they have to do with writing a good story.
I think Asimov's Foundation series stands as well as most other early-to-mid-20th Century fiction as a great piece of literature. So does Frank Herbert's original novel Dune (I think the later books in the series lacked the punch of the original).
No mention of great Science Fiction would be complete without mentioning Edward E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman series. How do you top the epic battle between good and evil in the Universe, and beyond?
 Beaugrand®™©
Joined: 3/24/2008
Msg: 19
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History
In Defence of Science Fiction
Posted: 1/28/2009 10:51:53 PM
Michael Crichton could also have been said to have written "hard" science fiction, as he did go into considerable technical detail in some of his stories, but he was also, primarily, a first-rate storyteller.
 Twill348
Joined: 12/20/2008
Msg: 35
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History
In Defence of Science Fiction
Posted: 1/31/2009 10:06:29 PM
"I couldn't disagree more. Absolute masters of character-driven sci-fi, to me, include Frank Herbert, Isaac Asimov, Greg Bear, Greg Benford, etc."

Yikes! I can't recall even one memorable character from any of those guys! :)

Now Levin, from "Anna Karennina", I remember that guy.

"Good fiction of any kind - SF or standard - draws the reader into the world they are trying to create. "

Absoloutely. Take "The Golden Age", by John C. Wright. Almost total exposition of the world involved, and worth every minute it takes to read it all. It's a book of ideas, and is very, very light on characterization. It has to be.

When I think of character driven SF, I think of Ed Coney, (Hello, Summer, Goodbye) Octavia Butler, (Parable of the Sower, etc.) Patricia Anthony, (Conscience of the Beagle) Walter Jon Williams, (Aristoi) off the top of my head. I have read a few French stories, that were translated into english, and they were very good, character wise. It's a shame more are not translated!
 Azazel6669
Joined: 2/2/2009
Msg: 39
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In Defence of Science Fiction
Posted: 2/5/2009 9:56:20 PM
Harlan Ellison now refers to Science Fiction as Speculative Fiction. To offer a definition, it is this: Science/ Speculative Fiction is nothing more than conjecture as to what can happen in the future. Not all of it is space ships and funny looking aliens. The story "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" is about the last 5 people trapped inside the computer that destroyed the world.
 Optimist54
Joined: 10/21/2008
Msg: 44
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History
In Defence of Science Fiction
Posted: 2/7/2009 2:57:25 PM
I love this topic and I love science fiction (and I am female). I love hard science fiction too and do not really enjoy fantasy, although I have read some. Piers Anthony comes to mind.
Well over 90% of what I read is science fiction and I own literally hundreds of sci fi books.

I have enjoyed what other posters have said in response to this question - many of them women and I agree completely with some of the writers mentioned. Robert J Sawyer - awesome; currently reading S M Stirling, but I also love many of the other authors already mentioned.

If you prefer Anna Karenina to Asimov's Foundation series - well, that is what you prefer. But don't put me down because I prefer Asimov, Clarke, Baxter, Bear, Czerneda, Kress (and the list goes on and on and on) .
Personally some of the classic "literature" I find to be heavy and boring, but the same can be said of some science fiction and any other genre you can think of.

Good science fiction is a story first and background science second and the science doesn't have to be physics or biology. The current S M Stirling series, Novels of the Change, is not about space or aliens but how society and civilization changes when we are suddenly and completely without technology. Who survives and how they survive, good vs evil, so much is packed into these stories.

Any science fiction is simply what could happen if....
How good it is depends on the author as does any other work of fiction.
 Gwendolyn2010
Joined: 1/22/2006
Msg: 47
In Defence of Science Fiction
Posted: 2/7/2009 5:53:15 PM

One of the advantages that those of us have who are long-time SF readers is that we aren't easily boggled by the sociological implications of technological advances.


Diane, you are absolutely right about this. When a "new" invention, trend, or other type of innovation comes along, I yawn and say, "Oh, yes, I read about that in 1971."
 Beaugrand®™©
Joined: 3/24/2008
Msg: 48
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History
In Defence of Science Fiction
Posted: 2/7/2009 8:01:16 PM

One of the advantages that those of us have who are long-time SF readers is that we aren't easily boggled by the sociological implications of technological advances.
Quite so. Cell phones (yawn), personal computers, (ho hum), cable TV news-as-it-happens (whatever). I'm still waiting for my wheel-less, flying car, my personal rocket backpack, maglev supersonic elevated railways, hourly shuttles to the Moon, annual vacations on Mars...
I know this stuff is going to happen (probably the week after I die). Meanwhile, people who don't understand the difference between local weather patterns and global warming are voting in Congress on an enormous spending package that may or may not make some of these things come true. Now, that's right out of science fantasy...
 god_of_rock
Joined: 1/17/2009
Msg: 52
In Defence of Science Fiction
Posted: 2/9/2009 9:59:22 AM
Science Fiction writers have often been better at predicting things that eventually came to pass than real scientists or engineers..

the latter tend to think in a linear, straight line fashion, with little imagination about 'quantum leaps' in science/technology..

e.g. at the time H.G. Wells wrote about man going to the moon, I'm sure the idea would have been dismissed by virtually all scientists & n engineers as
ridiculous'
 Gangster Kitten
Joined: 4/3/2008
Msg: 53
In Defence of Science Fiction
Posted: 2/9/2009 10:38:28 AM
The problem is, you have to spend most of your time, writing a science fiction work, just explaing the ideas, the world, etc. No time for personality development. It's just not people-centric. Most people want to read about other people. Myself, I could burn most any work of modern fiction and not miss it one bit, but that's me.



That's what I don't like about a lot of science fiction. I know a lot of people are anti "science fantasy", in the sense of technology that is indescribable or explainable.

Truth is, no "science fiction" technology can truly be described. If we brought back Socrates from a thousand years ago and introduced him to a computer, do you think he'd really understand the object?

Not initially, it'd be an object of mysticism. Furthermore, You'd have to know the *actual* science of an object to explain how it works, etc.


I really like Frank Herbert's and Phillip K.****s approach to Science fiction. They are there, and their technology is not described in details. it's an object and the properties are defined, and we accept them to function as such.

A lot of literary scholars have severely overlooked science fiction as literature. I consider "A Scanner Darkly" and "Dune" to be literature. "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" is extremely literary, but it's passed off as "Oh it's science fiction!"

Sci-Fi is a somewhat 'new' genre as compared to, say, fantasy or mythology, or drama, etc. So I think that plays into it too.


And it's Ironic that Kelly Brought up Asimov's work, as his "foundation" series inspired the space Opera "Dune", a science "Fantasy" novel!
 Gangster Kitten
Joined: 4/3/2008
Msg: 55
In Defence of Science Fiction
Posted: 2/9/2009 11:51:54 AM

The foundation series heavily relied on character development, so not all science fiction foregoes this aspect of story telling


Wah?

The Foundation had almost no character development - at all.
 Optimist54
Joined: 10/21/2008
Msg: 56
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History
In Defence of Science Fiction
Posted: 2/9/2009 1:49:59 PM
Gangster, I hadn't known that the Herbert's Dune was inspired by the Foundation series, and I didn't consider it to be a "space opera" or fantasy. However, it has been many years since I read either, so I went internet searching to see if anyone else had those opinions and why. I came across this book:

Chaos Theory, Asimov's Foundations and Robots, and Herbert's Dune: The Fractal Aesthetic of Epic Science Fiction

Not sure I want to read this one
 Optimist54
Joined: 10/21/2008
Msg: 60
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History
In Defence of Science Fiction
Posted: 2/10/2009 4:45:56 AM
I fully agree with Thorb.

My first science fiction book was for grade 9 English - The Chrysalids by John Wyndham. He wrote stories about people that happened to take place in the future. I read everything I could find that he wrote (that was still possible back then). Interestingly that same book was Grade 10 required reading for my son 27 years later.
After Wyndham, I moved on to Clarke, Asimov and Heinlein, and then discovered more and more.

I can't say I have liked every science fiction book I ever read, but I believe the same would be true of anyone who reads any fiction; there are poorly written or just uninteresting books in every genre.

Some posters seem to feel that science fiction isn't worth reading and put forward some agreeably excellent classics as examples of good "literature". But at some point in your life you will run out of those classics to read (dead guys don't write much). So, if you are interested enough to read the posts in this forum, try the Hugo award winning authors (good suggestion, Thorb). Here is a list of all the winners:
http://www.worldcon.org/hy.html
As I read through that list I realized how many of those I have read and thoroughly enjoyed; they are the "classics" of science fiction.

Happy reading
 Gangster Kitten
Joined: 4/3/2008
Msg: 61
In Defence of Science Fiction
Posted: 2/10/2009 6:49:24 AM

Gangster, I hadn't known that the Herbert's Dune was inspired by the Foundation series, and I didn't consider it to be a "space opera" or fantasy. However, it has been many years since I read either, so I went internet searching to see if anyone else had those opinions and why. I came across this book:

Chaos Theory, Asimov's Foundations and Robots, and Herbert's Dune: The Fractal Aesthetic of Epic Science Fiction

Not sure I want to read this one



It's pretty obvious when You look at the structure of Asimov's world. He visions his universe in very large incrimates of years. Rather than seeing 30 or 100 years into the future, Asimovs takes the jump of thousands of years.

Herbert takes the same approach to "Dune" his scope and vision is on the macro of thousands, perhaps even billions of years.
 Gangster Kitten
Joined: 4/3/2008
Msg: 63
In Defence of Science Fiction
Posted: 2/10/2009 7:54:05 AM

Gangster: There was tons of character development, especially in the second book of the series, as the plot was hinged on the interplay between Bayta and the Mule. In the first book, the characters of Hardin and Mallow were richly developed.

Were you thinking of another foundation series such as the prequels?



No, I read "The Foundation" There was definately a thematic emphasis rather than character emphasis. All of his books are, the character development is -meh-.
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