If a genre -- like, you know, from generis -- is a "family" of fiction then, really, we're not talking about two inbred clans with long-standing feuds who'd slaughter any man, woman or dog who even dared to suggest there might be shared blood between them. Science Fiction as Clan Campbell! Fantasy as Clan Macdonald! The genre as the blood-stained battleground of Glen Coe! And never the twain shall meet.Back when it was still a separate blog, I got into a slightly heated discussion on Electrolite when I maintained that the Harry Potter books were not, in any meaningful way, fantasy. I also went on to assert that I've always thought television shows like Babylon 5 and Farscape made more sense when you thought of them as fantasy rather than science fiction. I've been wondering for a while if I'd like to wade back into the definitional morass on this blog, but I think Hal has made the point rather definitively, at least in this incarnation of the discussion. And really, when The Baroque Cycle starts winning science fiction awards, isn't it time to admit the profound subjectivity of all these labels?
Fuck that shit.
The families have been intermarried from the Year Dot, fucking and fighting for centuries, coming together at weddings and funerals only to split and feud over insignificant insults, slight differences of opinion blown up out of all proportion. Some of that family have married into money. Others live in penury. Resentments bubble. Alliances are made and broken. Drunken uncles insult their next of kin. Black sheep are ostracised. But for all the bickering and backstabbing, the talk of this side of the family and that side of the family, the gene pool is too mixed, I'd say to talk about SF and Fantasy as different forms, different genres, in an analytically rigorous way. Formally, we can talk about Space Opera, Technothriller, Epic Fantasy, Swords and Sorcery, because these are qualitatively distinct; but if SF includes Dune and Fantasy includes Gormenghast... I mean, where's the magic in Gormenghast, and isn't Dune chock full of it? Priests and prophecies. A drug that lets you warp reality, gives you visions of the future. Monsters and messiahs. And what's the most fantastical idea in Gormenghast? A really big house.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
I Never Bought the Notion of Dune As Science Fiction Either
Hal Duncan, he of InfernoKrusher fame, has weighed in on the latest definitional tempest in a teapot (brief recap: Chiang started it, VanderMeer, Morgan, Mamatas and probably a whole bunch of others have responded). The entire post is worth reading, but I'm particularly fond of this: