Genre Fiction as the Future of Serious Literature
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Apr. 16th, 2009 | 09:23 am
Ted Gioia's "Notes on Conceptual Fiction"
Did sci-fi writers from the 1940s and 1950s anticipate the future of serious literature better than the so-called "serious writers" or, for that matter, the highbrow critics?My favorite paragraph:
In the past, conceptual fiction existed at the center of our literary (and even pre-literary) culture. Nowadays it is dismissed by critics and typically shuffled off into "genre" categories such as science fiction and fantasy. Realism gained preeminence as a supposedly rock hard foundation for fiction. From that moment on, Newton's laws (and a million other laws) gave orders to the imagination, with the stamp of approval of the literary establishment.
But here is the more interesting question. Is it possible that this trend is reversing, and that conceptual fiction is now moving back from the periphery into the center of our literary culture?
By the same token, it is easy to see how mistaken those fans are who proclaim the superiority of so-called "hard" science fiction—in other words stories with a large dose of "real" science in them. Even a quick survey of science fiction books shows that the science is almost always bogus, and simply serves as a gateway for bringing imaginative elements into the narrative. The greatness of these books does not derive from their chemistry or physics or genetic engineering (which almost always prove to laughably wrong-headed a few years after the book is published, if not sooner), but in the writer's visionary reconfiguration of our conceptions of the real.Discuss.