Archive for January 9th, 2008

January 9, 2008

Genre

Hal Duncan links to Gary Gibson’s post on the distinctions between science fiction and fantasy. I think arguments of this kind generally require one to make some pretty sweeping generalisations – Gibson’s argument makes all SF speculative and all fantasy inherently non-speculative, and it’s a distinction I’ve heard made by various other people (including one of my teachers at college) and I really don’t think it’s necessarily true.

Partly because, of course, he’s taking fantasy “in its purest form” (whatever that means) to mean “elves, magic swords, and orcs”. This is useful, really, since any examples of speculative fantasy that are thrown up clearly do not come under his definition of fantasy and therefore do not undermine his argument in any way. (I’m reminded, perhaps unfairly, of science fiction fans’ complaint that the genre is looked down upon to the point that any science fiction that gains favourable critical attention is classified as something other than science fiction. Basically, “All science fiction is crap. This book is good. Therefore it’s not science fiction.” This would be so much easier if I could find the quote! Anyone?) One might as well define “pure” science fiction as being all spaceships and lightsabres.

I find the little hierarchies that come into play here terribly amusing – anti-genre snobs looking snottily down upon science fiction, science fiction readers also looking snottily down upon fantasy (Gibson may claim he’s not doing this, but I honestly can’t read the piece any other way). And I could sit here for hours listing fantasy writers who are brilliant and certainly speculative, but I think at some level there’s a judgement about what sorts of speculation are more valid than others. And in some vague and undefined way it reminds me of discussions I’ve had as a student of the humanities with people who went into science, where they’d be all about Real Things and Big, Important things like the universe, while we were concerning ourselves with comparatively petty matters like politics and, you know, how people actually lived and the like. There’s probably a post there, if I could only collect my thoughts on the issue.

Duncan’s post on categorisation is a really good read, by the way, and I lean towards his views on this.

January 9, 2008

At the risk of (oh noes!) being seen as politically correct…

…I find it terribly annoying that a number of people from on my facebook friends list have added an application called “what mental disorder do you have?”. I know this because every time I open the site I find invitations to add this thing. I have ignored them.

These are mostly people I went to college with (one of them is a teacher, even) who would during class have instances of this sort of thing pointed out in the context of, say, race. Or class, or gender. And they’d gasp and look all horrified at how people could possibly be so insensitive and blinded by their own privelege and so on and so forth.

Morons. One is surrounded by them.