Tuesday, May 24, 2005

This blog is the brainchild of a number of people and I just happened to be the one who offered to do the actual set-up here on blogspot. It’s a place to talk about science fiction and fantasy in the long tradition of serious discussion of the field, as inspired by sources as diverse as Bruce Sterling’s Cheap Truth and the symposium Khatru. From the start we wanted this discussion to be anonymous for a couple of reasons. First, we are writers but we don’t really want this to be about our careers. Second, because being anonymous allows a certain amount of freedom.

I'm here because I read the genre for years with a sense of excitement. Sometimes the stories were conventional but often they were strange, to me at least. There were battles being waged in prose by people like Samuel R. Delany, Joanna Russ, Arthur C. Clarke, James Tiptree Jr., Robert Heinlein, Gene Wolfe and Ursula LeGuin, to name just a few. It may only be the spectacles of nostalgia that makes the books and stories of those writers seem so memorable. Maybe now I see the books and stories of many of my contemporaries from the perspective of a writer rather than a young fan, and so I have a different sense of them. But often, the books and stories that win awards don’t seem to compare with work like Neuromancer, or Dune, The Left Hand of Darkness, “Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones”, or “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?”

Maybe work isn’t being done like that any more. In some ways, writing in the genre has gotten a lot better and the bar has gotten a lot higher. A writer is expected to do a lot of things well these days, and some of the works that were so astonishing to me then feel a little naïve now. There is a sense in which a writer who does everything really well within the genre—creates interesting new ideas, astonishing extrapolation that doesn’t repeat old motifs among other virtues—eliminates the readers who aren’t already pretty tuned into the genre. A lot of stuff that would have been sf or fantasy fifteen years ago, like Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell, or The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger or even The Plot Against America by Philip Roth (an alternate history in which Lindbergh becomes president in 1940 instead of FDR) are now published as non-genre. (Although Roth would have been non-genre fifteen years ago, the way The Handmaid’s Tale was somehow science fiction but non-genre, at least according to Margaret Atwood and the publishing industry.) In movies and television, science fiction and fantasy aren’t a genre. The X-Files and Buffy were watched by people who don’t walk over to the sf and fantasy section of the bookstore. Video games don’t distinguish themselves by story content so much as by style of play, like a first person shooter like Halo or Grand Theft Auto, or a puzzle game, like Myst.

Maybe the genre, like jazz, is evolving into something else. There was a time when jazz was the music that kids listened to so they could piss off their parents—long before it became the music of a certain kind of smart person who didn’t listen to classical. The genre may have already become the love of a certain fairly large group of cognoscenti.

Wherever the genre is going, genre shattering works are still being written. I'm hoping we'll find them and talk about them.

As to why the others are here, well, they'll have to tell you themselves.

18 Comments:

Blogger Qwui said...

OK, let's see how this works!
Link!
Link!

4:27 PM  
Blogger Onyx said...

Hey, does qwui stand for 'quoting while under the influence'?

8:40 PM  
Blogger Johnny Dark said...

"Johnny Dark" (aka "anonymous") is now here. I'll post something as soon as I think of something to say.

8:41 PM  
Blogger darkumber said...

test test

[boring boring]

test test

2:16 AM  
Blogger Qwui said...

>Hey, does qwui stand for 'quoting while under the influence'?

I'll drink to that!

9:01 AM  
Blogger Safe Light said...

Comment testing

4:04 PM  
Blogger Johnny Dark said...

Hmmm-- Looking around, I see that qwui added a picture to his blogger profile--
http://www.blogger.com/profile/9424363

Nice photo! OK, I'll add one to my profile, too

3:02 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

Given that this blog is set up to allow the posters a degree of anonymity, is there a reason for disallowing anonymous comments?

8:34 AM  
Blogger Ebony and Irony said...

test

12:47 AM  
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