How SF Crushes Highbrow Fiction

Illustration for article titled How SF Crushes Highbrow Fiction

Over at Conceptual Fiction, music writer Ted Gioia asks, "Did sci-fi writers from the 1940s and 1950s anticipate the future of serious literature better than the so-called serous writers?"

Gioia (not to be confused with his brother Dana the poet) is known for his books West Coast Jazz and Delta Blues. But he was drawn to science-fiction as an adult with little background in the genre, and came out of the experience convinced that mid-century SF was a literature of ideas, richer and in some ways more complex than works of literary modernism that concentrated mostly on linguistic innovation.

He writes:

Is it possible that the idea of "realism" as a guiding principle for fiction is itself unrealistic? After all, there are no Newtonian laws in stories-an apple can just as easily fly upward from a tree as drop to the ground. Characters can ride a magic carpet as easily as walk. Any restrictions are imposed by the author, not by any external "reality," however defined.

The first storytellers understood this intuitively. That is why myths, legends, folk tales and other traditional stories recognize no Newtonian (or other) limitations on their narrative accounts. These were the first examples of what I call "conceptual fiction"...


Read more here.

The blog is also working its way through the SF canon. Today's review is of Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Gioia's latest book is The Birth (and Death) of The Cool. Here's my interview with him on cool as a cultural force.

Image courtesy Conceptual Fiction


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Keith Edwards

This guy is just now figuring this out? Oh right, he didn't read SF and fantasy when he was younger! This sort of realization gets hardwired into kids who are exposed to genre stories. So, our lesson for today is: give your kids sci-fi books to read at an early age and they will avoid growing up to be pretentious literary twats.