Illustration for article titled Why Would A Poet With An MFA Want To Write Science Fiction?

Alan DeNiro had a Masters of Fine Arts in poetry and a glowy future among the literati. So why did he give it all up to write about spaceships and strange journeys? He explains.


DeNiro's essay, "Why I Write Science Fiction: An Apology," has gone online at Bookspot Central. He talks about his journey from science fiction to the literary world, and then back to science fiction (with a healthy dose of "magical realism" mixed in.) Along the way, he discusses the thorny issue of why science fiction might be literary, or else as valid as literary fiction in its own way:

Since when was fiction “realistic” instead of fictive? As painful as it is to highlight the truism of “fictive fiction,” it’s almost necessary at this point of the game. All fiction, by definition, is highly unrealistic, imperfectly transposing subconscious thought and perception into words. Besides, there’s more than one layer of “realism.” The table top that I write this essay on appears to be solid, but even high-school physics tells me it’s not, that it’s mostly empty space. LeGuin’s introduction to her novel The Left Hand of Darkness discussed some of the sexual assymetry in the characters (at least to our eyes): “Yes, indeed the people in it are androgynous, but that doesn’t mean I’m predicting that in a millenium or so we’ll all be androgynous…I’m merey observing, in the peculiar, devious, and thought-experimental manner proper to science fiction, that if you look at us at certain odd times of day in certain weathers, we already are. I am not predicting, or prescribing. I am describing.” When one glibly uses the term, “realistic fiction,” there must always be the awareness of the inherent paradox with those two words scrunched together, for there is more than one way to describe what is apparent.


But he actually hits on something much more interesting than the tired literary/SF debate — he sets out a few building blocks of a new theory of appreciating science fiction. For example, he talks about the way in which science fiction turns the metaphorical into the real, and allows the author's observations to become more vivid or heightened. He shows how language, in a science fiction story, can "actualize" an experience, using the first paragraph of David Marusek's "We Were Out Of Our Minds With Joy" as an example. And the way in which geographies, and locations, become characters in science fiction.

And finally, DeNiro makes a bold assertion: science fiction is about public, and social, interactions more than it's about science for its own sake. The science should be right, of course, but it provides more of the philosophical "texture" of the stories rather than their actual substance.

DeNiro's whole essay (it's not that long) is well worth reading, and it's over at the link. [Bookspot Central]

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