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Fantasy and science fiction as "literature"
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Wyldewode
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2008 1:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Back in May I heard SRD give a speech about why Sci-fi/ fantasy should be considered literature. It was great. Too bad I couldn't record it, and we don't have access to a transcript of the speech. Evil or Very Mad
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2008 1:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would be very interested to hear it.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2008 9:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wyldewode wrote:
Back in May I heard SRD give a speech about why Sci-fi/ fantasy should be considered literature. It was great. Too bad I couldn't record it, and we don't have access to a transcript of the speech. Evil or Very Mad
Great. So you heard something really cool but you're not going to share.

Tease.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2008 9:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I did find this on accident a few days ago.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2008 1:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, Dreaming.
Good article by King.
(you should come share that link in the JKR subforum.)

...yeah, yeah, forum self-promotion... Wink
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2008 1:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glancing through my kids' middle and high school lit anthologies, Sci-fi is represented. Asimov, Clarke, Bradbury. Old school, but still cool.
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Wyldewode
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2008 10:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cail wrote:
Great. So you heard something really cool but you're not going to share.

Tease.


I don't remember enough about the details to share anything meaningful. During the Q&A I did ask him how he felt about being called "the successor to Tolkien." He looked embarrassed, and told us that he felt Tolkien wouldn't be very happy to hear that said (a paraphrase of his answer).

Anyhow, I looked around, and found this article on his website. It contains the kernel of his speech. . . that literature explores what it is to be human. . .

Quote:
As I see it, all literature - all seriously rewarding fiction - deals in one way or another with one central issue: what does it mean to be human? Mainstream, "realistic" literature confronts this question by discussing human behavior in recognizable contexts. Like good science fiction, good fantasy confronts the question by altering the context - by testing human behavior against the standards of the imagination rather than of the demonstrable world. And this is appealing to audiences because so much of who we think we are grows out of our dreams and nightmares rather than out of our direct experience. One of the paradoxes of being human is that we are all caught between the intimate power of our dreams and the public powerlessness of our lives. Good fantasy tackles this issue head-on by concentrating on the dreams - by envisioning them as purely as possible, by giving them the solidity of "real" experience, and then by using them to shed light on the human needs, attitudes, and behaviors they contain.

It would be silly of me to claim that my books achieve the stature of literature. I hope they do; but that judgment is not mine to make. Nevertheless I consider it inevitable that books like mine should be popular in a society in which each individual's imaginative leeway and sense of personal efficacy grow more limited every year. This limitation may be a natural consequence of mounting social complexity but it places a heightened importance on those who dream. Thomas Covenant is an "everyman" for people who find that their own lives surpass their ability to imagine themselves.

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 11, 2008 11:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Menolly wrote:
Thanks, Dreaming.
Good article by King.
(you should come share that link in the JKR subforum.)

...yeah, yeah, forum self-promotion... Wink


I'm in the middle of TDT (Wolves of Calla atm) right now, so I'm willing myself to avoid it until I finish. (I got The Stand too, so maybe even that long)

Don't tempt me Frodo...
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 11, 2008 12:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Dreaming wrote:
Menolly wrote:
Thanks, Dreaming.
Good article by King.
(you should come share that link in the JKR subforum.)

...yeah, yeah, forum self-promotion... Wink


I'm in the middle of TDT (Wolves of Calla atm) right now, so I'm willing myself to avoid it until I finish. (I got The Stand too, so maybe even that long)

Don't tempt me Frodo...


Ooops...

No, no, no...
The JKR subforum is the J.K. Rowling forum, where we discuss Harry Potter. Embarassed
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 11, 2008 9:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Whoops! Guess that was a mental edit Smile. I get kind of burned out on Acronyms at work. (UPS exhausts them)
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 11, 2008 9:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wyldewode wrote:
this article on his website. It contains the kernel of his speech. . . that literature explores what it is to be human. . .

Quote:
As I see it, all literature - all seriously rewarding fiction - deals in one way or another with one central issue: what does it mean to be human? Mainstream, "realistic" literature confronts this question by discussing human behavior in recognizable contexts. Like good science fiction, good fantasy confronts the question by altering the context - by testing human behavior against the standards of the imagination rather than of the demonstrable world. And this is appealing to audiences because so much of who we think we are grows out of our dreams and nightmares rather than out of our direct experience. One of the paradoxes of being human is that we are all caught between the intimate power of our dreams and the public powerlessness of our lives. Good fantasy tackles this issue head-on by concentrating on the dreams - by envisioning them as purely as possible, by giving them the solidity of "real" experience, and then by using them to shed light on the human needs, attitudes, and behaviors they contain.

It would be silly of me to claim that my books achieve the stature of literature. I hope they do; but that judgment is not mine to make. Nevertheless I consider it inevitable that books like mine should be popular in a society in which each individual's imaginative leeway and sense of personal efficacy grow more limited every year. This limitation may be a natural consequence of mounting social complexity but it places a heightened importance on those who dream. Thomas Covenant is an "everyman" for people who find that their own lives surpass their ability to imagine themselves.


I hate to demean something so eloquent with something so boorish, but Holy Crap, that was amazing! Thank you for posting that. I'd love to hear more. I envy you for getting to hear that speech. No, screw that, I'm very happy you got to hear it, and share a little with us. Thanks.
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 12, 2008 5:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Donaldson and King, when they talk about literature, always seem to hit in on the head for me. (Which is probably most of the reason their work resonates with me so much) I just think that literature's tool for giving us a slice of the human experience is the story. This is true whether it is in the context of the ordinary or the context of the impossible or the context of the perhaps. (the context of good science fiction and historical fiction. Those two Genre are more inter-related than they get credit for)
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 13, 2008 11:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

King and Donaldson, much more so than most other authors, can quickly put me into the story. Donaldson requires (or demands) more effort than King, but both can create a world that is all-encompassing.

Actually, that's my biggest complaint with the Last Chronicles (so far). Both books have failed to immerse me into the story. I've read both, one time each. Not only can I not recall many specific details about either one, I really have no desire to re-read them.
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Wyldewode
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 13, 2008 10:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Malik23 wrote:

I hate to demean something so eloquent with something so boorish, but Holy Crap, that was amazing! Thank you for posting that. I'd love to hear more. I envy you for getting to hear that speech. No, screw that, I'm very happy you got to hear it, and share a little with us. Thanks.


I just wish that I had the foresight to take some sort of recording device with me to the event. It was 3 hours away from my home, and I even forgot my camera. Rolling Eyes

Nonetheless, I wish more people could have been there. . . there were only 30 or so people there to hear the speech. . . and he was the headliner at the conference. Confused
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2009 7:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

No offense, but most Scifi/Fantasy isn't very well written. There's so many elements to make a good story, so few scifi/fantasy that reach the good margins.

And then the margins from good writing to great writing are very small, but they are there, those margins, and I have never read a single scif/fantasy book that is there, except the first 2/3s of Dune. While I've read a few "literary" books that are truly great reads and the writing is great also.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2009 6:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The labels "Science Fiction" and "Fantasy" are a matter of the tropes used, and compeltely independant of style or substance of the material. To say that science fiction and fantasy is this or that, can never be accurate, because it assumes all content within those genres share the same characteristics, which is simply untrue.

Similarly, it isn't possible generally to say "most" sci-fi and fantasy are one way or another, unless you happen to have read every single book (or a statistically significant percentage) in this incredibly broad umbrella categorisation, which it is physically impossible to do.

And I admit that the above doesn't really add to the conversation, as it's just a repetition of my disapproval of broad generalisations. Wink


In my opinion, you can find great writing in SF/F, in the right places. Patricia McKillip and Catherynne M Valente are two authors that come to mind who both write beautifully.

As "literature", well, books are literary by definition. "Literary" fiction (whatever that is Wink), too, can and does make use of fantastic/science fictional tropes (Margaret Atwood, anyone?), and science fiction/fantasy authors variously make use of any and all literary techniques.

The line is not at SFF vs other fiction, it's at good fiction vs bad fiction, and it runs through all the genres equally. 90% of everything is crud, it's not just limited to one genre.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2009 7:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good Post
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 11, 2009 12:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Murrin wrote:

The line is not at SFF vs other fiction, it's at good fiction vs bad fiction, and it runs through all the genres equally. 90% of everything is crud, it's not just limited to one genre.


I agree with you, only my extimation my differ slightly in percentage. Wink I think the writing that is good (or even excellent) is that which stands the test of time. This is because it portrays some truth about what it means to be human. Smile
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2009 7:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wyldewode wrote:
Murrin wrote:

The line is not at SFF vs other fiction, it's at good fiction vs bad fiction, and it runs through all the genres equally. 90% of everything is crud, it's not just limited to one genre.


I agree with you, only my extimation my differ slightly in percentage. Wink I think the writing that is good (or even excellent) is that which stands the test of time. This is because it portrays some truth about what it means to be human. Smile


Exactly. But, some works that do stand the ToT aren't all that well written, but are still great.
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2009 7:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wyldewode wrote:
Murrin wrote:

The line is not at SFF vs other fiction, it's at good fiction vs bad fiction, and it runs through all the genres equally. 90% of everything is crud, it's not just limited to one genre.


I agree with you, only my extimation my differ slightly in percentage. Wink I think the writing that is good (or even excellent) is that which stands the test of time. This is because it portrays some truth about what it means to be human. Smile

I think this is part of the story...but in addition, there is a branch of the great that doesn't show only the truth of what it means to be human, but the possibilities of what a human could be/become.
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