Wednesday, September 23, 2009

After Litfic Dies: Science Fiction vs. Fantasy

Face it: literary fiction is dying. The question is, what will replace it as the new mainstream? I've been championing science fiction in recent posts; I'm convinced that its method will be the core of the literature of the future, and indeed of the present. However, from what I've seen lately, it isn't the most popular potential successor to the old litfic. What is? Fantasy.

In the bookstores, science fiction and fantasy are always put together in the same section as if they were the same. The assumption seems to be that they form a single genre. But the official publisher and bookseller category is misleading. You see, science fiction and fantasy have opposite worldviews. Science fiction usually relies on some sort of scientific logic and a whole lot of awesome future technology, but fantasy always requires at least one supernatural thing.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Spanner: Shira Is 10!

#999 #webcomic Today Spanner main character Shira turns 10!

Back around 1995 or so, when I was in my longest period of artist's block ever and I compulsively wrote story notes for 5 full years (and then went on for another 7 or 8, only with drawings), I read a book by American ninjutsu master Stephen K. Hayes (his site here) in which he revealed to Grandmaster Masaaki Hatsumi that he was born on September 9, 1949 — the number 9 has special significance to the ninja — I realized right then that Shira Thomas would have to be born exactly 50 years later. Spanner begins right before Shira's 15th birthday. So today is a major day in the Spanner mythos. And Shira's birthday party will have to be a significant event in Black Science as well (toward novel's end, in fact).

But since Spanner is supposed to be a manga, this is a reminder that I need to start drawing again. I've been procrastinating this for over 2 years.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Two Kinds of Science Fiction

I just found out that there's actually two kinds of science fiction: fiction in the genre, and fiction outside it. The latter is called, somewhat disparagingly by fans, "mundane"; the most popular writer of "mundane" SF is, of course, Michael Crichton. Some mainstream or even literary fiction is all but indistinguishable from science fiction; one famous example is Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, which is set partly on an alien world in some sort of trans-time. William Gibson's current "Blue Ant" cycle belongs to this category. Meanwhile, there is some genre SF that could fit just fine in the mainstream. For example, I've noticed that Philip K. Dick's proletarian-realist novels (the literary fiction he longed to be known for, such as In Milton Lumky Territory) are sold in the SF/fantasy section of the bookstore simply because he is an SF God. Some novels are (or were) on the borderline: Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow and Don DeLillo's Ratner's Star were both nominated for the Nebula Award; Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon tends to be put in the SF/fantasy section with Snow Crash and the Baroque Quartet, but rests right on the boundary between "genre" and "mundane" and is intended to be there.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

As Literary Fiction Dies, Science Fiction Must Take Over

Face it: the traditional literary fiction that defined the mainstream in the 20th century is on its way out, much like the newspaper it drew from starting in the late 19th century. During its period of dictatorship, anything outside its narrow boundaries was ruthlessly relegated to the lowbrow genres of pulp fiction by the cultural establishment's literary police. But now literary fiction is almost extinct. Why? Because its ideology, called Naturalism, no longer reflects the daily lives of ordinary people.

What does? Science fiction. You see, far more than in Isaac Asimov's day, we are living in the world predicted by science fiction. Rockets and space stations? Check. Supercomputers, internets, virtual reality? Check. Robots do more of our manufacturing work. Cyborgs are increasingly banal. Androids and jetpacks are in development. Can interstellar spaceships, wormholes, antigravity, and time travel be far behind? And there's some amazing stuff now commonplace or in development that were inconceivable to the likes of Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and their contemporaries: nanotechnology, personal area networks, quantum computing, augmented reality — the list goes on...

The conclusion should be obvious. The central place in the mainstream of modern literature that was once held by the now dying Naturalist literary fiction properly belongs to science fiction. Why, then, is it still relegated to genre and fandom? Because the old literary establishment still controls the publishing industry.