July 20, 2020

From Gerald R. Lucas

Science Fiction Introduction Outline

Leguin-sf.jpg

Some notes for Ursula Le Guin’s Introduction to the Norton Book of Science Fiction.[1]

1960s

  • White, male (17); ethical
  • change in sf - “dark mirror”
  • anxiety - cold war; Viet Nam; dissidence
  • increasingly explored failures, limits, ends, final things (18)
  • playfulness and daring

“Hard sf” - descriptive and evaluative (18–19)

  • hi-tech iconology
  • strong scientific content
  • solidly thought out and researched
  • tough minded
  • male-centered, essentialist values
    • politically right or militaristic
    • positive ethical values on violence
  • explores implications of techno/scientific change
  • rigorous, not rigid, intelligence (19)

sf

  • genre (20) - popular entertainment, not literature
    • descriptive - community of shared interests and expectations
    • high point in tradition (21)
    • stock concepts and patterns, like the future, alien beings, mad scientists, etc. (22, 26)
    • formal tradition — iconology
    • archetypes, "iconic mode of thought"
  • undefinable?
  • field
    • employ assumptions basic to science, technology, and sometimes scientism (23)
  • scientistic - science and technology as god/savior
  • “commonly uses techniques both from the realistic and fantastic traditions of narrative to tell a story of which a referent, implicit or explicit, is the mindset, the content, or the mythos of science and technology” (23)
  • science grounds, supports, and judges sf (24)
    • megatext - found in the assumptions and worldview of science and technology (23-24)
      • mythological - scientific and scientistic
  • living art: concerned with the central ideas of a society
    • social and intellectual function (24)
    • moral - narrative tests
    • a literature of ideas (25)
      • aesthetic, not independent of intellect
  • plausable extrapolations from current scientific knowledge
    • materialist cause and effect (26), not from the realm of the supernatural
  • thought experiments
  • harshly critical of science (27) cautionary
  • Delany's "subjunctive reality": what has not happened (27)
    • extrapolative - predictive: what has not happened, but might
    • cautionary - what has not happened, yet
    • alternate world - what might have happened, but didn't - divergence at the very center (28)
      • realism - sf absorbs all reality, but not vice versa
      • tension between sf and fantasy
  • avoids the supernatural, unlike fantasy
    • but they constantly overlap (29)
  • realistic and rationalistic (30)
  • literalization of metaphor - “absorbed in the landscape” (31)
    • questions reality and the assumptions about it (31)
    • open context - no authority - nothing taken for granted
    • "sense of wonder"
Reference
  1. Le Guin, Ursula (1993). "Introduction". In Le Guin, Ursula K.; Atteberry, Brian. Norton Book of Science Fiction. New York: W. W. Norton. pp. 15–42.