Critical dichotomies and science fiction revolutions

Just a few things to share that I thought deserved more than the standard link-dump treatment due to their vague thematic connectedness:

Jonathan ‘SF Diplomat’ McCalmont has been thinking about the dichotomy in genre criticism – which is nothing new, but he’s done it out loud this time:

“So what does all of this mean? It means that SF criticism has been around as long as SF but that it is now, and has probably always been, prone to placing itself in a ghetto constituted from an inaccessible conversation between critics, authors and the occasional genre fan who wants to think a little bit more about the books he has read. The way to satisfy Le Guin’s demands is not simply by producing more critical writing, it is by making sure that genre criticism is read by as wide an audience as possible.”

It’s worth a read, even if (in fact, especially if) you don’t read much sf lit crit. It’s also (though he’ll hate me for saying so*) a little less incendiary than some of Jonathan’s other posts … unless you take offence to the Livejournal jibe.

So, two cultures, you say? A growing gap between them? Sounds like the sort of situation that causes … revolution**! Martin McGrath’s largely unpublicised stealth blog (which you should all subscribe to and read, because firstly he’s a lovely chap and a good critic, and secondly it’ll wind him up no end) features an extended version of a riff I heard Martin deploy at Eastercon, namely that revolutions that occur in science fiction novels are almost invariably improbable in their execution:

The instantaneous change: Even in sf that obeys the laws of physics and outlaws FTL there’s always one thing that travels faster than light, revolution. Nevermind the vast amounts of time and money it takes in the real world to make things even incrementally better – in sf the mere action of announcing the revolution is often enough to have the peasants dressing better, eating better and quoting Shakespeare.”

Ouch. He has a point though, and it’s an intelligent post from someone who actually knows more than he’d really like to know about politics. Go read.

[*You can consider that revenge for the Whitney Houston gag, Jonathan. 😉 ]

[** I warned you the connection was vague, didn’t I?]

2 thoughts on “Critical dichotomies and science fiction revolutions”

  1. I’ll say here what said at McCalmont’s site:

    The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction sold 3,500 copies and is the best selling title in that series.

    Foundation, edited by the same people, and frequently with similar contiributors, sells 350 each issue.

    There are many reasons for this (cost, distribution etc) but I don’t think it’s the writing per se.

  2. Oi! Stop that! How can I hope to retain my title for the stealthiest blog on the Internet if you keep blabbing to people about it.

    Remember the motto: “If you keep schtum, they won’t come”

    Stay away. It’s rubbish!

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