People are always stranger than fiction

25 01 2008

ArticlesI came across an interesting article on philosophy in science fiction novels. The author considers the genre’s real-world value and the possibility that its the only place left to find big ideas and “brain-shaking” concepts in modern literature. Being a fan of science fiction myself, I enjoyed the fact that someone had actually published an online article about the often overlooked genre. However, I have to say that the comments at the bottom were possibly even more interesting.

While all of the posters attempt to seem impartial, they can almost cleanly be divided into two groups: those who like science fiction and those who hate it. I’ve noticed this great chasm for a while now, but it never ceases to surprise me. We have the posters who say “sci-fi is stimulating because it’s different, and is asking some hard questions” and “[sci-fi] authors are frankly so much livelier, more colorful, and sometimes just better writers than a lot of contemporary fiction authors.” Then there are the ones who say “your piece is a bit contradictory and self-assuming. Ever heard the saying ‘life is stranger than fiction?'” and “for a ‘nerd,’ he’s pretty careless about categorical mis-labeling.”

Then, of course, there always has to be one person who simply doesn’t know what he (or she) is trying to say: “I wouldn’t say that sci-fi is the last bastion of philosophical questions. […] It has become increasingly difficult to write philosophical fiction especially as ideas become increasingly abstract. Writing in a real world context just does not work as efficiently as in a sci-fi novel where the author has much more control over the culture and times.” His support for the argument that sci-fi is not the last bastion of philosophical events is that philosophical fiction is found mostly in sci-fi because it works more efficiently. I think this is a good example of someone on the side of the chasm that dislikes sci-fi and doesn’t even know why.

I have trouble understanding the problem people have with different book genres. No writing I have I ever found is completely void of value or meaning. Value means something different to each of us. We can’t simply decide for other people what has value and what does not. I feel sci-fi and realistic literature both have their places in the realm of literature, and anyone who feels that their genre is superior needs to be reminded that no one cares. To each his own.

Article Link: Clive Thompson on Why Sci-Fi Is the Last Bastion of Philosophical Writing

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One response

25 01 2008
Chad

Value means something different to each of us.
Aesthetic value, anyway.

Really, the only safe generalization to make about entire book genres is that they are such broad categories that making generalizations is probably not all that useful an exercise in the first place.

Individual books, on the other hand, can more easily and convincingly be defined in terms of value based on criteria like originality, ingenuity, complexity, and overall intellectual merit.

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