Saturday, September 22, 2007

As You Know Captain ...

I don't usually link book reviews until I've read a book and made up my own mind about it, but I really enjoyed Ursula Le Guin's review of Jeanette Winterson's The Stone Gods , particularly as it talks about the interface between genre and literary fiction:
It's odd to find characters in a science-fiction novel repeatedly announcing that they hate science fiction. I can only suppose that Jeanette Winterson is trying to keep her credits as a "literary" writer even as she openly commits genre. Surely she's noticed that everybody is writing science fiction now? Formerly deep-dyed realists are producing novels so full of the tropes and fixtures and plotlines of science fiction that only the snarling tricephalic dogs who guard the Canon of Literature can tell the difference. I certainly can't. Why bother? I am bothered, though, by the curious ingratitude of authors who exploit a common fund of imagery while pretending to have nothing to do with the fellow-authors who created it and left it open to all who want to use it. A little return generosity would hardly come amiss.
Expect the literary types to acknowledge a debt to genre writers? Dream on!

Was amused (because I'd never given the matter much thought) to read about:
... the device known to science-fiction writers as "As you know, captain . . ." These are the scenes where one character explains to another character all about something the other character obviously knows. Realistic fiction, dealing with the familiar, seldom needs such a device, but imaginative fiction often has to explain what a hobbit or a light year or a limbic pathway is. And so we get dialogue beginning: "Oh, Spike, you know the theory," followed by a lecture on the theory. But even in the lectures Winterson's tone is lively.
Le Guin clearly approves of this literary author's foray into sci-fi!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There's a feeling that sword-and-sorcery is dead. Magic is dead, science is the new magic.