// you’re reading...

teaching

Quoting from the Times rather more than usual

Rather fine piece on Science Fiction in the Times. Bryan Appleyard is a writer I’ve had cause to disagree with in the past, but here he’s largely fair and balanced, and while I’m not sure that this is a renaissance for SF (this might be a response to Aldiss, about whom much could be written. Not the least of which concerning his dismissal by the popular canon in favour of John Wyndham, which might be undeserved, and certainly wasn’t in the least fair), he’s at least raising the issue, which is a positive thing. Adding Crichton to the mix is still unforgiveable though. And for my money, Aldiss is right about Fantasy being a literature ultimately concerned with redemption:

“In a fantasy story,” Aldiss says, “there’s a big evil abroad, but, in the end, everything goes back to normal and everybody goes home to drink ale in the shires. In a science-fiction story, there may be a terrible evil abroad, and it may get sorted out, but the world is f***ed up for ever. This is realism. It’s certainly not beach reading, unless you can find a really nasty, shingly beach.”

If it’s not, then it’s Horror. Or SF. But it’s not Fantasy as I’d recognise it.

And incidentally, if anyone’s reading this who failed to be convinced by my somewhat rushed case for SF influencing popular culture in this morning’s lecture:

A new book, Different Engines by Mark L Brake and Neil Hook, makes this clear by showing how closely SF follows scientific developments. The Copernican revolution that displaced the earth from the centre of the universe produced 17th-century space fantasies by Kepler, Godwin and Bergerac. Darwin, by showing how life might evolve anywhere, generated a wave of alien-encounter literature that still submerges us. The weird physics of Einstein and Planck made fictional interstellar travel – such as the “warp drive” in Star Trek – seem possible. And the rise of the computer-inspired “cyberpunk” SF, most famously in William Gibson’s Neuromancer, the novel that preinvented the internet in, of course, 1984.

But Brake and Hook go further. They suggest this is a two-way street: SF also influences science. Brake points out to me that it was Wells who invented the atom bomb in The World Set Free, in 1914, in spite of the fact that two of the leading nuclear physicists of the day, Rutherford and Soddy, had said it was impossible. Leo Szilard read Wells’s book in 1932. A year later, Szilard discovered the idea of a nuclear chain reaction while waiting for the traffic lights to change on Southampton Row, in Bloomsbury.

There. That’s what I should have said.

Discussion

2 comments for “Quoting from the Times rather more than usual”

  1. [...] Quoting from the Times rather more than usualBy tomAnd the rise of the computer-inspired “cyberpunk” SF, most famously in William Gibson’s Neuromancer, the novel that preinvented the internet in, of course, 1984. But Brake and Hook go further. They suggest this is a two-way street: SF …other things – http://www.tomabba.com/otherthings [...]

    Posted by English Language Books of Fiction » Blog Archive » Quoting from the Times rather more than usual | December 4, 2007, 3:02 am
  2. Not forgetting the wave of American airship sightings in the late 1800’s that preceded flying saucers by 50 years.

    Posted by Andy | December 4, 2007, 1:25 pm

Post a comment

Tagged

Archives