Friday, January 25, 2008

More About Science Fiction

Hard on the heels of Wednesday's list of Hugo award winners, I came across this article in Wired Magazine. Two great quotes:

...Alter reality — and see what new results you get. Which is precisely what sci-fi does. Its authors rewrite one or two basic rules about society and then examine how humanity responds — so we can learn more about ourselves. How would love change if we lived to be 500? If you could travel back in time and revise decisions, would you? What if you could confront, talk to, or kill God?

Then two or three paragraphs later:

So, then, why does sci-fi, the inheritor of this intellectual tradition, get short shrift among serious adult readers? Probably because the genre tolerates execrable prose stylists. Plus, many of sci-fi's most famous authors — like Robert Heinlein and Philip K. Dick — have positively deranged notions about the inner lives of women.

The quality of writing in science fiction over the past thirty or forty years has improved, but of course there is some status granted those who broke new ground during its Golden Age. Currently, those women, whose names I bolded in this entry, have contributed to shifting the emphasis away from bug-eyed-monsters and rocket ships. I do think it's worth giving them a shot if you are rummaging about looking for something to read in the genre.

Just to keep the conversation going, I don't *think* my husband values Heinlein for his portrayal of women, but then again, I could be wrong. One should recall that Heinlein's great writer character (whose name I can never remember) was consistently portrayed as having three beautiful stenographers to take down his every word and minister to his every need. That's the real curiosity -- why Heinlein's writings are not categorized as fantasy rather than science fiction.