Synthesizing Science Fiction

I wrote last week about how science fiction was sort of a synthetic element in the way I think about my own work and what TealArt means to me. I'm interested in cyberculture, I'm interested in cultural theory, I'm interested in story telling, and I'm interested in individuals. I'm also a computer geek, so sometimes I go off and talk about command lines, but it all makes sense.

Science fiction is interesting because it is both seen as escapist [1], and is at the same time a very intellectual or thoughtful approach to telling stories. Indeed SF stories do tend to be about ideas on some level, so it's paradoxical that a good deal of SF isn't considered literary, or critiqued for being both too "thinking" and not "thinking enough." [2]

During my time away from SF, I had a problem finding a place for my interest in cultural (and literary) theory in the larger field of "tycho-ness." How do I responsibly think about my interests with a proper cultural level of analysis and also not allowing this to "get in the way." Both sides of this conflict have been hard: I haven't exactly been in a field that has taking a cultural approach to theorizing, and the integration aspect is hard.

It should have been obvious, given my interest in Samuel Delany's work. Delany's first reputation was as a science fiction writer, his second as an autobiographer, and his third as a critical/cultural theorist. Now that I have a modicum of extra time on my hands, I've started reading some of his fiction, and I have to say that I'm quite pleased, and it's started to make sense.

While I think to define SF as simply one thing or another is probably more detrimental than anything, it strikes me that there's an obvious connection between "theory" and SF, and this is a connection that I'm really interested in continuing to explore.

There are a number of good examples where theorists and science fiction writers tend to overlap, Delany is an obvious starting point, but there are others: I saw an Intro to Anthropology course that taught an Ursula K. LeGuin novel, and this strikes me as completely appropriate (I think that said class also used Vonegut, which I think is also an appropriate induction into both anthropology and science fiction.) While we're on the anthro connection I'd also point out "The Watching People" which appeared on EscapePod a few weeks ago. If you're not familiar with escape-pod you should be.

Before, I leave you this time, I wanted to talk a little bit more about what I mean when I say "theory." While others may dispute this (and feel free), I tend to refer to some sort of non-professional/cononical or applied philosophy. Not that I have something against philosophy, I think philosophers can do some really interesting work but ultimately have different goals and approaches to approaching a text, but their issues aren't mine. It is in this sense of reimgaining the world and thinking about the implications of various "theories" (in a general sense) that SF can really connect to.

Just some thoughts? Do you have any?

[1]As it is, and I don't want to be a snob and deny that SF can be escapist, but I think that there's some value in fiction that can "take you away," and that's worth respecting. At the same time, of course, I think the very best SF does something more than provide an escape should the reader want it to.
[2]This being a blog, I feel like I can make conjectures based on vague stereotypes like this, without supporting them. My apologies.
comments powered by Disqus