Tuesday, May 13, 2008


from: Chris DeVore

Hi Nicola, thanks for giving Askablogr a shot. Have you seen Clive Thompson's spin on sci-fi & literature? Does that feel true to you?

Many thanks for pointing me in the direction of the Askablogr widget. I tried it, as you can see, but I don't really think it's a good fit for this blog. For one thing, this isn't a technical Q&A space, it's more conversational. I think we'd need a limit of something like 2,000 characters, not 200, which would seriously screw with the Askablogr community guidelines. I'll leave it up for another couple of days but then I think it'll come down. Thanks again, though, for thinking of me.

Clive Thompson says, in part:

If you want to read books that tackle profound philosophical questions, then the best — and perhaps only — place to turn these days is sci-fi. Science fiction is the last great literature of ideas. From where I sit, traditional "literary fiction" has dropped the ball.

Yes, sf--at least some of it--has remained philosophically robust and willing to explore Big Ideas while much litfic has grown etiolated. Sf could have been designed for such exploration. At its best, it's metaphor made concrete. As Delany has pointed out more than once, in sf you can say, 'Her world exploded,' and it's more than a figure of speech. However, I'd hesitate to go as far as saying litfic has 'dropped the ball'. It hasn't been playing with the ball. While sf has been shouting and drinking beer and throwing the football, litfic has been wrestling with chalkboards full of meaningless equations and startling at loud noises.

Most literary fiction these days is about small people doing small things, living lives of quiet desperation. I loathe it. I like books where stuff happens *and* people ruminate on why, how, what for etc. But stuff has to *happen* to hold my interest. But, oof, I've written a whole essay about this, called "Brilliance and Beauty and Risk."

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