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I found this pretty funny:

"According to Jett Heer in Lingua Franca magazine (June 2001), literary theorist Fredric Jameson called Dick "the Shakespeare of science fiction". Unfortunately though, Dick never returned the favour, with revelations that he wrote letters to the Federal Bureau of Investigation denouncing many of his academic supporters. Dick claimed that Jameson and other literary theorists were agents of a KGB conspiracy to take over American science fiction. Presumably though, Dick wasn’t in a clear and level headed mental state at the time."

It comes from a longer piece on why science fiction writers don't get any respect, an issue that is not of huge concern to me. The conversation arises mostly out of Margaret Atwood's claims that her novels aren't science fiction, which one were probably made for PR issues, though you can also argue that she has a point, since her particular style of writing in Oryx and Crake isn't in vogue in the SF field. Likely, if the novel had been published as a pure SF book, it would have been mostly ignored by the respect giving folk there. Assuming, of course, someone other than Atwood had written it.

At any rate, I'm not particularly sure why there is a burning desire to grab respect from literary establishments around the world, especially if you don't respect who they are to begin with. All awards are influenced by the background and interests of their judges, and it strikes me as a strange thing to get bent out of shape about people who you don't know not digging what you do (and if, like in SF awards, you actually have a look at who some of these people are, you might think that there's no reason to give them any respect at all). And, far as I'm concerned, the truth is you can do anything you want when no one is paying attention to you. Michael Moorcock's Behold the Man has a mentally retarded Jesus, has been in print for years, doesn't once fall on a list to be banned, and is constantly taught by me. Quite often my students don't read books, but they have a little bit of curiousity when I say, 'It's got a retarded Jesus and it's only two hundred pages long.'

It's all in how you present it, I guess.



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Oct. 8th, 2009 02:40 am (UTC)
Fredric Jameson called Dick the "Shakespeare of science fiction."

Does that make Shakespeare the dick of Elizabethan theatre?

*boom tish*

At any rate, I'm not particularly sure why there is a burning desire to grab respect from literary establishments around the world, especially if you don't respect who they are to begin with.

Sounds a bit disingenuous. I think the problem is that sf writers do, in fact, respect the Booker judges etc. (as they probably should) and that's why they want their approval and acclaim. The other side is that sf readers, however ill-advisedly, think that sf novels are more challenging / well-written / interesting than a lot of mainstream literature and therefore want it to win awards.

As a reader of both some sf and some "literary fiction"*, from my point of view it'd be nice if more up and coming "literary" writers saw speculative fiction as a natural and respectable outlet for their talents, instead of being stuck in a rut of socially themed multi-generational family drama blah etc. I'd love to see Nam Le write some sf.

It'd also be nice for the sf world to acknowledge that however much you like Alastair Reynolds, he can't write a character as well as Zadie Smith.

* It'd also be nice if there was a term for "literary fiction" that didn't induce me to use scare quotes to highlight my disdain for the idea that only that type of fiction is actually literature!
Oct. 8th, 2009 11:51 pm (UTC)
yeah, they do want the respect. i personally just think they'd be better off if they didn't worry about it, but what you going to do, huh?

you know, i think some of the problem for the reynolds vs smith debate (not that there is one, but taking your example) is a lot of epople who really dig reynolds are reading the book for the an entire different thing to smith. i've had heaps of conversations with folk where they just want the action, or the science, or whatever. goes the other way, of course, too, but yeah.
Oct. 9th, 2009 01:08 am (UTC)
True up to a point.

But I've never read an sf novel with bad characterisation that wouldn't have been enhanced by good characterisation ...
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