Previous Posts: Science Fiction Repair Shop: January 2014

Science Fiction Repair Shop: Revenge of the Geeks Dept.

When SF is written by people who are fans of nothing but SF, it's bad news.

Hayao Miyazaki gets a deserved reputation for being a cranky old man, but there are times when his garrulousness is spot-on, as when he recently complained that the big problem with the anime studios today is that they're staffed by otaku.

I agree, although I'd put it a slightly different way: the problem is that they're staffed by too many people who are nothing but otaku, and that's something I should talk about in detail at Ganriki when I'm back off my self-imposed hiatus.

I have the same issue with SF&F: it's too often written by (and maybe also read by) people who are nothing but SF&F fans.

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Tags: classics science fiction Science Fiction Repair Shop writers writing

Science Fiction Repair Shop: A Washing Machine In The Sky Dept.

Why literary fiction often chooses to be fantastic in such a straight-laced way.

Which Authors or Books Have Worked on You as ‘Negative Influences’? -

[Thomas Mallon on Donald Bartheme:]

A writer freed from the need to calibrate with reality, or even be internally consistent, could put a washing machine into the sky along with a rainbow. So why not put a rhinoceros up there too? Where my contemporaries reacted with an “Oh, wow,” I shrugged with something more like “Whatever.” Barthelme, in an interview, insisted how in his work “it’s not the straightforward that’s being evaded but the too true,” and by that last phrase, he meant, I think, the trite and truistic. But I felt then, and mostly still do, that no verity can be too true; it can only, excitingly, be revealed as false or even truer, if you dig into it on its own terms.

When I first ran into the Bartheme brand of experimental fiction, my first temptation was to think of it as failed SF — or, rather, mislabeled SF. Why not just call such work SF and be done with it? That was long before I knew about the perceived stigma many non-SF writers had of SF generally: it was escapist b.s., newsstand pulp product for spotty mouth-breathers who hadn't yet left the nest, let alone pulled their pinkies out of their nostrils. I suspect the recent explosion of Dark Teen Fantasy product hasn't helped matters any: when the shelves are littered with third-hand Orwellisms like Divergent, it's hard not to feel a boiling clot of contempt rising in one's gorge for everything filed in that wing of the bookstore. (Goodness knows I feel it.)

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Tags: criticism fantasy literature readers reading science fiction Science Fiction Repair Shop writers writing

Science Fiction Repair Shop: The Prediction Fiction And Other Conniptions Dept.

On John McCarthy's odd comments about literary fiction vs. SF.

Professor John McCarthy — you might know him as the creator of a little language known as Lisp — wrote this a while back:


Personally I hate and fear modern literature and it makes me especially unhappy when it invades science fiction. The literary authors are always trying to manipulate my emotions on behalf of some cause or other they have read about in the New York Times Magazine. They want to make me share their hatreds; they rarely show affection for anyone except when they show him as a victim of someone who represents one of their hates. Therefore, I enjoy most old-fashioned science fiction in which the author shows us some neat thing he has thought up or heard about in a straightforward adventure context with good guys and bad guys of a conventional sort. It is even better if he can tell a good story without any fighting, but I understand that this is hard for authors.

His comments about SF in the essay are worth reading, but his comments about modern literature as a whole made me wonder when someone had slipped Tabasco into his Ovaltine.

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Tags: criticism John McCarty literature science fiction Science Fiction Repair Shop writers writing

Science Fiction Repair Shop: This Is What You Want, This Is What You Get Dept.

"In a few generations, there will be no new ideas, only popular ones."

Some gloomy notes here about how digital distribution doesn't always translate into digital consumption.

Books, Just Like You Wanted -

“This generation will get to read the books they really, really like,” wrote A. Raja Hornstein of San Rafael, Calif. “Any thinkers who are unpopular or outside the box or, well, creative, won’t be read. The next generation will get to read the books written by the vapid, money-hungry writers of this generation who never read any creative works. In a few generations, there will be no new ideas, only popular ones. But there will be lots of new problems and nobody smart enough to solve them. Way to go!”

That sounds eerily like the problems I've cited with SF&F's development over the last few generations. Once it reached a kind of cultural critical mass, where it was not only on shelves but on small and big screens alike, it became easier for it to be written by people who had never read anything but that — or worse, whose primary exposure to it was through TV or the movies. (This isn't to say that TV or the movies can't do those things well, only that if you stop your research there, you won't get much of anywhere.)

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Tags: audiences fantasy literature readers science fiction Science Fiction Repair Shop writing

Science Fiction Repair Shop: Dream Off Dept.

Why do people assume "fantasy" means "unserious"?

Has Russell Banks ever actually read any fantasy? Evidently not:

Russell Banks - By the Book -

Q: ... how would you describe the kinds of books you steer clear of?

A: Anything described by the author or publisher as fantasy, which to me says, “Don’t worry, Reader, Death will be absent here.” In his brief introduction to “Slow Learner,” Thomas Pynchon says he takes serious writing to be that in which Death is present. I agree.

I guess the likes of, oh, Mervyn Peake haven't contaminated his bedside table, then?

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Tags: fantasy Russell Banks science fiction Science Fiction Repair Shop

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Science Fiction Repair Shop category from January 2014.

You can see alphabetical or chronological listings of all entries in this category.

Science Fiction Repair Shop: December 2013 is the previous archive.

Science Fiction Repair Shop: February 2014 is the next archive.

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