Blog posts in Science Fiction Repair Shop for May 2014:

Science Fiction Repair Shop: There's A Hell Of A Bad Universe Next Door, Let's Go Dept.

"The most shocking dystopian novel is the first one you read..."

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2014/05/28 10:00

Let’s Go to Dystopia by Diane Johnson | The New York Review of Books

Dystopian novels portray a society, usually of the future, that has arrived at the destination we’re all headed for if we don’t change now. The great dystopian novels and the scary developments they portray convince us of things that are all too possible in the society we live in, if we hadn’t spotted them for ourselves. The most shocking dystopian novel is the first one you read, when the whole idea of the arbitrariness of human arrangements comes over you, with the realization that the future is contingent on the present, and can be affected by something you do or don’t do now.

The review in question is of Chang-Rae Lee's On Such A Full Sea, which I haven't yet read but which I understand is in something of the same general vein as books like Cormac McCarthy's The Road -- an ugly future as depicted by an author nominally best known for avowedly literary work. But this line from the review caught my eye, especially the bit about how the most shocking of dystopias is the first one we run into.

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Tags: Evgeny Zamyatin Science Fiction Repair Shop dystopia science fiction

Science Fiction Repair Shop: Fixed In The Mix Dept.

Why combining one thing with another should be about producing something greater than just the sum of its parts.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2014/05/12 10:00

From the liner notes to Karlheinz Stockhausen's Hymnen:

What I termed the serial thinking or the general serial form in the fifties, or what I designated as musical through-organisation then, has by no means been forgotten or become superfluous. Rather, it has been integrated into a more comprehensive concept: integrated into the musician's mental armament. It is now applied in such differentiated areas, that it can no longer be identified only in the domain of material (or in the characteristics of the sound). Today such terms as serialist, or through-organisation or general serial form are applied to entire style aggregates. It is possible. for example, to imagine the conception of modulating an African style with a Japanese style, in the process of which the styles would not be eliminated in order to arrive at a supra-style or a uniform international style - which, in my opinion, would be absurd. Rather, during this process, the original, the unique, would actually be strengthened and in addition, transformations of the one into the other, and above all two given factors in relation to a third would be composed. The point is to find compositional processes of confrontations and mixtures of style - of intermodulations - in which styles are not simply mixed together into a hodge podge, but rather in which different characters modulate each other and through this elevate each other and sharpen their originality. In my opinion, that is the problem since circa 1960, not only in the field of music. 

Emphasis mine. Hymnen was composed between 1966 and 1967, which (in my view) was at the tail end of the time when the high arts were still taken seriously by laypeople as a place where genuinely new and interesting things could happen. The problem is of course not the arts themselves, but us, our own stagnancy, but that's its own argument for later.

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Tags: Science Fiction Repair Shop creativity fantasy mashups science fiction

Science Fiction Repair Shop: The Fantasticks (And The Realisticks) Dept.

It's the real, not just the fantastic, that is most alluring in a fantasy.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2014/05/11 10:00

Gabriel García Márquez’s Work Was Rooted in the Real -

We live in an age of invented, alternate worlds. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, Rowling’s Hogwarts, the dystopic universe of “The Hunger Games,” the places where vampires and zombies prowl: These places are having their day. Yet in spite of the vogue for fantasy fiction, in the finest of literature’s fictional microcosms there is more truth than fantasy. In William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha, R. K. Narayan’s Malgudi and, yes, the Macondo of Gabriel García Márquez, imagination is used to enrich reality, not to escape from it.

I never got around to writing about this before (an impending move will knock all thoughts of "getting caught up" clean out of your fool head), but Mr. Rushdie echoes one of my own long-running sentiments with this one. It's not that the vampires, zombies, and hunger games are lesser for being fantastic, but that any of those things can be made greater by dint of a more complete understanding of the world we do have.

It's not the fantastic alone that enthralls us, but the way we connect with an identifiable human being who is also reeling in the face of that fantasy. It's not Middle-earth that enthralls us alone, but the process of Frodo and Bilbo Baggins encountering it. It's not the Death Star, but Luke Skywalker going up against it. Not Panem, but Katniss; not the amusement park, but Chihiro. It's the human that's the most real of all, and real in the most important way.

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Tags: Science Fiction Repair Shop fantasy realism science fiction

Science Fiction Repair Shop: Fan Smart, Fan Dumb Dept.

Fans owe it to themselves to understand why they love something, and not be satisfied with mere self-flattery.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2014/05/02 10:00

Slightly older, but still worth commenting on:

Please Jesus Don’t Let Roberto Orci Direct STAR TREK 3 | Badass Digest

... there's a dark lining to this silver cloud - Orci is sticking with Star Trek. The guy is a big Trekkie, despite his personal philosophies being an absolute affront to the memory of Gene Roddenberry, and he's still working on the third film. But worse, he's pushing hard to direct the movie.

Emphasis mine, because it illustrates something I always find fascinating about fandom: what to think when someone is a fan of a piece of material, the philosophy of which could not be more dissimilar to the fan's own thoughts or behavior.

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Tags: fandom

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