fantasy ? sod ’em
Under the title “Notes from New Sodom”, Hal Duncan considers the failed old opposition of fantasy to sf, & describes the history of f/sf as a perpetual collapse of those categories. For instance, “Ray Bradbury’s entire ouvre exemplifies the crumbling of Science Fiction into the open interplay of science fiction, fantasy and horror.” A sort of ongoing explosion in the foul rag and bone shop of the heart, he believes, is what has produced the powerful & exploratory aesthetic of f/sf. Genre categories are an attempt to control this aesthetic as they piece it up & market it out, but though it’s “a riven thing–we could hardly expect two or three hundred years of division between Romanticism and Rationalism to be healed in a few decades”, it is a thing. Something is there–
That thing is, in essense, modernism. We might brand it Pulp Modernism — cheap, populist, balls-to-the-wall modernism, out to entertain more than an elite of aesthetes and intellectuals, but still modernism. It uses mimesis on the one hand, semiosis on the other, rationalising magic and romanticising science, combining the strange and the mundane, constantly experimenting with literary elements. The integrity we project on it, the unity we impose upon it with our so-well-formed definitions, is only that of a family which, in truth, extends as far as we decide it does. There is no genre of Fantasy, only the fantasy of genre. This isn’t the fiction of science; it’s the science of fiction. What we have is one confused clusterfuck of conventional forms ripped apart and rebuilt as an aesthetic idiom, a mode of fiction in which we take conceits, fantastic ideas, and put them to the test with literature as the laboratory.
I love this, & I will be grateful to Hal Duncan for expressing it this way as I go back into the big mad orbital laboratory with Pearlant & try to graft AE Van Vogt’s left leg onto a Bauhaus chair. & yes, make it speak. Or, more probably, refuse to speak.