Intersections: Fantasy and Science Fiction

Intersections: Fantasy and Science Fiction

Intersections: Fantasy and Science Fiction

Intersections: Fantasy and Science Fiction


These 17 essays from the seventh annual J. Lloyd Eaton Conference examine the relationship between fantasy and science fiction.

They propose that fantasy and science fiction are not isolated commercial literary forms, but instead are literary forms worthy of the recognition reserved for traditional literature. Discussion of genre identification ranges from the standard forms of literary criticism embodied in Aristotle's mimesis and poesis to innovative and possibly controversial points of view such as a theory of humor, a philosophy of time, and a detailed analysis of Dr. Seuss's Cat in the Hat.

The essays provide not only a detailed study of literary elements but also the historical treatment of the material, its commercial use, and its relationship to similar literary forms such as the gothic tale and horror fiction. While few of the essayists agree with one another, they all contribute creative insights to the debate.


As late as 1938, Mikhail Bakhtin could state that "as of today genre theory has added nothing substantial to what Aristotle has already done." Whatever the state of genre theory, the present nature of literary forms reveals a pressing need to go beyond Aristotle. The form we are considering here, fantasy and science fiction, is ample proof of this need. We can attribute to Aristotle three major "modes of imitation," or representation: lyrical, epic and dramatic poetry. What we have today, however, are more modes of presentation: prose fiction, film, comic strips. How do we deal with them? And how do we deal with the compound forms that operate within, and across, these systems of presentation, forms such as fantasy and science fiction? SF is already a compound of two kinds of discourse: science and fiction. And when it is connected with fantasy, a whole group of forms, potential or otherwise, arise from the interaction: the uncanny, marvelous, horror, romance, mystery.

Fantasy and science fiction, then, appear to exist at the center of the generic field today. Our question, however, is this: for this field, is there a whole present before its parts, or do the parts come before a whole? In other words, is field analysis a matter of division into parts, or of the integration of parts to form various wholes? Aristotle believes he knows the whole: literature, poetry. But what if the whole is nothing more than the product of the interaction of various, and varying, parts? This is the subject of this book: seventeen essays that focus on the structural and generic nature of fantasy and science fiction, and beyond that on the question of interaction itself.

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