Intersections: Fantasy and Science Fiction

By George E. Slusser; Eric S. Rabkin | Go to book overview

Introduction: Toward a Theory of Interaction

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.

-vii-

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