Intersections: Fantasy and Science Fiction

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

Boiling Roses: Thoughts on Science Fantasy

Robert Scholes

I say again, if I cannot draw a horse, I will not write THIS IS A HORSE under what I foolishly meant for one. Any key to a work of imagination would be nearly if not quite, as absurd. The tale is there, not to hide, but to show: if it shows nothing at your window, do not open your door to it; leave it out in the cold. To ask me to explain, is to say, "Roses! Boil them, or we won't have them!" My tales may not be roses, but I will not boil them.

-- George MacDonald, A Dish of Orts

The first version, that of 1926 I believe: a carefully drawn pipe, and underneath it (handwritten in a steady, painstaking, artificial script, a script from the convent, like that found heading the notebooks of schoolboys, or on a blackboard after a lesson on things), this note:

"This is not a pipe."

The other version . . . The same pipe, same statement, same handwriting. But . . . the text and the figure are set within a frame. The frame itself is placed upon an easel, and the latter in turn upon the clearly visible slats of the floor. Above everything, a pipe exactly like the one in the picture but much larger.

-- Michel Foucault, This Is Not a Pipe

My epigraphs are linked by their employment of a similar concept: a representation, an image, well or ill drawn, with a verbal caption that asserts or denies some linkage between the image and a category of reality. I find it interesting that the Victorian fantasist and the modern surrealist should hit upon the same formula for problematizing the questions of reference and representation. Their differences are also instructive. The fantasist is mainly concerned with how to achieve the power of illusion, to generate authenticity for his illusion. The surrealist, on the other hand, progresses from questioning the

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