Intersections: Fantasy and Science Fiction

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

Jewels of Wonder, Instruments of Delight: Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Science Fantasy as Vision-Inducing Works

Michael Clifton

When I was a boy, reading my way through the few juvenile science fiction books in the local library, I discovered Clifford Simak City quite by accident in the separate, adult section all the librarians thought was too old for me. In a sense, they were right: the concepts and vocabulary were over my head, and I only half-followed the story. On the other hand, I had a good, intuitive sense of English syntax and knew what the individual words in the sentences were doing; I simply supplied most of the conceptual material out of my own abundant imagination. Because of this, I remember the book from that first reading as really marvelous, filled with strange and colorful scenes I could never quite remember clearly afterward. Yet on a subsequent reading--at the advanced age of thirteen or so, driven back at last by that remembered sense of magic--the book was not nearly as good. Oh, it was still first-rate, of course, but the half-glimpsed marvels were missing and, consequently, a great deal of what brought me back, book after book, to science fiction and, later, to fantasy.

This reaction of mine leads me toward a definition of a major function of both genres, which is, quite simply, to provide contact with the unconscious, the creative imagination from which all marvels spring, not simply for myself but for all of us. In order to defend this definition--and having done so, to argue that the two genres are collapsing into one in order to continue providing such contact for both authors and audience--it is necessary to be able to tell when, in fact, such contact occurs in literature: what forms it will take, what emotions will surround its occurrence, and so on. Fortunately, the

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