Intersections: Fantasy and Science Fiction

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

Gravity's Rainbow: Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Mythology Kathryn Hume

Gravity's Rainbow has been hailed by John Brunner as an "incontestably science-fictional retrospective parallel world," (that is, an alternate wartime London); also, by Geoffrey Cocks as the Miltonic epic of science fiction that "has taken science/speculative fiction beyond the genre's limits into metaphysics, metapsychology, and cosmology."1 It has also been identified as gothic, as encyclopedic, and as various kinds of satire or anatomy.2 I am particularly sympathetic to the desire of some critics to claim Gravity's Rainbow for science fiction, because so little mainstream fiction engages with science in any significant way, and because the identification would perhaps attract more attention from the academy for that uncanonical literature. However, the problems of defining science fiction complicate the ascription, and any single label blinds us to the generic interactions within this maverick work. I would prefer to work with a broader palette of terms when trying to describe the experience that is Gravity's Rainbow, and would like to focus on the interrelationships between three: science fiction, fantasy, and mythology. (In no way do these three, exhaust the generic possibilities.)

I am going to argue that Pynchon draws on science and contributes to science fiction by creating a fictive analogue to the post- Newtonian universe, and he forces us to consider probabilistic and uncertain realities in a way that we normally avoid, even if we are aware of the implications of contemporary science. However, it is not science, but rather his arsenal of fantasy techniques that allows him to create this fictive analogue to scientific reality--each one of those techniques flagrantly nonrational and nonrealistic. Counterpointing the fantasy and science fiction is a traditional yet technological mythology, through whose repetitions, oppositions, and mediations

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