Science Fiction, Canonization, Marginalization, and the Academy

By Gary Wastfahl; George Slusser | Go to book overview

Chapter 8
Science Fiction Eye
and the Rebellion against Recursion

Stephen P. Brown

As I seem to have been born with an anarchic streak, I am uncomfortable confronting the topic of authority in sf, specifically as to whether or not I have become one myself. However, due to the relative longevity of Science Fiction Eye and its prominence in the field, the role of authority seems to have de facto settled over me. Ultimately the true authorities in sf are the readers who vote with their money and decide what will be published and what the real trends are. But economic democracy has created a field dominated by movie and TV novelizations and interminable cookie cutter fantasy series. The function of critics is to alert the bored reader to wider possibilities and try to counteract aesthetically destructive trends.

Most people who grow up reading sf with the kind of fervent passion that I did tended to lose interest, as I did, by their late teens. We moved on to more challenging forms of entertainment. After a while, it might occur to sf readers in their mid-twenties that it has been eight years since they have read any sf. There is regret and loss, perhaps a realization that almost nothing in the adult world can give the same kind of excitement, the lurid intellectual extravaganza, the repeated awestricken frisson. But few readers follow through on their regret—one may also miss one's three-wheeler, but there are not many 25-year-olds tooling around on a tricycle.

Sometimes, one of us comes back. Perhaps it was a chance encounter with an interesting book, or an interesting person. We begin reading science fiction again. One of the ironies of the genre is that scattered among the juvenilia are a number of genuinely adult works, novels that challenge on a profound level, that utilize the architecture of science fiction because there are some themes that simply cannot be considered otherwise. Of course, finding those books buried in the tide can be difficult.

There are marketing and critical controversies, of course, most notably the tendency to extract a superb sf novel from its genre and label it sui generis. There

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