Cold Iron & Rowan-Wood

June 29, 2009

Narrative gifts

Filed under: sf — Tags: , — Sam @ 10:19 pm

My beloved surprised me earlier this evening with a nice rant of a short-short story as a present.

She’s right, of course; SF conventions on planetary occupancy are generally Extremely Silly. Not always Planet of Hats-level silliness, but not far from it. A planet may look tiny and precious while you’re out in space, but once you get close enough to interact meaningfully with it it’s immense, and complex, and full of billions upon billions of incredible details, most of which could change your life if you let them.

Oddly enough, most SF writers have historically been interested only in the details with rayguns, or big pointy teef like dis, or which could provide new and interesting solutions to contrived engineering problems. This seems to be changing, but there’s still plenty out there to snark at.

SF, of course, is a fundamentally imperialist activity. In the Western-derived US space opera tradition, it’s all about the inevitable triumph of People Like Us (Campbell, passim) and then the reaction against that (eg. Longyear’s Enemy Mine) and the reaction against that reaction (the whole tiresome milwank crowd) and so on and on and on. In the more British scientific-romance tradition, it’s more about the hegemony of perspective, whether unexamined or forcefully advocated (Brin, passim). And the reaction against that, of course, whether by presenting obviously flawed and failsome perspectives or by forcefully advocating other ones alongside it.

And that inevitably means less interest in the true nature and character of the Other. SF purports to examine the Unknowable Other, but that’s complete bollocks; it’s all done with mirrors.

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