We’re on a roll! Two episodes in two weeks. Surely it can’t last! Gary has been reading Margaret Atwood’s Booker Prize-winning novel The Testaments and it’s sparked off all sorts of thoughts on that old chestnut: science fiction vs. literary fiction. What are literary writers doing when they write SF? Can SF writers cross-over to the mainstream? Is this purely a generational perspective and does it just not matter any more? All these questions are at least touched on, if not settled (they’re not settled), as well as mentions of Lethem, Le Guin, Chabon and others, and a brief discussion of robots and AI in SF. They even discuss some very interesting comments on the Atwood novel by Nina Allan over on her blog.
All in all, a typical rambly shambles. As always, we hope you enjoy!
This week, with Jonathan hard at work compiling his year’s best anthology, we revisit one of the oldest questions about science fiction—namely, what is it and how do you decide what to include or exclude from an anthology clearly labelled as science fiction?
Rather than trying to offer our own definitions, we discuss the problem of definition in general. Gary argues that the many definitions of SF could be classed as the functional (or purely practical, like Damon Knight’s famous “what I point to”), the rhetorical (definitions designed to promote the importance of the genre), and the theoretical (lit-crit stuff). We agreed that such definitions tend to change over time.
That leads us into a discussion of the current state of space opera, and the question of whether the space setting is a defining feature, even when, as with Aliette de Bodard’s The Tea Master and the Detective, the plot is borrowed from mysteries.
Finally, we talk about some of our current reading. Gary mentions Rivers Solomon’s The Deep, which he sees as representing a fascinating collaboration between music and fiction since the central idea began with the techno-electronic duo Drexciya, became a Hugo-nominated rap by Clipping and is now Solomon’s novel. Jonathan mentioned Leah Bardugo’s bestselling new fantasy, Ninth House, which is out now and which he recommends.
As always, we hope you enjoy the podcast. We’ll be back soon!