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View Diary: Sci-Fi Fantasy Club: Which Ugly SF/Fantasy Ducklings became Literary Swans? (140 comments)

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  •  Thanks for including Zamyatin in the diary: (11+ / 0-)

    I get really frustrated how often this argument is framed in purely English-language terms.  In that NPR "Top 100 Reader's picks" list, the only non-English writer represented is Jules f'n Verne, who's already nearly two centuries old.  Is that really how narrowly our reading has gotten?  (Answer: yes, unfortunately)

    My own list of masterpieces that happen to be science fiction would include Zamyatin, Stanislaw Lem's incomparable Solaris, the Strugatsky Brothers' Roadside Picnic, Karel Čapek's War with the Newts, and a long list of others.  It's a rich genre.  There's so much to choose from.

    I'll join in the chorus of general dislike for Huxley, whose prose style is just not very good.

    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

    by pico on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 10:31:45 PM PDT

    •  LOL (6+ / 0-)

      Pithy as always, pico.

      I agree with you, although I am remiss: about the only non-English-writing sf writer I've read was Verne, which makes me just as provincial as the rest.

      Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

      by Youffraita on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 10:48:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Language, culture and genre (6+ / 0-)

      Two writers that I find occupy very much the same mental space for me, two of my favorite writers:  PK Dick and JL Borges.  No one would call Borges an sf writer, no one would call Dick anything else.  Yet I find their work to be in tremendous harmony.

      Clap On, Clap Off, The Clapper!

      by ActivistGuy on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 11:39:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Borges writes pure Science Fiction, minus science; (5+ / 0-)

        just the raw questing ideas. The Library of Babel is all Escher, infinity, chance and implication. Dick, like Borges, was all about strange plots and theories. He just went to the trouble of clothing them in the hip new threads of counterculture - which, in '60s California, led to SF. They were both looking for the weird frontier.

        But there's a lot of muddiness in Dick's writing (drugs, madness, desperation and deadlines will do that), while Borges usually achieved a lapidary elegance.

        "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

        by Brecht on Mon Sep 30, 2013 at 12:15:34 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well-put. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Brecht, RiveroftheWest

          Writers like Borges really helped to erase some of the old boundaries between "high" and "low" art (he wrote crime stories, fantasies, fairy tales, and whatever interested him at the time.)  In fact, it's hard for me to think of a post-Borges writer who hasn't at least dabbled in science fiction, even if only at the short story level.

          Yet: there's still the old marketing fear that the science fiction label kills your chances of respectability.  Vonnegut refused to allow his books to be labeled as science fiction (seriously) and more recently, Margaret Atwood made the surprisingly ignorant statement that her sci fi works weren't "really" sci fi because they're about themes and stuff, as if "real" sci fi were written with no regard for content, allegory, or ideas.  So the old snobberies persist.

          Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

          by pico on Mon Sep 30, 2013 at 10:37:49 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I wish Borges wrote novels; that's what Eco's for, (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            pico, RiveroftheWest

            I guess. Borges took awhile to gain the world stage, but from the '60s on, he's had a growing influence on contemporary writers in many genres.

            Interesting points re. SF vs. respectable. When Vonnegut started, SF was a walled ghetto - he sought, and found, a wider readership. I wonder how much SF Vonnegut and Atwood read.

            "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

            by Brecht on Mon Sep 30, 2013 at 10:39:37 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Anglophone exceptionalism. I read an article about (6+ / 0-)

      translation which cited figures on what fraction of books read in a country were translated from other languages. Of course, the US and England are the least international in our diet, because we're spoiled for good books written in English, and we're arrogant about our culture. Even when books do get translated into English, it's a crapshoot how well they get translated (though publishers seem to be taking care and quality more seriously in recent decades).

      There's a lot of good Russian SF - they've always had brave imaginations. I think I've read one Verne, one Lem, and Zamyatin. But my TBR is very longsighted.

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 11:40:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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