Archive for June 17th, 2009
Jetse de Vries has an post in which he sets out seven reasons (although he calls them “excuses”) why SF writers might not want to produce positive SF. As you might expect from that framing it contains more than its fair share of tendentious crap but I was interested to what his rebutal of my position was. He summarises this position as “I will not confirm to your positivist agenda: nobody tells me what to write.”
The first thing to say is that de Vries proceeds from a fundamentally different starting to me, for him “the genre is overwhelmingly bleak”. If it is I hadn’t noticed. He also describes it as “highly reactionary” and “a comfort zone for unambitious writers” which I am happier to agree with, although not in the way he means. So de Vries sees a problem in need of a solution and I see, well, nothing much. In contrast to the status quo, he sees positive Sf as difficult, risk-taking and relevent and because of this writers are scared of it. There is nothing like patting yourself on the back.
Returning to the “excuse”, de Vries says that saying writers should write what they want is tantamount to saying they should never be questioned or challenged. As he goes on to say in his next sentence, this is nonsense (he then digresses into the economic health of the genre). The point about challenge is interesting though. Challenge is, of course, healthy but if the challenge is to be succesful – positive, we might say – it has to be specific and accurate. The positive SF movement amounts to what is essentially a broadside, a huge generalised criticism that attacks everything but refuses to name names, with the result that it seems more motivated by ideology than art. This is fair enough if you take the utterly functional view of science fiction that de Vries seems to but for those of us who don’t it is always going to be unpersuasive.
(If the original post is tl;dr – or, more likely, too thin; couldn’t read – then James Bloomer summarises at Big Dumb Object.)