Monday, January 21, 2008

The Data Point of Optimism

Over on, I was delighted to see Clive Thompson on Why Sci-Fi Is the Last Bastion of Philosophical Writing. Perhaps guilty of a little hyperbole, Clive nonetheless warms the cockles of my heart when he declares that, "If you want to read books that tackle profound philosophical questions, then the best — and perhaps only — place to turn these days is sci-fi. Science fiction is the last great literature of ideas."

Clive opines that contemporary literature has "dropped the ball," postulating that, "After I'd read my 189th novel about someone living in a city, working in a basically realistic job and having a realistic relationship and a realistically fraught family, I ... started to feel like I'd been reading the same book over and over again."

Clive then asks why SF don't get no respect, and concludes that it's because of our high pain threshold for bad prose and outdated portrayals of women. He sees hope in the mainstream persons of Roth, McCarthy, Chabon and others who are taking up the SF paints.

But while I love to see the above roster of writers turning to our tools, I think we have our own prose stylists who can compete, and always have. Certainly I'd put the best of Sturgeon or Delaney up against anything today, and as for today, Ian McDonald can certainly hold his own alongside literary novels. In fact, not five minutes ago, I finished reading Paolo Bacigalupi's contribution to Fast Forward 2, a wonderful 10,000 word novelette called "The Gambler" which is going to blow you all away in October. He blogs about its genesis here. In the meantime, I'd love to know what Clive Thompson would make of either McDonald's Brasylor Bacigalupi's rapidly approaching collection, Pump Six and Other Stories. And Clive, if you find this on the Google Alert or the trackback, I'll gladly send you Fast Forward 1 now and 2 when it's out.

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