Thursday, September 11, 2003

Bad Fantasy/Bad Science Fiction
Dennis G. Jerz asks:

While there can be plenty of bad SF that centers around the creation of/response to technology, isn't there also plenty of bad fantasy that centers around The Chosen One who must use a Gift undo Evil Magic? Torill, help me understand... how is technology in SF intrinsically different from magic in fantasy? --DGJ]

Actually, I don't think bad fantasy is any better than bad sci-fi. I was arguing against Spider Robinson, and pretty much in his own style. The point I wanted to reach was that fantasy, when it is good, has qualities which does not look back, but forwards. But it looks forwards with the explicit understanding that we need to learn from history, because today's evil normally is rooted in the past, and trying to disconnect the present from the past does not make the problems god away, it only lets it develop unchecked, without a real understanding of cause and effect. Science Fiction, even when it is good, rarely looks back, only forwards, an optimism of the technological development which causes a progress-induced blindness to the cause of present crisis.

There is no doubt good science fiction is important. We need the visionaries and particularly the critics of blind and unchecked development. But good fantasy does not only look backwards - although it, like science fiction has its own version of blindness: a blindness of magic and religion, where all solutions come from outside forces, and not from the abilities of humans.

So, my main point was: both science fiction and fantasy has good points and bad points. While science fiction writes of technological dreams, fantasy writes of interpersonal and societal dreams. Both are visions of a better solution to the problems of the present - or a way to put present problems into a relief.

My problem was that an established writer chooses to describe fantasy by its bad books, while science fiction is described by its good books, not that either genre in any way is better or worse than the other. They are just different.

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