Where’s the Sense in Sensawunda?
Bookslut has an interesting post asking the question: Where’s the Sense in Sensawunda?:
I’m not sure what the point of science fiction is these days…
Sensawunda really needs both the awe and the comprehension, it needs both sides of the equation that links the fantastic and the real; but more and more we are looking for the wonder above the sense. That has always been a part of literature. Fantasy has its own rationalisations, its own rules and perspectives, but if the story in the end gives you that thrill of amazement it doesn’t really matter if it doesn’t make sense in terms of the world as we understand it. Indeed, it is often the point of fantasy that it should not conform to any expectations of our mundane reality. But science fiction isn’t like that.
Unfortunately, as we successively try to achieve that ever bigger hit of wonder, it’s all too easy to throw in a god or a demon or a mystery man was not meant to know. Or we go the other way, we want to avoid the contention that sf is crossing over into fantasy, so we try to make it purely realist. We invent things like Mundane SF which is full of sense but has very little wonder.
Science fiction is a spectrum, it stretches between fantasy and realism and needs to be anchored in both. But more and more we see at one end of the spectrum fantasy and sf merging seamlessly, while at the other end realism appropriates, quite legitimately, the tropes of sf. In other words that unique affect that once upon a time made us love science fiction is now equally the province of fantasy and of realism. I’m not complaining, I’ve always loved the margins of genre precisely because of the productive way that different modes can feed upon each other. But still, science fiction’s old unique selling point seems to have been lost, and I’m not altogether sure it has yet managed to find a new one.
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