Assumptions Contrary to Everyday Experience: More Thoughts on the Novum in Fantastika


“In my usage, ‘imaginative fiction’ includes the definite group of stories…that are nonrealistic, imaginative, based upon assumptions contrary to everyday experience, often highly fanciful and often laid in settings remote in time and space from those of everyday life.” – L. Sprague de Camp

This week I want to ponder the idea of the novum a bit more, and explore, at least tentatively, how it might illuminate the coherence of fantastic texts other than those of rareified SF. I started with the above quotation from de Camp because I think that his definition of “imaginative fiction,” while problematic in some ways, points toward an underlying unity in fantastika that can be teased out to help us look at the novum more creatively. In the above quotation I skipped over de Camp’s invocation of “the fiction of the modern Western world” because the qualification is not needed; “imaginative fiction” is a worldwide literary practice. One can also argue against the idea of a “definite group of stories,” but if we think of that word as “limited to” rather than “exact” his formulation makes more sense.

What I find useful in this quotation is the idea of “assumptions contrary to everyday experience.” This idea seems like a useful characterization of the fantastic; whether hard SF or slipstream, all fantastic works do not just present something new or improbable, but one or more elements that are incongruous with our commonly-held ideas not just of the possible, but of the everyday. In fact, these elements are insubordinate, actively defying the mundane world as we perceive it. Fantasy implies “a detachment, a levitation, the acceptance of a different logic based on objects and connections other than those of everyday life or the dominant literary conventions.” (Italo Calvino,”Definitions of Territory: The Fantastic”); what is “normal” is inverted, exceeded, ruptured by the logic of the fantastic.

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The SF Signal Podcast (Episode 038): Interview with Tim Pratt

In episode 38 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester & Karen Burnham sit down to chat with science fiction & fantasy author Tim Pratt!

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REVIEW: Batman, The Return of Bruce Wayne

Fans of epic fantasy are used to long series – The Wheel of Time & The Sword of Truth come to mind. But I don’t know that even the most hard core fantasy fan would read 51 books in a series without some complaint.

I bring this up because Final Crisis is the series that set the stage for several stories that came after, including Battle for the Cowl and Blackest Knight and, eventually, The Return of Bruce Wayne.

Final Crisis was horrible. Absolutely freaking horrible. It’s one of those rare times when I wanted to track down those responsible and extract from their lives the time stolen from my own while reading it. That’s how bad it was. Superman battles Space Vampires – how’s that for bad?

It culminated with Batman shooting Darkseid, who uses his Omega Beams in retaliation. Think of Omega Beams like Balefire (keeping the whole Fantasy/Wheel of Time thing going here) – Since he is a god, Darkseid can use his Omega Beams to essentially erase you from existence. There is no coming back from that.

Unless, of course, you’re a major character in a comic book universe and worth, all on your own, billions of $$$’s in future book sales. Then you ‘return’…

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Defining the Indefinable: What is Science Fiction?

Over at the Kirkus blog this week, I’m talking about the elusive definition of science fiction.

Stop by and let folks know how you get a handle on it…

SF Tidbits for 3/31/11

Interviews/Profiles

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Art

  • @CoolVibe: “In Repair” by

    Angel Alonso.

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GIVEAWAY: Stan Lee’s Superhumans DVD

Courtesy of A&E Home Video SF Signal has 1 copy of Stan Lee’s Superhumans DVD to give away to one luck winner!

Throughout history, the forces of evolution and genetic mutation have endowed humans with astonishing new abilities and features. It’s a process that continues to this day, and nowhere is it more evident than in the fascinating world of STAN LEE S SUPERHUMANS.

To win, follow these simple rules:

  1. Send an email to contest at sfsignal dot com. (That’s us).

  2. In the subject line, enter: Superhumans.
  3. Please include your snail mail address so we can pass it along to the powers that be should you win.
  4. Only one entry per person allowed.
  5. U.S. addresses only for this giveaway.
  6. The contest will end Wed., April 6th, 2010 (11:00 PM U.S Eastern time). The winners will be selected at random, notified, and announced shortly thereafter.

Good luck!

MIND MELD: How Important is Plausible Science In Science Fiction?

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

This week we asked our panelists the following question:

Q: How important is the plausibility of the science in science fiction?

Here’s what they said…

James Lovegrove
James Lovegrove was born on Christmas Eve 1965 and is the author of at least 35 books. His novels include The Hope, Days, Untied Kingdom, Provender Gleed, and the New York Times best selling Pantheon series (The Age Of Ra, The Age Of Zeus, The Age Of Odin). In addition he has sold more than 40 short stories, the majority of them gathered in two collections, Imagined Slights and Diversifications. He has written a four-volume fantasy series for teenagers, The Clouded World, under the pseudonym Jay Amory, and has produced a dozen short books for readers with reading difficulties, including Wings, Kill Swap, Free Runner, Dead Brigade, and the series The 5 Lords Of Pain.

James has been shortlisted for numerous awards, including the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award and the Manchester Book Award, and his work hasbeen translated into 15 languages. His journalism has appeared in magazines as diverse as Literary Review, Interzone, and MindGames, and he is a regular reviewer of books for the Financial Times.

He lives with his wife, two sons and cat in Eastbourne, a town famously genteel and favoured by the elderly, but in spite of that he isn’t planning to retire just yet.

Speaking as someone whose editors continually have to pull him up on his shaky grasp of physics, I’d say science is less important to SF than ideas. Yes, there’s “science” in science fiction, but there’s “fiction” as well. Some authors base their work solely on an accurate understanding of science and credible projections of where it might take us in the future, but SF is also about creativity, the play of ideas. In a book you can invent a wacky machine that sounds right, serves the plot, works within the terms of the world you’re creating, but doesn’t have to be in any way scientifically credible. If it fits in context, don’t sweat the details. The reader will believe in it if you believe in it.

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Daily Science Fiction Roster of Stories for April 2011

Daily Science Fiction has announced its April 2011 line-up of free stories:

  • April 1: “Snowfall” by Jason Stanford
  • April 4: “The Rules of the Regeneration Manual” by Andrew L. Findlay
  • April 5: “Wings for Icarus” by P. Djeli Clark
  • April 6: “N is for Nevermore Nevermore Land” by Tim Pratt, Jenn Reese, Heather Shaw, Greg van Eekhout
  • April 7: “Break” by Mishell Baker
  • April 8: “Outer Rims” by Toiya Kristen Finley
  • April 11: “The Pen is Mightier” by Mik Wilkens
  • April 12: “Shards” by Leah Thomas
  • April 13: “O is for Obfuscation” by Tim Pratt, Jenn Reese, Heather Shaw,Greg van Eekhout
  • April 14: “Selfless” by Kenneth S. Kao
  • April 15: “The Elevator” by Erik M. Igoe
  • April 18: “The School Counselor” by Mark Sarney
  • April 19: “Pippa’s Smiles” by Cat Rambo
  • April 20: “P is for Parade” by Tim Pratt, Jenn Reese, Heather Shaw, Greg van Eekhout
  • April 21: “Writing on the Wall” by Vaughan Stanger
  • April 22: “The Ambiguity Clock” by Lavie Tidhar
  • April 25: “Necessities” by Nathaniel Matthews Lee
  • April 26: “This Life” by Lee Hallison
  • April 27: “Q is for Quit” by Tim Pratt, Jenn Reese, Heather Shaw, Greg van Eekhout
  • April 28: “Vacuum Decay” by Ramon Razos
  • April 29: “The Beauty Garden” by Damon Shaw

SF Tidbits for 3/30/11

Interviews/Profiles

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Want More? See SF Signal’s Twitter and Facebook pages for additional tidbits not posted here!

WINNERS: eBook of ‘Keepsakes’ by Mike Resnick

The winners of our Keepsakes by Mike Resnick eBook giveaway have been randomly chosen and notified.

Congratulations to:

  • Karen O.
  • Joerg G.
  • David S.

And thanks to everyone who entered.

INTERVIEW: Lisa Paitz Spindler Takes You Down ‘The Spiral Path’ (+ Giveaway!)

Lisa Paitz Spindler is a science fiction author, web designer, blogger, and pop culture geek. Her debut space opera novella, The Spiral Path, will be released March 28, 2011 from Carina Press. In addition to contributing book reviews and television recaps to SF Signal, she also maintains the Danger Gal Blog hosted by her alter ego, Danger Gal, whose stiletto heels are licensed weapons and whose ninja stars travel faster than light. Lisa, however, gets through each day on caffeine and science blogs. Lisa can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.


SF SIGNAL: Hi, Lisa. Congratulations on your first novel, The Spiral Path! Tell us what it’s about.

LISA PAITZ SPINDLER: The Spiral Path is the story of two Earth-like dimensions and the impact on their societies upon discovering one another. It’s also a reunion love story. The two main characters, Lara Soto and Mitch Yoshida, were involved eleven years prior to when the story begins, but their relationship blew apart when the discrimination against Chimerans spiraled out of control. Lara is a Chimeran – those rare few born with a parent from each dimension. Both sides see Chimerans more as tools than people, and when the Star Union buckled down on them, Lara started a mass exodus of her kind to build a colony of their own. Their lives collide again when Lara’s brother goes missing and they have to join forces to find him – and dredge up all of their issues once again. In addition to some fun science underpinnings and a moving love story, I hope readers will also enjoy reading about three strong women: Lara Soto, her second-in-command Camryn Rossa, and a third I think readers will find deliciously creepy.

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REVIEW: Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear

REVIEW SUMMARY: A good mystery and a good payoff, but suffers from pacing issues.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A man awakens on a malfunctioning spaceship with no memory and must unravel the mystery of his identity and the ship’s true mission.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: The true purpose of the ship, once revealed, is intriguing and raises moral and ethical questions; good horror elements.

CONS: Indistinct characters; what’s really going on is revealed too slowly.

BOTTOM LINE: I would have loved to have seen the slowly-revealed thought-provoking premises exposed earlier and explored more thoroughly.

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TOC: ‘Vampires: The Recent Undead’ Edited by Paula Guran

Editor Paula Guran has posted the table of contents of her new anthology from Prime Books: Vampires: The Recent Undead. Here’s the book description…

The undead are more alive today than ever. Immortal? Indeed! Nothing has sunk its teeth into twenty-first century popular culture as pervasively as the vampire. The fangsters have the freedom to fly across all genres and all mediums – there’s even apps for vamps. Whether roaming into romance, haunting horror, sneaking into science fiction, capering into humor, meandering through mystery – no icon is more versatile than the vampire. Slack your insatiable thirst with the best sanguinary stories of the new millennium: terrifying or tender, deadly or delicious, bad-ass or beneficent, classic or cutting-edge.

…and the table of contents which sports a nice lineup:

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Trailer: The Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas is a classic story that follows the adventures of d’Artagnen as he teams up with the eponymous Musketeers: Athos, Porthos and Aramis. Now, I’ve never been a fan of the idea of the Musketeers, I’ve never read the book and even the cartoon during The Banana Splits was only mildly interesting to me. I now know why Dumas’ work never caught my attention, it was missing something. Something that the new 3D movie The Three Musketeers has almost right off the bat in the following trailer: steampunk assassins. Plus, airships, dragon flame throwers and gatling cannons.

Here’s the scoop:

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SF Tidbits for 3/29/11


Interviews/Profiles

News

Articles

Art

More Fun Stuff

Want More? See SF Signal’s Twitter and Facebook pages for additional tidbits not posted here!

WINNERS: The Lens And The Looker Giveaway

The winners of the The Lens and Looker contest are:

  • Ashley W. from New York.

  • Daniel M. from Massachusetts.
  • Juan J. from Florida.


The winners have been notified and the books will be on their way shortly. Congratulations to our winners and thanks to all who sent in entries!

Catching Up on SciFi Movies (Part 15)

As I’ve done before, here are my quick takes on the genre-related films I’ve watched in the last several weeks.

Quick thoughts follow…

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The SF Signal Podcast (Episode 037): Who Are The ‘Big Three’ Female Science Fiction Authors?

In episode 37 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester asks the panel:

Q: Which 3 female authors had the same impact on science fiction as the “big three”: Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clark and Robert A. Heinlein?

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Books Received: March 28, 2011

In the interest of full disclosure, here are the items we received this week.

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GIVEAWAY REMINDER: Win an eBook Copy of ‘Keepsakes’ by Mike Resnick

There is still some time left to enter our Keepsakes by Mike Resnick eBook giveaway, but hurry!

See the original post for details on how to enter.