Now for something fascinating having to do with writing. I just saw this lecture by China Mieville, who I feel is one of the most interesting writers working today. He’s tackling a subject I’ve chewed over quite a lot—the distinction between SF and Fantasy and the theoretical arguments about SF exceptionalism. I have some quibbles, but I would love to sit down with this guy and hash this through, because, to my ear, he’s exactly where I’ve been in terms of what to look at when talking about this.
I don’t disagree with a single critical element he brings up—and, as he points out, none of what he brings up is particularly new.
One quibble I have is a minor historical point, and this may be a result of my arrival in the genre as a potential practitioner at a time in which advocates of Fantasy were the ones making the grand argument that science fiction was “merely” a subgenre of fantasy—a claim many SF writers (and readers) took loud exception to. Fantasy was gaining ground then in the market and was shoving SF aside as the apparent preferred genre of fantastic literature and was basking in its ascendancy and making claims about how the two really weren’t any different. (Interesting that Darko Suvin’s assertions were published in 1979, about the time this argument was being made most forcefully, a few years before the market reflected the preference of Fantasy over SF.)
For my part, aside from matters of taste, I’ve never really argued that SF is “better” than Fantasy, at least not in any theoretical sense. Only different. I’ve found most examples of hybrids problematic at best, absurd at worst, because of—as Mieville points out—the ideological underpinnings informing them as genres. So the only reason I have ever had a dog in that hunt came from the assertion made by Fantasy advocates about SF being a sub-form and, occasionally, inferior (sometimes by virtue of being hypocritical, sometimes by virtue of an embarrassing specificity).
(As a personal observation, I find I prefer reading SF and find it very difficult to read Fantasy. However, I can watch Fantasy easily and pleasurably. Only when the quite different faculties employed in reading come into play do I find most Fantasy simply unappealing.)
Anyway, I’d like to offer the video above. I found it quite fascinating and lucid and I agreed with about 90% of it.