Ven ven at vvcrane.junglelink.co.uk
Sat Aug 26 20:26:39 EDT 2000

> Date: Wed, 23 Aug 2000 14:55:19 +0100 (BST)
> From: Tanaqui <tweaver at imbolc.ucc.ie>
> Subject: godshatter
> Ven:
> + area of dangerously out of control nano- and bio- tech called the 
> + Blight. 
> Have you read _A Fire Upon the Deep_? The practice of godshatter is
> definitely fantastical in Clarke's science-sufficiently-advanced way.
> As is the Blight, slightly beyond our human grasp, although we can "wake" it.
> Your post also brought to mind Ian McDonald's _Hearts, Hands and Voices_ 
> and _Chaga_, with the transformative wild-life-tech landscape. A faint frisson
> from _The Unconquered Country_ is probably not justifiable.
> + Basically its a place of dangerous transformation, where 
> + nothing can be trusted to be as it seems. So I have the landscapse 
> + as integral to plot stuff. 
> Yup.
Tanaqui, you're spot on with the things I've been reading, though its 
so long since I read the Unconquered Country I can't remember if 
your frisson is justified either! 

> + However as soon as I decided I was using a planet as my setting everything 
> + changed and it became undeniably science fiction.
> Um, er, why? If you thought through the mechanics to a point where everything
> was logically integrated and had a scientific rationale, fair enough. I am,
> however, going to argue with your grounds |-) on this:
Why is actually what I've been trying to work out. I was talking on a 
personal level here, about my own attitude change (or paradigm 
> + Fantasies may be set on planets, obviously, its something to do 
> + with what the people in the world know of that world. Once there's 
> + the idea of spinning through space around a sun the world is finite 
> + and knowable. Its a different paradigm (meta model), not at odds 
> + with fantasy,  just with high fantasy. This is probably very relevant 
> + to the subject that started all this off --   
> + the role of universities in fantasy.

One of the major diferences that the planetary setting/high 
technology made was in the knowledge base available to the 
players, and the knowledge base they were going to expect me to 
give them. In a fantasy setting, especially high fantasy its a lot 
easier to be mysterious. I was going to have to give them frequently 
updated satellite photos of the Blight for example.
I have a list of academic book titles about it to give them. I was 
going to need to have a good excuse not to answer reasonable 
questions. "Nobody knows" was not going to be a sufficient answer.
> How does Ursula Le Guin's work fit with this idea? She starts messing with the
> SF/Fantasy interface in _Rocannon's World_, where the fantastical novella 
> "Semley's Necklace" relies on science-sufficiently-advanced to add depth. Is 
> the story of the lost, peculiarly unaged, heiress and her necklace made less
> fantastical because we understand time-dilation as the Angyar hilfs do not? 
> Le Guin makes the interaction ever more ambiguous: in _The Pathways of Desire_,
> the anthropologists' nightmare world turns out to be stuck in a teenage rut
> for a rather scary internalised reason... although the anthropologists have
> gone out to that place in starships not gone into it with psycho-analysis.
> This ambiguity of SF objective reality with fantastical subjective reality
> is redrawn with the three stories about the churten principle which make up
> the bulk of the most recent collection _A Fisherman of the Inland Sea_. If
> you travel consensually, do you create your destination among yourselves?
> + These are ideas in desperate need of feedback, very much IMHO.
> Can't resist... 

My answer to this bit comes down very much to definitions and I'm 
afraid becomes tautologous: Whether these  works by LeGuin are 
fantasy I don't regard them as high fantasy. But as I've already said 
high fantasy doesn't happen on planets thats not worth 

> On topic, _Tale of Time City_ has SF elements and has often been linked with
> the more overtly fantastical _Hexwood_ in some sort of SF-fantasy class war, 
> but I don't quite see this. OK, so Hexwood contains magical fields and dragons
> and knights, but also a robot and a machine's field and a battle over control 
> of a galaxy-spanning commerical transport/trade empire. Do the explanations of
> ghosts in Time City explain them away scientifically? I think not. And Faber
> John keeps reminding me of the line "there were giants in the earth in those
> days". It's very difficult to segregate the sensible mind-magic in DWJ from
> SF, which covers the possible as well as the practicable... OK, so it's plain
> witchiness in _Wilkin's Tooth_, but the planned efforts of the Ring and the
> Magids are very principled.
> I need a good working definition of fantasy, which I would probably peg to
> magic and that would leave SF scraping the scientific-method barrel. hmm.
> Now, if I can just figure out if _The Child Garden_ is SF or fantasy...
> Tanaqui  

Have you ever tried to divide your books into separate SF and 
fantasy sections or been in a bookshop which has? Its a futile and 
absurd exercise. You know there's a difference but the sets 
intersect too much and you end up with a huge pile of books in the 

There follows a gratuitous list of books in the middle:

Gene Wolfe "New Sun, Long Sun and Short Sun" series

Michael Swanwick "The Iron Dragon's Daughter"

Steven Brust "Vlad Taltos" series -- at least so I strongly suspect.

Samuel R Delany "The Einstein Intersection aka A Fabulous 
Formless Darkness"

Some CJ Cherryh

I have a couple of books of criticism by Ursula Leguin, I'll have to 
see what she has to say.

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