Genre prejudice

minnow at minnow at
Thu Jul 17 11:28:03 EDT 2003

Roger wrote:

>On Wed, Jul 16, 2003 at 10:19:05PM +0100, minnow at wrote:

[that it had been suggested that perhaps]

>>Literary Fiction is "What?" fiction: "what is the question [x]?".  Genre
>>Fiction is "What If?" fiction, in the main: "what if [x] is the question?".
>>Really fine-quality fiction (as being more than either of these) might be
>>called "What Then?" fiction: "Given the question [x] and a solution [y],
>>what then follows from that, where do things go thereafter?"

>As far as I'm concerned, speculative fiction (as a superclass of science
>fiction) is all about consequences: say we have body-swapping, or
>bionics, or a faster-than-light drive, or first contact with aliens:
>what happens next? I certainly see more of this sort of thing in SF than
>I do in other genres. Is your statement intended to be applied less
>literally than I am doing?

"the following was propounded in my presence" doesn't make it "my
statement", it makes it something put forward for consideration whilst I
was there -- play fair...

I *think* that "What If? and "speculative" may be much the same thing (at
least within the genre called "SF" or "Science Fiction" or (mostly by the
meedja) "SciFi".  So *any* "genre fiction" might be "speculative", insofar
as it poses the "What If?" question.  The reasons for calling what was
being talked about "What If" are [1] that the people discussing the ideas
knew full well that "SF=Speculative Fiction" is a known category, and it
didn't necessarily fit with what they wanted to say, because it limited the
thing to that genre, and [2] "What?", "What If?" and "What Then?" make a
pleasing sequence.  ("So What?" fiction was my addition, and I thought of
it as fitting in only whilst posting.)

It is possible that SF as a genre (whatever one takes the initials to stand
for) may have more examples of "What Then?" fiction than some other genres
do.  I wouldn't know, not having read all books.  But merely "what happens
as a result of having FTL travel/bionics/alien contact?" doesn't move the
thing beyond "What If?" to "What Then?", by the tentative definition being
suggested.  The "question" is "What about travel/bionics/alien contact?",
if you like, and the matter contained within the book is "then this is a
possible way of dealing with ('the/an answer to') that question."  Or so I
would think.

In any case, would it be fair to suggest that the *better* SF might move
from "What If?" to "What Then?", without muddying the waters by starting a
hare about "speculative" as defined in, or defining, or defined by, that
one particular genre?

(I will mix my metaphors if I want to, and hares can too muddy waters.  I
have never seen one try to do it, but I am going to assume it as a tenet of
faith.  Cattle can and do, after all, so why not hares?)


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