SF as the only significant literature

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Wed Jan 19 12:55:55 EST 2005

Devra wrote:

>        In this instance, I must paraphrase a comment by Isaac Asimov, spoken
>at a MLA meeting, and repeated to me by Ruth Berman:
>     All science fiction is true, because all science fiction says, 'Tomorrow
>MAY be different.'
>     Yuppers.

I think that may be a fallacy.  "All science fiction _contains truth_,
because all science fiction says, 'Tomorrow MAY be different.'," maybe.
"_is true_", I can't quite go along with.

What about SF that simply gets it factually wrong?  If an SF story relies
on something about the science of genetics that was believed at the time it
was written to be fact, but has since been shown to be incorrect, is it
still true?  What about stuff that specifically dates a story in the year
2000, but relies on the population of the world at that time as being in
the tens or hundreds of billions, which it simply wasn't?

All SF might suggest that tomorrow MAY be different -- though I beg to
differ on this view, because an awful lot of SF, particularly early SF,
depicts things pretty much the same as any time in history, with for
instance what amounts to just the Wild West in space, with different ways
of killing anyone or anything who/that isn't wearing a White Hat, or to
very oldfangled commonplace xenophobic silliness about how anything that
arrives near where we live (Terra) is bound to want to steal our land, eat
us, rape our wimminfolk, and generally be deserving of slaughter with a
Cunning New Death Ray that Our Hero whops up in his Lab; this seems to me
to be just the same mistakes in a slightly different context.

On the subject line: Even granting that all SF is significant, not all that
is significant is SF.  In order to make this right, one has to stretch the
definition of SF to the point at which it becomes a meaningless definition,
on account of including *everything*.  If SF stands for "speculative
fiction", one might claim that *all* fiction is speculative, I suppose, but
what's the point?

Is "The Curious Incident of the Dog" SF?

If it is not, is it then debarred from having any significance?

Significance to whom?

Is any DWJ that is not SF without significance?  To anybody?

What are we doing here?


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