kaigou: this is what I do, darling (3 something incredible)
[personal profile] kaigou
An intriguing, somewhat ambivalent, essay by a [male] Harvard professor: "My Life as a Girl".

Worth reading: Advertising: the Real Reason Women Wear Provocative Clothes.

A short essay from Guy Gavriel Kay, "Home and Away", about why he writes historical fantasy and not historical fiction.

Last, an excerpt from Mike's Review of Amanda Downum's The Bone Palace, about fantasy versus science fiction.
I was struck [by] how much nostalgia is coin of the realm [in fantasy]. Not just in the return to tropes of feudal society, a fetishized love of the baroque hierarchies of bloodline and class systems, or the reliance on tropes of wizardry, swordplay, medieval ordnance, etc.... ...Fantasy novels romanticize the past. But note the definite article there--"the" Past, as a concept, an Idea/l--which is separated from, even utterly disavowing, history. Sure, characters go on and on about who did what in which battle, or how so and so came from so and so's bloodline, but such historicizing is not about causes, or the way different factors alter historical outcomes. Instead, it's all destiny, Quest, fate, blood. There is a fixity to what happened, and thus--I'd argue--to what will happen. I'm being vague, so let me trace a counterpoint.

Science fiction, on the other hand... romanticizes the future, sure, but it does so to reveal and engage an historical consciousness. (H/t to Frederic Jameson...) Whatever future is outlined, the genre conventions are to untangle and examine the conditions which led to this new future--changes in tech, or species interactions, or.... you name it--the future is extrapolated extravagantly to reveal how such conditions (environment, biology, commerce, technology) alter culture and society.

In fantasy, the tropes of Identity, Family, Character are echoed in what happens. But in science fiction, History has the upperhand, and changes/alters identities, families, character.

The comments are worth reading. I may be giving the wrong impression with the quote, but Mike doesn't seem to be positing a theory or an explanation so much as thinking out loud. Not really something to argue with, that is, so much as to use as a jumping-off point for own thoughts.

I've been pondering the tropes he outlined, and thinking of how they (most often) show up. One would be the use of prophecy in a story, especially when the prophecy is tied to a bloodline. (A child of this family or that heritage, with such-and-such a destiny identified often early in life, if not at birth.) I seem to recall debates somewhere over whether Dune is science fiction or fantasy, and that like Star Wars it's really a fantasy masquerading as a space opera. Given that Dune does pivot on the notion of whats-his-face fulfilling a longstanding prophecy, I guess that would be a fantasy trope. I can't think of any full-on SF stories with heritage-based prophecies being a pivotal point, but it's not like I've read all the SF out there.

Thoughts?

Date: 23 Oct 2012 07:50 am (UTC)
soukup: fancy monarch wings (monarch)
From: [personal profile] soukup
How about Battlestar Galactica? There were certainly some fantasy elements (mostly to do with the religion stuff -- God/gods, prophecy, divine plan, etc etc), but there's a strong element of SF in the Cylons and the whole AI theme.

Of course, the prophecy and the divine plan seem to have nothing to do with heritage, unless you count the divinely enforced Cylon/human cooperation. But the way the prophecy unfolds strikes me as very fantasyish -- it involves a priest, portentous dreams, and a magical sacred arrow that opens a magical sacred tomb (with all kinds of cool magical effects) on a cursed planet that kills its visitors. And if religious themes count toward fantasy, the whole divine plan thing definitely makes it in as fantasy, too.

(Also, it's interesting how the series seems to fall right in the middle with regard to being set in the future versus the past. The circularity of time is a major theme, and though the whole setting seems very futuristic, at the very end it's revealed that the series is set hundreds of thousands of years before our own time, when homo sapiens sapiens was just diverging.)

Date: 24 Oct 2012 12:07 am (UTC)
soukup: Kodama from Mononoke-hime (Default)
From: [personal profile] soukup
It's just a matter of the role that religion plays -- as a cultural force versus as a determiner.

I completely hear you on this, and I agree that the religious stuff is fantasy. But the AI thing still feels pretty scifi to me -- it's all about robots who have feelings, and who hvae a really complex culture that's very different from the human one, and all sorts of knotty moral questions that arise from human/cylon interactions and history. The cylons have a very different system of reproduction, and a sort of hive mind thing going on, and they can't "die" as such, and as a result of all of this they have very different mores surrounding sex, leadership and decision-making, and very different attitudes toward death. Each culture (human and cylon) learns a lot from the other, and they both change a lot through that contact. The show gives us quite a lot of information about the cylon perspective and culture, and it all seems fairly substantially scifi-y, in my eyes. There was another made-for-television movie, The Plan, which was done from the cylon POV and spent even more time exploring their culture and feelings about the conflict and about humanity.

I forgot to say earlier, thanks for the links! I especially loved the first one, "My Life as a Girl."

Date: 23 Oct 2012 10:45 am (UTC)
thistleburr: Snake giving a thumbs-up and smoking his cig. Because there are lasers! (smoking snake)
From: [personal profile] thistleburr
Just off the top of my head, both Star Trek (DS9) and Doctor Who use prophecy in their storylines.

Date: 23 Oct 2012 05:27 pm (UTC)
thistleburr: Snake giving a thumbs-up and smoking his cig. Because there are lasers! (smoking snake)
From: [personal profile] thistleburr
I don't know. To me it kinda seems like you're taking anything that's sci fi that doesn't fit your criteria and calling it "not sci fi." I would call Doctor Who and Star Trek pretty solidly sci fi.

Date: 26 Oct 2012 01:31 pm (UTC)
mediumrawr: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mediumrawr
I don't think that Dune or Star Wars is "fantasy masquerading as a space opera." That they use prophecy hardly differentiates them from other science fiction stories, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Doctor Who, Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica, elements of Ender's Game...

Some of fantasy's subgenres overlap in their dramatic elements with some of science fiction's subgenres. High fantasy tends to look a lot like hard or military sci-fi. Space opera tends to look a lot like sword and sorcery. Low fantasy and cyberpunk have some elements in common.

I think the reviewer mentally cherry-picks science fiction stories which happen to meet one definition and fantasy stories which happen to meet a second and then uses them to make an argument about both genres in general, and I don't think that's merited.

I think that he ends up stretching the meanings of the words he chooses too far. Every argument against it is rebutted by "No, the words aren't meant like that." That serves no one - not to win the argument and not to get anything intellectual out of it in the process.

If he wants to have a more productive conversation along these lines, he could simply substitute "character-driven genre fiction" and "culture-driven genre fiction" and everyone would know more what he was talking about, without having to try to redefine words that are already working perfectly well for some other purpose.

whois

kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
锴 angry fishtrap 狗

to remember

"When you make the finding yourself— even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light— you'll never forget it." —Carl Sagan

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