Letter From The Editor - Issue 68 - April 2019

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Issue 2 -
The Yazoo Queen
by Orson Scott Card
Salt of Judas
by Eric James Stone
The Mooncalfe
by David Farland
by Ty Franck
I Am the Queen
by William Saxton
by Al Sarrantonio
by Scott D. Danielson
From the Ender Saga
Pretty Boy
by Orson Scott Card
Audio Bonus
Middle Woman
Read by Mary Robinette Kowal
On Science Fiction and Fantasy
by Holly Lawford-Smith
Column - I Screen the Body Eclectic
Special Software Bonus
I-Wei's Amazing Clocks
by I-Wei Huang

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On Science Fiction and Fantasy
    by Holly Lawford-Smith

A topic in the Philosophy of Literature. This dissertation came out of a frustration with the vast array of literary criticism rising up in defense of both Science Fiction and Fantasy without ever mentioning who or what necessitated such a defense. The central concern of this dissertation is in presenting arguments against either genre, including arguments that charge Science Fiction with blatant agenda-pushing, and Fantasy with being indefensibly escapist in nature. Although the focus of this paper will be on presenting and considering the plausibility of such arguments, there will also be limited time granted to constructing my own defense of both genres, in which I argue that it is in reference to thematic concerns about the human condition that both Science Fiction and Fantasy are able to overcome the charge of escapism.

A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of a Bachelor of Arts with Honours at the University of Otago on November 1st, 2005.

Charles Pigden (my 1st supervisor, for all the brilliant help and advice and his endless patience with my over-exuberance and tolerating my slander of Isaac Asimov), Colin Cheyne (my 2nd supervisor, for all the brilliant help and advice, for introducing me to Ray Bradbury’s stories, and for insisting that I “re-write those involuted sentences into ENGLISH”), David Ward (for Kant, which can be applied to almost anything, and for all the helpful conversations and ideas) and James MacLaurin (for suggesting Pascal Boyer and thus giving me an empirical ground for one of my claims), Steven Sue and Ian Lawson (for talking me through my metaphysical conundrums), Nicholas Munn (who yelled me deeper into my metaphysical conundrums, but for being my most-widely-read-in-Science-Fiction-and-Fantasy friend), Emily Gill (for lending me the Philip Pullman books), Paul Hunt (for the hint about ‘formula writers’), everyone who read my paper on Philosophy for Children which came out of this dissertation and made helpful comments and suggestions (David Ward, James MacLaurin, Colin Cheyne, Steven Sue and Ian Lawson), and in general the entire Philosophy Department at the University of Otago for being fun and brilliant and providing a stimulating and challenging place to work and learn.

1. Introduction
2. The Value of Literature
3. Defining the Genres
          3.1. Science Fiction
          3.2. Fantasy
4. The Arguments
          4.1. Arguments against Science Fiction
                    4.1.1. Science Fiction as Scientistic
                    4.1.2. Science Fiction’s Focus on Externalization
                    4.1.3. Science Fiction as Science, not Fiction
                    4.1.4. Compensation and Embarrassment
          4.2. The Argument against Fantasy
                    4.2.1. Fantasy as Escapism
          4.3. Summary of Arguments against Science Fiction
          4.4. Summary of the Argument against Fantasy
5. Counter-Objections and Defense
          5.1. Defending Science Fiction
                    5.1.1. But First, a Concession to the Critics
                    5.1.2. A Narrow Reading?
                    5.1.3. Science Fiction as Fiction, not Science
                    5.1.4. Science Fiction and the Human Condition
                    5.1.5. Arguments and Thought-Experiments, Science and Fiction
          5.2. Defending Fantasy
                    5.2.1. Priestley’s Iceberg
                    5.2.2. Fantasy (and Science Fiction) and the Other
                    5.2.3. Fantasy Gone Stale?
          5.3. A Final Defense of Both Science Fiction and Fantasy
6. An Empirical Application: Science Fiction and Fantasy in Education
7. Conclusion
8. Bibliography

1. Introduction

I have always been aware that something very significant can be gained from human engagement with fiction. Undoubtedly there is good and bad fiction, as there is good and bad in every artistic field. We all have our preferences – in fiction between genres such as Adventure, Crime and Mystery, Fantasy, Horror, Human Relations, Historical Fiction, Romance and Science Fiction. Unavoidably, where there is fiction, there is literary criticism. In his article “It’s Only A Paper Moon: Fantasy and the Professors”, Frank McConnell points out the curious culture of the literary criticism with which we engage. He makes explicit the incongruous fact that ‘we congratulate ourselves on what we do not like more strenuously than we prize what we appreciate’. Footnote This culture of taking pride in devaluing work we do not like, of devoting time to negative criticism rather than to explicating the positive elements of work we appreciate, is a culture that has had severe effects not only on particular pieces of fiction but also on whole genres. My concern lies with the genres of Science Fiction and Fantasy, which reside in a marginalized position within the literary field. In recent years, after learning more about the Philosophy of Literature and looking into the reasons for our supposing literature (and fiction in general) to hold some necessary significance for our lives, the fact that some genres are held in both public and academic esteem to be somehow ‘lesser’ began to puzzle me. What is it about Science Fiction and Fantasy that disallows their being held in high esteem? Perhaps there is a sociological reason: maybe readers of Science Fiction or Fantasy gain from their reading some identifiable character traits which make them less successful or effective in their everyday lives? Or perhaps there is something about these genres that does not conform to the most well-established theories about what good fiction is or should be?

Our exploration will begin by presenting some of the most well-established theories of the value of literature. We will then go on to attempt to loosely define the parameters of both Science Fiction and Fantasy as literary genres, before looking in greater detail at the arguments (and, surprisingly, the lack of arguments) waged against them. Once we have established the main arguments against each we will be able to go on to decide whether the arguments, against whole genres, are strong enough to deny individual works of Science Fiction or Fantasy the status usually accorded to great works of fiction in other genres.

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