Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Nalo H. defends Mundane SF for us (important update/distinction)

Posted by Trent Walters at 1:31 AM
Thu - December 9, 2004, Helen Merrick writes:
"only one woman on their list of potential mundane sf writers."

Helen is more than welcome to find as many stories by the female hand as possible. Most of the names are recollections of those who might have something fairly translatable into Mundane SF (the side bar does say "pending further review," meaning new authors will be added, others subtracted as data arrives, so the list is hardly comprehensive and any help would be greatly appreciated). Mentally pondering her list of writers on her website, I can recall Gwyneth Jones' "Red Sonja and Lessingham in Dreamland" as being Mundane.

On the other hand, it's a little duplicitous to complain of only one female on our list (now two) when that person complaining consciously chose to list only females on hers, which isn't a problem until you start critiquing other people's lists.

She goes on:
"And what happens to considerations of race, gender, sexuality, in fact otherness in general if you're not 'allowed' to have aliens?"

You mean you can't address the issue head-on? But Nalo H. took the words right out of my mouth:
"well, we could use the humans we have now who are already 'othered' by virtue of their race, gender and sexuality. A lot of current SF feels as though it wants to escape the issue and make us invisible by substituting alien 'others.'"

Nalo understands the theory underlying a Mundane SF and some problems inherent in using SF tropes, used without thought about what that use might mean. Nalo understands without even reading the manifesto. What does that mean? Could it mean that only a few in SF are willing to peer into potential blind spots? Why not open them up and examine?

Helen continues:
"Not to mention how submitting to the constraints of current science and technology makes it difficult to also go beyond or critique the political and philosophical cultures of today's sciences."

UPDATE: Somehow I read this a number of times without noticing "constraints of current... technology." Technology is not contrained except if it's unreasonable to think that, for instance, the toaster oven you want to use in your future doubles as a matter transporter (just don't hit the wrong button before stepping inside). Wild yet reasonable technologies based on reasonable scientific extrapolations are warmly welcomed. Science, too, can be reasonably extrapolated out as climate scientists have already done, noting a definite change in temperature over the next hundred years. For another example of imaginative yet reasonable extrapolative science, scientists found that a chicken will behave like a pigeon with pigeon brain cells. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that a chicken with human brain cells will have the characteristics (but probably not intelligence) of a human. Consider how little development could be allowed within the same space. Although science says size doesn't matter, the differential in this case seems likely to affect the outcome. (According to P. Tom Schoenemann, size does matter--"It is quite simply a myth that brain size and IQ are empirically unrelated in modern populations." He lists articles that he says corroborate this idea. Assuming these articles to have appeared in bona fide peer-reviewed journals rather than in journals manufactured by scientists to further an agenda, certainly you can extrapolate some obvious yet interesting Mundane SF ideas from this, can't you?) Who says such constraints hamper the imagination rather than head-trippingly expanding the realism of our extrapolations? You have to have a little imagination in order to see all the imaginations possible in the SF of the probable.

Again, metaphors are wonderful, but that isn't the only way to write SF. Of course, you can still have metaphors and critique political and philosophical cultures, etc. while constrained by realistic possibilities. Take a second look at 1984, Brave New World, and so on. It seems we are beating our heads against imaginary genre walls for fear of reexamining what SF has been doing. Isn't it about time SF had a check-up? a re-evaluation of what it's been up to?

Let it be known that we do not mean to belittle. We also initially struggled with these concepts, hence the subtitle of this blog--"we will transform the way you think about SF." We know the way you think about SF will change because the way we think about SF has also changed. Except for the permanently closed-minds (and, even if you disagree with us, your staying long enough to understand shows that you are open-minded and willing to consider a new way of looking at SF), the statement is not hyperbole but based on our own experience.

Thanks for sticking with us to learn more.