12 November 2003

Back From the Con and Ready to Party
Or, as Jack might say, "I'm baaaaaaaaack!"

   Rather an interesting little get-together this past weekend in Chicago. One of the (many, indeed countless) sins of my misspent youth—no wisecracks about the Cretaceous Era, please—is an appreciation for speculative fiction on the literary level. What's speculative fiction? Well, to quote one of my clients…

[W]hen we get right down to the blood and bones, the beginning of speculative fiction was the first Cro-Magnon who imagined what it was out there snuffling around in the darkness just beyond his fire. If he envisioned it as having nine heads, bee-faceted eyes, fire-breathing jaws, sneakers and a tattersall vest, he was creating speculative fiction. If he saw it as a mountain lion, he was probably just au courant, and he doesn't count. Besides, he was chicken.

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[S]peculative fiction (notice how I cleverly avoid using the misnomer "science fiction"? getting the message, friends? you've bought one of those s——e f——n anthologies and didn't even know it! well you've blown your bread, so you might as well hang around and get educated) is the most fertile ground for the growth of a writing talent without boundaries, with horizons that seem never to get any closer.

Harlan Ellison, "Introduction: Thirty-two Soothsayers," in Dangerous Visions (1967).

   That includes everything from Star Trek to Tolkein, and a helluva lot between, around, over, and through. If it's good enough for Saramago, Orwell, Garcia Marquez, Cervantes, Swift, and Le Guin, it's good enough to be taken seriously. After all, "mainstream" fiction includes such wonderful examples as this one and this one (I don't want searchable references to this dreck), so "inherent quality" can't possibly be the issue. Maybe too many lit'rary folk are just chicken…