In response to my last post, a lot of people talked about football. This is my fault for using dirty analogies. Over at Torque Control, though, Niall asked, “what’s so bad about sticking up for your crowd against playground bullies?” He of course missed out ‘the other’ from that sentence. My original point was not just that SF is bullied, but that it also bullies. Or rather, that any community sufficiently full of itself will.
What I’ll always hope for is a way in which critics can take a genre piece, examine the way it interacts with that genre, and then fold out a sufficiently decent work into other traditions – even, dare I suggest it, beyond them. Genre is a tool rather than a toolbox – focusing too much on a work’s generic component will inevitably weaken criticism, or leave it hectoring to fellow hectorers. Which is cool, if that’s what you like.
I’m just reading Tristram Shandy, an eighteenth century novel saved from the blustering self-importance of its century by taking blustering self-importance to stratospheric comic heights. It also includes the best bit of sensawunda I’ve felt all year:
In the planet Mercury […] the intense heat of the country, which is proved by computators, from its vicinity to the sun, to be more than equal to that of red hot iron, – must, I think, long ago have vitrified the bodies of the inhabitants, (as the efficient cause) to suit them for the climate (which is the final cause); so that, betwixt them both, all the tenements of their souls, from top to bottom, may be nothing else, for aught the soundest philosophy can shew to the contrary, but one fine transparent body of clear glass (bating the umbilical knot); – so, that till the inhabitants grow old and terribly wrinkled, whereby the rays of light, in passing through them, become so monstrously refracted, – or return reflected from their surfaces in such transverse lines to the eye, that a man cannot be seen thro’; – his soul might as well, unless, for more ceremy, – or the trifling advantage which the umbilical point gave her, – might, upon all other accounts, I say, play the fool out o’ doors as in her own house.
Lovely. And Sterne was not, I think, ever a Worldcon Guest of Honour.