A Tunnel in the Sky

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Why SF?


First of all, I want to explain my predominate use of the term SF, as opposed to science fiction or ~ shudder ~ "sci-fi." I realize that most people who use the term "sci-fi" do not mean it in any negative way, but I come from an era in SF readership where that appellation was reserved for the inconsequential and far less serious aspects of the genre, most especially films and television shows, the vast majority of which never captured the true essence of literary SF. Critic Susan Wood suggested the term should be pronounced "skiffy" in order to segregate those less deserving works from the rest of the genre. SF itself is an all-encompassing term that can mean different things at different times; science fiction, science fantasy, or the most appropriate description of all, speculative fiction, the term preferred by such disparate writers as Robert A. Heinlein and Harlan Ellison.

But why SF at all? Why not mysteries or crime fiction, or horror, or westerns for that matter? Simply because I feel SF is the most meaningful form of literature in the world today, as it has been for over a hundred years (don't forget Verne and Wells). It can point the way to a grander future or else warn us of impending catastrophes based on current trends. A truly gifted SF writer can utilize all of the narrative techniques available and fashion a story that resonates with hope and expectation for the glories ahead. Most especially SF is the literature of ideas even more than it is of technological change.

Almost all of the authors whose work I will examine on this site are primarily science fiction writers although I will occassionally highlight some whose venue is pure fantasy. [EDIT: I'm reading more fantasy now since it seems to be as popular as SF, if not more so.] Of course I do occasional reading outside the genre, but not that often and it rarely pleases me as a good SF novel or short story can. Even the more mainstream authors I enjoy exhibit quite a bit of imaginative imagery in their work. Kurt Vonnegut was once considered an SF writer until he made the conscious effort to distance himself from the "ghetto." Thomas Pynchon, Tom Robbins, Jerzy Kosinski, Russell Hoban, John Barth, Thomas Berger, and Joyce Carol Oates have all written their fair share of fantastic works although I don't believe anyone would classify them as SF. The only distinction I make in the books I prefer is that they be well written and of sufficient originality, with believable and sympathetic characters. I hope I will be able to convey just a small bit of the majesty the genre has to offer, and I suspect many of the writers I will examine will be unknown to all but the staunchest of SF fans. It will probably be apparent that my interests lie more with the classics of the field rather than more contemporary works, but hopefully I will be able to embrace some of the newer voices in the very near future. Be patient though, as my work occupies many hours of my time. I will update with other entries as often as I can.

Until then, happy reading everyone!


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