Friday, April 11, 2014

Well Said: I tend to read everything as SF.

Samuel R. Delaney has talked about the importance of reading protocols, and reading SF as SF. I tend to read everything as SF. ...

People talk about SF as a literature of ideas, as if you can't find ideas in Middlemarch or The Hunt for Red October. I don't think it's so much the literature of ideas as the literature of worldbuilding.

In a science fiction novel, the world is a character, and often the most important character.

In a mainstream novel, the world is implicitly our world, and the characters are the world.

In a mainstream novel trying to be SF, this gets peculiar and can make the reading experience uneven.
Jo Walton, What Makes This Book So Great
What Walton means by saying she reads everything as SF is that she is always aware of contextual clues that give her hints as to what the world in the book is like.

I, too, read everything as SF in that same way. Which makes Dickens and Eliot and all sorts of other authors much easier to dive into, let me tell you.

And Walton puts her finger on why I have never really cottoned to mainstream authors' "science fiction" books. I'm expecting science fiction and they're just donning the costume in order to deliver a different sort of book altogether.


  1. Oh. OH! Oh!

    Thank you! I just began Dostoyevsky's HOUSE OF THE DEAD (this has nothing to do with the attention spans of high school seniors this time of year...or maybe it does...), and, yes, of course! The prison camp is a character!


    1. I didn't expect to spark an epiphany with this quote, much less for a Russian novel, but if this is going to apply to any sort of "regular" literature Dostoyevsky makes perfect sense. If one could call Dostoyevsky "regular." :-)