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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: December 2010

21 - Science fiction: serious literature or low grade entertainment?


“Joanna how can you read that stuff? Garish covers, cheap production values, it's all so repetitive. Science fiction looks clever to an adolescent, especially when you start to learn science. I used to read it myself, but when you grow up, it all seems pretty immature!”

“David, you've used the right word; garish. The covers are brazen and they're saying ‘pick me up! Read me! Don't be afraid! Here are adventures!’ ”

“Exactly, they're just thrillers set in deep space or time. There are no real characters; they don't face any moral challenges.”

“That's so patronizing.” Joanna chucked her rather dog-eared paperback at him but missed. “Conventional literary stuff is not the point. Science fiction is about ideas, what will happen if certain technological breakthroughs occur, if different political or philosophical ideas are played out? All these future scenarios warn us about what might happen.”

“Oh yeah, well most of them seem to rely on scientists being put in charge and monkeying about with what it means to be human to make us susceptible to control. I don't much like solutions to our troubles that depend on having Strangeloves in charge with robots and ray guns. Proper literature teaches us about the human condition, solving human problems needs humanity not science.”

“OK.” Joanna suddenly grinned. “Is Doris Lessing a proper literary figure?”

“Silly question.” From David, “of course she is, she won the Nobel Prize for Literature.” […]

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