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Sci-fi: Almost like literature!

Oh, this is lovely. A&E has done a Flash site to promote Lathe of Heaven, a movie adapted from the Ursula K Le Guin novel — and it includes this nauseatingly pandering little bit of analysis about the state of science fiction. This is typical of the sort of intellectual chicanery so greasily practiced by the culturati: Sci-fi is hemmed in by the “boundaries” of its “medium,” while, presumably, literary stuff is free to explore the true depths of humanity’s soul. Never mind the fact that a huge fraction of today’s literary fiction focuses almost exclusively on the emotional minigolf of upper-middle-class America, carefully cleaving to the existential anxieties of the Ivy-league twits who write the stuff, publish it, and, by and large, review it. The genre of “literary” fiction in this country is so rigid and inflexible that it might as well be haiku.

I love that little nod to Le Guin’s vast intellectual scope: “… many perceive her writing as veiled philosophy.” Well, sure. That’s what’s nice about sci-fi: It is the only literature of ideas we have left. It’s the only place in fiction where you’ll stilll find living, breathing philosophy. When’s the last time you read a mainstream novel that offered you a radical new idea about the way the world works? I’ll answer for you: “Pretty damn infrequently.” Maybe “never”.

(Thanks to Boing Boing for finding this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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