Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The shock of self-recognition

Reading Andy Sawyer's excellent essay 'Stanisław Lem - Who's He?' (in the very excellent collection of fiction and criticism, Lemistry (Comma Press 2011, ed. Ra Page & Magda Raczyńska), I was struck by the feeling that he was describing another Sf writer, rather closer to home:
To an extent, Lem is anti everything most science fiction stands for. There is no Gernsbackian optimism, no Campbellian foregrounding of the importance of the scientific method, none of the visionary hope of a Clarke or a Stapledon. ... [He believes] that whilst Science is about asking questions, attempting to describe the world and looking for answers, Literature on the other hand "may pose questions that have no answers. It may pose questions that are not understood or understandable." And both enterprises have elements of play. Which may, of course, be another reason hardcore SF writers are so offended by him: the man isn't taking our enterprise seriously! [266-67]
As if play isn't serious! As if irony isn't the truest form of seriousness. (Perhaps people mean: 'he isn't treating our enterprise with enough earnestness.' Or maybe, '... with enough respect!' I can see that a disrespectful seriousness might not appeal to some.
Rarely are there characters you want to follow ... his attacks on science fiction, whilst refreshing and welcome for those of us who are exasperated by the field's pretensions, are nevertheless uncomfortable for those of us who have a sneaking regard for unpretentious hackwork or big dumb objects.
Oh, bravo! Let us, as SF writers, become more Lemmy. In more than a 'singing Ace-of-Spades' sense.

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