Symbolism and Controversy

In the wake of a recent post at Fifthwind Forums where I invited controversy about personal opinion and controversy in genre fiction, I’ve been doing some general reading about the opinion of controversial f/sf.

From Jim Minz at SF Signal: Mindmeld, the following quote probably sums up my general opinion about as well as anything I’ve seen.

Certainly, SF has been tackling a number of potentially controversial issues that we as a society are only beginning to explore (e.g.the ethical implications of genetic engineering, which has been the stuff of sf for decades, but has barely begun to be explored legally and ethically on a practical basis), but I don’t see it as controversial. I see it as SF fulfilling its role of exploring ideas, creating fictionalized thought experiments that also entertain. In fact, there isn’t a work mentioned here that I truly consider controversial. Brilliant, inspiring, troubling, or any number of other adjectives, certainly. But I don’t consider them controversial, and that’s the question: What do I consider the most controversial. (No wonder I was unimpressed with “Rent”.)

Yes. Precisely. Although I think that Fantasy has as much of a reason to be exploring controversy too! Gritty themes don’t just belong in Science-Fiction, thankyouverymuch.

Minz:

So perhaps I have the wrong idea. Maybe SF should be all about controversy. How dare we explore ideas. How dare we create new worlds out of our own imagination. Somebody call CNN, we’ve got some freethinkers around here. Isn’t the US government against freethinkers?

Wait a minute, I know: Anybody out there want to introduce me to a cute dragon?

These two genres give the ability to explore anything we damn well want to. Abortion? Civil war? Old religions resurfacing? Stem-cell research? Yes please.

Should a book preach about the author’s opinion? I’d rather not read that thank you. Presented well? All over that!

When I wrote Red Sun, I explored the concept of old gods returning* as real–if diminished–entities, civil war**, and ethics*** in government. It wasn’t proper science-fiction in any form, it wasn’t really fantasy. Firmly speculative, and if I ever get around to rewriting it, possibly the only things remaining will be the themes and a few characters. I botched the writing itself badly, and so it does come across as preachy.

Inherent’s themes are softer, less opinionated. They are certainly still there. In fact, there’s a strong focus on the changing of faith from a female-led spirituality to a male-dominated religion. There’s the idea of *GASP* political and religious leaders taking responsibility for their actions. But it takes a backseat to the story itself.

I haven’t had a chance to read some of the classics of controversial genre yet. That’s the downside of used bookstores, often they don’t have the really great books. I did read Atwood’s The Handmaiden’s Tale and a couple of others, and the themes in them were a welcome change to a bucketload of mindless entertainment.

Commercial fiction is well and good. But true, literary science-fiction and fantasy is all too rare, and I’d personally love to see more.

*I started Red Sun long before I actually got plugged into the worlds of alternative religion. Now it strikes me as amusing, because that is a popular opinion of where we’re headed…Well, popular in conservative religion, which seems to be concerned about the future of every religion but itself.

**And I got the shock of a lifetime when I started seeing the murmurs about civil war rather than a “black, Muslim, socialist president.” Almost as bad as the gas crisis that hit AS I was writing about the first sign of America’s collapse being a fuel crisis.

***Ethics in government? Now, THAT’S fantasy. I should know better.

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