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I don't hate "mundane" SF

Just wanted to get that out there. I realized something today:

I think there's a lot of positive aspects about the subgenre as defined: Being rigorous in the approach to writing SF, sticking to probable futures rather than improbable ones. In fact, it doesn't seem new to me: Wasn't the New Wave all about sticking to mundane themes? Haven't many SF authors been doing this all along? Just yesterday, Jim Gunn and I were discussing this, and he said, "Pretty much everything I write has fit the description of mundane SF."

What bothers me about the mundane-SF notion boils down to its perceived attitude that writers working in other subgenres of SF are being lazy or just tossing in existing tropes like confetti rather than using these elements to tell stories they can't tell using the mainstream (heretofore defined as "mundane") literary tropes of everyday life in the here-and-now.

Granted, many authors use SF tropes without thinking them through, using them only as stage-dressing (see Lucas as our tale's primary villain). But I don't think anyone in SF has been advocating that as a solid approach to writing. Certainly, the subgenre of hard SF has always strove (striven? *g*) to be rigorous and to test their theories before deploying them into fiction.

So the mundane-SFers seem to be setting up a straw-man argument. That's what bothers me about it.



( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 2nd, 2007 09:02 pm (UTC)
What bugs me most, frankly, is pretty shallow:

The word "mundane."

I know the main definition is "of this world," but the connotation and secondary definition is somewhat akin to "muggle" of Harry Potter fame - something lacking in magic and imagination. Who wants anything in the broad genre of SF/F to be lacking in imagination?

I can't get past it.
May. 2nd, 2007 09:36 pm (UTC)
Speaking of "Mundane's World"...
May. 2nd, 2007 09:41 pm (UTC)
Hee! I'll try to remember to leave it at your house tomorrow!
May. 2nd, 2007 09:44 pm (UTC)
Thank yew!
May. 2nd, 2007 09:10 pm (UTC)
I have been considering this a bit since you posted this originally. I wonder what the definition of mundane fantasy would be?

May. 2nd, 2007 09:27 pm (UTC)
Maybe something similar to Magical Realism? Which, although it contains magic and fantasy, concerns only things that the characters "realistically" believe in. Because it's in the realm of mostly Latin writers, most of the magic concerns Latin-American beliefs like the stigmata or La Llorona. With a more broad definition, perhaps that could be applied to the likes of Charles de Lint.
May. 2nd, 2007 09:51 pm (UTC)
Yes, I was wondering specifically about two very different works: ( The Haunting of the New by Ray Bradbury and Hippopotamus by Steven Fry.

...or Sock by Penn Jillett...


Juicy things to contemplate...
May. 2nd, 2007 09:39 pm (UTC)
As usual, I agree with tessagratton...Magical Realism. Tom Robbins is the best example of Magical Realism I can think of in American fiction. It's notable, however, that Magical Realism, as far as I can tell, doesn't set itself apart as a genre. It's an aspect of the literature--it doesn't define the literature.
May. 2nd, 2007 09:56 pm (UTC)
What straw man?

Actually, I've seen more negativity from SF toward Mundane SF than vice versa.

May. 3rd, 2007 04:34 am (UTC)
May. 3rd, 2007 04:37 am (UTC)
In addition-
May. 3rd, 2007 04:44 am (UTC)
This fails to answer the question. The question is not "What is a straw man?" but "What straw man [are you referring to]?"
May. 3rd, 2007 05:19 am (UTC)
The straw man to which I was referring is the archetypal SF author tossing tropes into his story willy-nilly, adding aliens just for fun, ignoring the scientific method, and neglecting to check facts.

The more I look into "mundane" SF theory, the more it sounds like cautious hard SF....
May. 3rd, 2007 07:47 pm (UTC)
I see what you're saying. You could call us a cautious Hard SF, although we don't think a writer has to stick with any .

Re: authors, we're just throwing SF in a pot and coming up with conclusions--so no particular author is under attack.

You know what? I just realized why you thought we were against space travel. That Calvin and Hobbes cartoon! I just meant to exaggerate--just as our position had been exaggerated (that way we hate to have fun, or whatnot).

Anyway, I can see you thinking, "They're against going to Mars?"

So I realize that almost all of these misunderstandings are based on unanticipated interpretations of subtext.
May. 3rd, 2007 07:52 pm (UTC)
"stick with any..."

hard science

Sorry there's a guy whistling in my ear at the cafe hear.
May. 3rd, 2007 08:00 pm (UTC)
based on unanticipated interpretations of subtext

- and the Wikipedia definition's proscription against space travel!
May. 3rd, 2007 08:06 pm (UTC)
Hmm. All I see is definitely against FTL, and probably against interstellar travel.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )