What is Science Fiction -- and what isn't?

pats, pans, and queries

What is Science Fiction -- and what isn't?

Postby ArnoKA on Wednesday, 27 November 2013, 7:28 am

I must have been ten or twelve, in 1945 or -46 when I became a SF fan, not knowing anything of these terms. I got E.R. Burroughs'
novel A Martian Princess as Christmas present (as a Finnish translation of course). I had read some Verne and Wells before,
not being very impressed. But for E.R.B. my age was just perfect. I had not known that anybody could write like that!

When I grew older, the magic of E.R.B. began soon to fade. And I realized how few and how lousy the Finnish translations were.
I taught myself to read English. I begun to be theoretically interesred. There was no net, nor fan clubs I knew about. But there
were magnificent books to obtain: William Atheling Jr. Damon Knight, Alexei Panshin . . .

I have a valuable book: *The Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction* by David Pringle, (Pharos Books 1990). The cover text says:
“DESCRIPTIONS, REVIEWS, AND RATINGS OF OVER 3,000 BOOKS!!!!!”, and for once it doesn’t lie. If you can find a copy, catch
it, bearing in mind that you don’t have to agree with Mr. Pringle’s ratings, which have a strong bias for British “New Wave” of 1960′s.

The books listed run from Classics like Verne and Wells up to late 1989. Leafing through the book you can see what a wide selection
was in classic times accepted as legitimate subgenres of SF.

Don't trust what the net tells you -- not even wikipedia! I am your window to the glorious past! Ask me!
ArnoKA
 
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Re: What is Science Fiction -- and what isn't?

Postby ArnoKA on Saturday, 30 November 2013, 4:49 am

Turning over the leaves of Mr. Pringle's above mentioned book I got a science-fictional jolt about Jack Vance's series Planet of Adventure.
Mr. Pringle calls Servants of the Wankh "unfortunately titled". Can any American reader tell why? Well, I will help.

To wank and the substantive wanker, in British slang mean to masturbate, and the masturbator, respectively. It surprises me that extensively traveled Mr.
Vance didn't know that. Nor did the editor or publisher. What an unbridgeable gap there is between English and American languages!
ArnoKA
 
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Re: What is Science Fiction -- and what isn't?

Postby DavidTate on Saturday, 30 November 2013, 1:18 pm

ArnoKA wrote:It surprises me that extensively traveled Mr. Vance didn't know that.
I think it's possible that Mr. Vance chose the title as a deliberate joke, and was sufficiently amused when the publisher didn't notice that he let it stand. I haven't heard that he ever commented on it later.

Good heavens, I see that on the Jack Vance website these books have been renamed and edited to remove the offending name! The ebook edition of this is now called The Wannek. How very Bowdlerian.
David Tate
Professor of Story Problems, emeritus
Rationalist with sombrero
Baseballogist
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Re: What is Science Fiction -- and what isn't?

Postby ArnoKA on Saturday, 30 November 2013, 11:57 pm

Good heavens! Now when professor Tate has got the answer, it seems very obvious even to a simpleton like me. What a very Vancean joke!
ArnoKA
 
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Re: What is Science Fiction -- and what isn't?

Postby ArnoKA on Sunday, 26 January 2014, 1:07 am

Some thoughts on Escapism

I would like to speak about escapism, the bugbear of all SF&F-haters. Tolkien has answered them for all times: Why, it is the duty of a prisoner of war to do his best to escape, to rejoin the battle against his captors.

Perhaps some of my readers have wondered, why does this intolerable besserwisser speak only of novels. The reason is escapism. I read only for escapistic purposes. Therefore I want the books to be thick, preferably parts of series, so that I can escape into them for days, preferably for weeks.

The second layer of escape is to read in English. I am proud that I can do it relatively fluently, and that I have self-taught myself to do so. (My spoken English is rusty and hideously barbaric, and, to be understood, one should use Kings English and speak very slowly and clearly, preferably avoiding such shortenings as IMO, IMWY etc. so loved in fan speech. Also in written text I would prefer such anti-Websterian forms as colour, harbour etc.)

The most important factor is the personality of the author. It must be lovable, witty and ironic (without being bitter). We have a perfect example here in Finland, in Mika Waltari. Please, never, never, try to read American so called “translations” of his novels! Same warning goes to Frans G. Bengtsson’s Swedish masterpiece Röde Orm and its unspeakably bad English translation The Longships. Read in French or in German if you can, or, better still: demand new, proper and unabridged translations by professionals!

Happily, there are plenty of eminently re-readable authors in English literature like Barbara Tuchman, Mark Twain, and, most of all, Anthony Powell, whose magnificent series of twelve (short) novels, A Dance to the Music of Time, is comparable only, in wit and irony, to our own Jack Vance.

And of course, for us lovers of SF&F, there is nobody comparable to him, in re-readibility or anything else, as our Webmaster has shown in his excellent essay on Vance!

But I have great hopes that a crown prince is developing, novel by novel, to inherit his mantle, perhaps in a novel already under development. I mean -- you have guessed it -- Walter Jon Williams and his promised sequel to the Praxis series about Lady Sula on Earth
ArnoKA
 
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