“Rationality” sets science fiction apart from fantasy

By Peggy – Biology in Science Fiction for io9
In an article published in the journal CLCWeb:Comparative Literature and Culture, Simone Caroti argues that “cognition” is what sets science fiction apart from fantasy, using Greg Bear’s Blood Music as an example.

The act of cognition, of rationally making sense of – and coming to terms with – the estranging elements, increases the sense of wonder inherent in [science fiction], whereas it destroys the pleasure of reading [fantasy]. Magic as represented by writers like Tolkien is best left unexplained, because it belongs to the realm of the irrational. Like a fairy, it is a fragile thing, and trying to rationalize it or explain it away will kill it. On the other hand, a rationally constructed estranging element thrives on cognition, as will readily become apparent when a typical example of the genre is examined.

Caroti’s conclusion – that plausible scientific revelations in science fiction are part of what makes the genre entertaining – is one I agree with.

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On women, science fiction & poo slinging

via Writerly Wackiness
Whenever another INSERT-ISSUE-HERE-Fail rears its head, I read about all of the ruckus because I think it’s important to know what’s going on in my neck of the writerly woods, and because, amid all the poo flinging from either extreme of any given debate, there are usually reasonable people trying to engage in civil discourse.  But otherwise, I stay out of it.

That said, as a female science fiction writer and fan, representation of women in science fiction is an important issue to me, and recent brouhaha has pushed the issue to my brain’s front burner.

When I first encountered the stereotype that SF was strictly a boy’s club, it was rather strange to me because it was my mother, not my father, who helped kindle my interest in SF.  (In fact, my father doesn’t particularly care for SF.)  Throughout childhood and high school, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by people who didn’t tell me I shouldn’t like all those “boy” things I found interesting, like spaceships and splatter flicks.  One exception was someone who, upon seeing that I had brought a copy of Dune to read while babysitting her kids, said, “Why are you reading that?  You should be reading my trashy romance novels instead.”  I finished Dune while I was there and didn’t have another book with me, so I picked up one of her romance novels.  After a few chapters of it’s-not-rape-if-there’s-no-penetration-and-it’s-actually-romantic-because-she-secretly-wants-her-hot-abductor ridiculousness*, I chucked it aside and started re-reading Dune.

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I’ve tried to explain to others what I think separates Sci fi from Fantasy, but the first article explains it better than I ever did. Fantasy novels usually place limits on what magic can do, or at what level a magician can do something of course, but there usually isn’t an explanation for it. This is why Star Wars is Sci Fi versus Space Fantasy. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never faced backlash as a woman who loves Sci Fi, but I’m not surprised. Sci Fi is still a genre that woman are breaking in to, and I think it’s because publisher’s can’t classify women writing in Sci Fi as “chick lit” and so aren’t as willing to publish it.

Do you agree with the author’s distinction between Sci Fi and Fantasy? Do you think there is a stigma about women and Sci Fi?