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An Unkindness of Ghosts
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An Unkindness of Ghosts > AUoG: is this a Science Fiction story at all?

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message 1: by Svend (last edited Mar 13, 2018 02:29AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Svend Pedersen | 26 comments (I hope you can accept spelling mistakes and grammatical errors – English is my second language)

The more I read, the more I started thinking – is this a Science Fiction story at all? Could it have been a fantasy or at realist novel, without any changes to the central narrative?

For me the core of a “real” Science Fiction story is about making a change in the world and looking at the effects. In Xenogenesis is the aliens with a different gender construction, in Doomsday Book it is time travel + disease, in Frankenstein is the monster.

But in An unkindness of Ghosts?... I don’t know why it is set on a space ship. And as others have pointed out. The ship seem to expand and contract, so that it fits the narrative. At one point it is so huge, that people have difference dialects. At another point, it is so small, that you can walk across it in 15 minutes.

For me, the primary function of the ship seems to be, to contain the characters within a small layered space. Could this not have been a fantasy city? An island? Or something else?

The central themes of the book – race, gender, family, power – could have been in any setting.

If we accept this analysis I have two contradicting points:

On the one hand, I feel like saying. I want more “real” Science Fiction! This kind of book totally misses what I love the most about the genre! I don’t have to be physics, but you also have “hard social Science Fiction” like Xenogenesis.

On the other hand. How awesome is it, that storytellers feel compelled to use Science Fiction as a skin for their stories? Are films like “the shape of water” a Science Fiction movie in any meaningful way? Not at all. But for me, it is so much more visual appealing, than the original Romeo and Juliet.

In conclusion: An unkindness of Ghosts is not real Science Fiction. And that is ok, because it tells a story I sympathize with, in a way I like. The Science Ficion aesthetic has gone mainstream - Cultural appropriation to the win :-)

But I also like "real" Science Fiction – so one more of those next time please 😊


message 2: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Social breakdown on a generation ship has been a staple of science fiction since the 1930s. This book addresses that trope. That's all science fiction is.


Brendan (mistershine) | 930 comments I'm trying to figure out the mental contortions that go into saying a book about a generation ship with a fusion core isn't science fiction, and i am failing.


message 4: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 3909 comments Oh, I dunno. It's as much SF as "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield," a classic Trek that is a thinly disguised commentary on modern racism and its effects. Also set in the future on a spaceship that seemed to change to fit plot requirements.

I'm with ya on preferring SF that is at least mostly scientifically literate, and there is a wealth of authors to choose from for that. Larry Niven and Alastair Reynolds are the most well known, but there's also Neal Asher, Iain Banks, Greg Bear, Stephen Baxter, Jerry Pournelle, and that's just off the top of my head at breakfast. But this book? Yeah, definitely science fiction.


Svend Pedersen | 26 comments Sean wrote: "Social breakdown on a generation ship has been a staple of science fiction since the 1930s. This book addresses that trope. That's all science fiction is."

As I see it. SF is more than an aesthetic/trope. It is a way of telling a story, where a speculative change in the world affects the narrative/characters. If you compare this to other generation ships books like Kim Stanley Robinson Aurora you can see the difference.

Aurora is about parents taking choices for their children – and children going op against those choices. This is bound op in the technology of generations ships, and pessimistic discussion on the possibility of using generations ships.

In An Unkindness of Ghosts the generations ship is not a “real” generation ship - it is not the ship that changes the narrative, it is the narrative changes the ship. (if that makes any sense)

It varies in size, the work they do doesn’t make sense and nobody seems to fly the ship. The point where it broke down as a SF story for me, was the use of wooden platform and gallows. Wood as a building material on a space ship??

That is why I think of the as aesthetically SF, but I no way a SF narrative. It is much more character driven, and could just as well have been in a fantasy setting, a historical setting etc. It might even have worked better there.

This is not to say, that there is something wrong with the book. I think it is great, that artists use the SF aesthetic to tell different stories.

Can you find places, where the characters are really affected by the ship?


Svend Pedersen | 26 comments Brendan wrote: "I'm trying to figure out the mental contortions that go into saying a book about a generation ship with a fusion core isn't science fiction, and i am failing."

Try harder - sometimes art has more than one layer :-)

It is like Jaws. It is not a film about a shark. It is a film about adultery. :-)


Phil | 1137 comments Brendan wrote: "I'm trying to figure out the mental contortions that go into saying a book about a generation ship with a fusion core isn't science fiction, and i am failing."

I think what's he's saying is that it is a story in a science fiction setting but it doesn't have to be in a SF setting and it would still be the same story. The science isn't central to the story and that's what he would prefer.
I have read definitions that say science has to be necessary to the story to be "real" SF but I think that's too narrow. I enjoy "hard" SF but also enjoy stories that just have an SF coating.
As a side note, it was mentioned in another thread that we all have some topics that if the author screws it up it ruins some of your enjoyment. Mine is radiation and I've stopped watching some tv shows because of it.


Brendan (mistershine) | 930 comments Denying that a clearly science fictional story is science fiction is pretty offensive to the author, imo. If this isn't science fiction then your definition of science fiction is so narrow it cuts out about 90% of the genre, including stuff like Star Trek and Dune.


Svend Pedersen | 26 comments Brendan wrote: "Denying that a clearly science fictional story is science fiction is pretty offensive to the author, imo. If this isn't science fiction then your definition of science fiction is so narrow it cuts ..."

I can garante you, that Rivers Solomon is not offended by some random dude on the internet, discussing whether there is a causality from the science to her characters, or from her character to the science, and how this relates to the definition of Science Fiction aesthetic vs Science Fiction narrative, in her otherwise fine piece of art. :-)

My definition or a Science Fiction narrative is neither particularly narrow or particularly uncommon. I would love to have that discussion with you, in stead of you taking offence on behalf of an author, who has probably received this criticism 100 times before, and chosen to ignore it to tell her story.

I think Star Trek and Dune are fine examples to discuss. On the one side Star Trek is the definition of SF, but in other it is hilariously not so. No show has more technobabble than Star Trek bordering on pure fantasy, and no show has inspired more real scientists.

I loved the scene in John Scalzis Red Shirts, where the star trek crew used the magic solution machine (I can’t remember the name from the book). The machine consisted of a black box. You put a scientific question in one end, at out comes the solution. The solution was always stringently scientific, but nobody knows how it works.

Scalzis machine is the perfect picture of the contradictory nature of Star Trek. In a way Scalzi takes my "narrow"/"traditional" definition of SF. Looks at it, and (with Star Trek) throws it in the trashcan to tell a good story. And that is fine with me :-)


message 10: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Svend wrote: "As I see it. SF is more than an aesthetic/trope. It is a way of telling a story, where a speculative change in the world affects the narrative/characters. If you compare this to other generation ships books like Kim Stanley Robinson Aurora you can see the difference. "

That's something science fiction fans say to make the genre seem grander than mystery and romance. But it's just a genre. Genre is about one writer responding to earlier works by using the same tropes in a different way. Generation ship stories, going back at least to Heinlein's Orphans in the Sky, have been about Special People using lifeboat morality to justify oppression. Aurora and AUoG are both responses to that, but from different perspectives.


message 11: by Rick (last edited Mar 13, 2018 10:06AM) (new)

Rick | 2781 comments Some of you might try snarking less and thinking more. Several of the replies are unnecessarily dismissive of a serious post.

OP raises an interesting point. Yes, it's ostensibly SF because of a generation ship, but if the ship is just a stand in for 'Isolated place that you can't leave' then is it anymore SF than if this were set on a remote island or a fantasy city?

Svend is precisely correct in that SF is more than tossing in a couple of SF sounding words... it posits some change in our future brought about by science or technology and then asks what the effect of that change would be.

Sean wrote: "Svend wrote: "As I see it. SF is more than an aesthetic/trope. It is a way of telling a story, where a speculative change in the world affects the narrative/characters. If you compare this to other..."
But Aurora engages with likely - or at least possible - things that could happen in the SFnal setting of a generation ship. The fact that it is a closed, complex environment in space is very much a part of the novel and much of the tension and conflict is because of the things that happen in that setting.


message 12: by Svend (last edited Mar 13, 2018 10:12AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Svend Pedersen | 26 comments Sean wrote: "Svend wrote: "As I see it. SF is more than an aesthetic/trope. It is a way of telling a story, where a speculative change in the world affects the narrative/characters. If you compare this to other..."

Im definitely not trying to make it seem grander than mystery and romance. But I think it is different, and have different central dynamics.

Romance is about well... romance. And that might be even harder to do well, than SF. I just saw "Call me by my name" - it really connected with me. Woke memories of my first girlfriend. Also - it is really sexy, even though you are a heterosexual male. That very grand :-)

Mysterys central dynamic is uncovering a hidden secret - in society or in a person. I Denmark and Sweden we have a long tradition for critically acclaimed feminist mystery novels.

All three genre are very interesting in different ways, and much more, than responses to tropes - even though you are right, that it is a big part of it.


Travis Foster (travismfoster) I think genre is really interesting, but more as a dynamic tool for authors to work with than a static list of boxes to check. Mostly, I'm just glad AUoG is considered sci-fi because if it meant this group could read it!


message 14: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Svend wrote: "I can garante you, that Rivers Solomon is not offended by some random dude on the internet, discussing whether there is a causality from the science to her characters, or from her character to the science, and how this relates to the definition of Science Fiction aesthetic vs Science Fiction narrative, in her otherwise fine piece of art. :-)"

Did you ask her? Because this sort of gate keeping has a toxic history in fandom, and quite a few authors do get pissed when somebody tells them they aren't writing True Science Fiction(TM).


Jessica (j-boo) | 322 comments Friendly reminder that Rivers Solomon goes by “they/their”, not “she/her” :)


Svend Pedersen | 26 comments Jessica wrote: "Friendly reminder that Rivers Solomon goes by “they/their”, not “she/her” :)"

Did not know - sorry :-)


Svend Pedersen | 26 comments Sean wrote: "Svend wrote: "I can garante you, that Rivers Solomon is not offended by some random dude on the internet, discussing whether there is a causality from the science to her characters, or from her cha..."

I'm not gate keeping anything - I bought their book, read it and I'm trying to reflect on what I liked and didn't like. You are welcome to disagree.


message 18: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Rick wrote: Svend is precisely correct in that SF is more than tossing in a couple of SF sounding words... it posits some change in our future brought about by science or technology and then asks what the effect of that change would be."

Golden Age science fiction magazines were glutted with stories that were literally Westerns with the horses changed to space ships. When Galaxy Magazine started, its first issue contained an editorial promising to never publish that kind of story. Hell, one of the most beloved sci-fi series of the 21st Century is nothing more than Jesse James in Space.

"But Aurora engages with likely - or at least possible - things that could happen in the SFnal setting of a generation ship. The fact that it is a closed, complex environment in space is very much a part of the novel and much of the tension and conflict is because of the things that happen in that setting. "

Yes, that makes it Hard SF. But that's just a subgenre of sci-fi.


message 19: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Svend wrote: "I'm not gate keeping anything - I bought their book, read it and I'm trying to reflect on what I liked and didn't like. You are welcome to disagree. "

When you say a book that's set on a space ship using common SF tropes isn't Real Science Fiction, that's exactly what gate keeping is.


message 20: by Svend (last edited Mar 13, 2018 11:21AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Svend Pedersen | 26 comments Sean wrote: "Svend wrote: "I'm not gate keeping anything - I bought their book, read it and I'm trying to reflect on what I liked and didn't like. You are welcome to disagree. "

When you say a book that's set ..."


If you want to be pedantic about It, I used a small r and inverted commas. I’m not proposing the one big and true definition of Science Fiction. Quite the opposite.

To paraphrase your own link. Does An Unkindness of Ghosts and Auroa sound sound alike? The should – one is merely a literary work about characters and identity politics transplanted to a generation ship. If this book is your idea of science fiction – you’re welcome to it!

That said – do I have permission to have my idea of science fiction, without people questioning my mental contortion? why does discussions like these always degenerate into name-calling?


message 21: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Svend wrote: "To paraphrase your own link. Does An Unkindness of Ghosts and Auroa sound sound alike? The should – one is merely a literary work about characters and identity politics transplanted to a generation ship. If this book is your idea of science fiction – you’re welcome to it!"

See, this is the problem. You use terms like "merely" to describe AUoG, as though it's lesser than Real Science Fiction.

That said – do I have permission to have my idea of science fiction, without people questioning my mental contortion? why does discussions like these always degenerate into name-calling?

Of course you can think what you want, but when you post your ideas, they're going to get critiqued. And in this case the critique is colored by the Hugo controversies of the last few years, in which certain people used very similar logic to denigrate works they didn't consider Real Science Fiction.


Trike | 8291 comments Sean wrote: "Svend wrote: "I'm not gate keeping anything - I bought their book, read it and I'm trying to reflect on what I liked and didn't like. You are welcome to disagree. "

When you say a book that's set on a space ship using common SF tropes isn't Real Science Fiction, that's exactly what gate keeping is. ."


Strongly disagree.

There has long been a discussion over whether Star Wars is “real” Science Fiction, for instance. That’s a valid question because even though Star Wars checks off a number of SF trope boxes, it also has strong Fantasy elements while missing the essential extrapolative “what if” element that is Science Fiction’s core.

AUoG might use some of the tropes, but that typically isn’t enough for something to be considered “real” SF. (I haven’t read it yet so I’m not going to weigh in on that.)

Ultimately the audience collectively decides, but the discussion itself is not an example of gatekeeping. It’s not like anyone has the power to force this book into one genre or another. Besides, we have similar discussions about other books frequently.


message 23: by Trike (last edited Mar 13, 2018 12:10PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Trike | 8291 comments Rick wrote: "Yes, it's ostensibly SF because of a generation ship, but if the ship is just a stand in for 'Isolated place that you can't leave' then is it anymore SF than if this were set on a remote island or a fantasy city?

Svend is precisely correct in that SF is more than tossing in a couple of SF sounding words... it posits some change in our future brought about by science or technology and then asks what the effect of that change would be."


I think it was Damon Knight who said that Science Fiction needed an element of science or technology to be integral to story, otherwise it wasn’t SF.

I find that definition a little too strict, but it’s a valid point.

A lot of stories can be transplanted into other genres by simply changing the tropes. Real Science Fiction resists that. Once you move it to another genre, it loses something essential to it. Stories which aren’t pure SF can be moved around easily.

That’s why The Seven Samurai could be transposed into The Magnificent Seven without losing anything.

20 years ago on Usenet I changed Star Wars into a Fantasy and then a Western, simply by changing the tropes. (If those posts still exist, they can be found under the clever titles of “Fantasy Wars” and “Western Wars.”) The story and characters don’t lose anything by being shifted into other genres, and the fact is that George Lucas did it himself with Willow.

All of which to say that I agree with the idea that asking whether any specific work is “really” Science Fiction or not is, at the very least, an interesting litmus test to see if the core idea needs to be expressed in a Science Fictional setting or if it could just as easily be set anywhere else.

That doesn’t mean the story isn’t *good* or if the points it makes are any less valuable or thought-provoking. Sometimes the overlay of spaceships and robots is the proverbial spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. That’s sometimes good enough for me.

But the OP question is still worth asking.


Svend Pedersen | 26 comments Sean wrote: "Svend wrote: "To paraphrase your own link. Does An Unkindness of Ghosts and Auroa sound sound alike? The should – one is merely a literary work about characters and identity politics transplanted t..."

It is not my post getting critiqued. It is my mental health. Last time i posted (6 months ago) I was called a Bozo and Gamergater, for commenting on the vegan restaurants in "all the birds in the sky" - I don't even know what gamergate is! :-)

Every single lecture series on SF startes with the question "What is SF". We have to be able to not have that a discussion without going into political camps and make personal attacks. I'm aware of the Hugo stuff - but it is WAY to american for me to be able to relate to. Fundamentally I don't understand the american political culture :-)

----
Your welcome to disagree with "merely" - I only included it, as a part of the Galaxy Magazine qoute. So... your right - "literary works about characters and identity politics" is not per definition worse than "Hard SF".

I does not really make sense to compare genres like that - you can only say whether individual work move you or not.


message 25: by Ivy (last edited Mar 13, 2018 02:24PM) (new)

Ivy | 44 comments Folks interested in this debate might like to read the essay/foreword by Ursula K. LeGuin in The Left Hand of Darkness. She does a lovely job examining what science fiction is and how it functions.

“Science fiction is not prescriptive; it is descriptive.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin

Here is a link if you don't have a copy of the book handy: http://theliterarylink.com/leguinintr...


message 26: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Trike wrote: "There has long been a discussion over whether Star Wars is “real” Science Fiction, for instance. That’s a valid question because even though Star Wars checks off a number of SF trope boxes, it also has strong Fantasy elements while missing the essential extrapolative “what if” element that is Science Fiction’s core."

Genre classifications aren't exclusive. A work can fall under more than one category, as Star Wars does. The fantasy elements don't negate the science fiction ones.

And the idea that a "what if" element is necessary for genre inclusion falls apart if you actually read science fiction from the Pulp Era. Triplanetary, Northwest of Earth, and Tom Corbett Space Cadet are no more extrapolative than Star Wars is. They're fantasy adventures dressed up with sci-fi props.

Hell, 90% of milSF has no extrapolative element beyond, "What if space warfare worked exactly like Napoleonic naval battles," and "What if we reimagined Rorke's Rift with hordes of alien bugs." And yet nobody ever argues that David Weber and Jack Campbell aren't writing Real Science Fiction.


Svend Pedersen | 26 comments After this discussion I want to go back to the book.
I hope vi can agree that, An Unkindness of Ghosts is a literary work about characters and identity politics transplanted to a generation ship.

There is nothing “wrong” with that. But I hope you can agree, that there is a fair discussion – does the SF setting contribute or detract from the central motor of the story.

I would clam that it detracts, and the story would be better served in a historical setting.

Apart from the expanding and contracting ships etc, I think the work is the most problematic. The work creates the power structures, that create the story. But the work does not make sense. Farming on a spaceship would be on a laboratory or highly mechanized (probably with robots). In the book, it is manual field work. Hell – you barely se work like that in the west today.

They don’t use the SF setting, for anything other than containing the characters within a small layered space. And they don’t seem to take that setting very seriously, and I think an author should. You don’t need to be super-science-guy – the space ship is not the point for River Solomon - but just try a little. Or consider chance the setting to a less constraining one. 😊

In any case, it can’t be a success, that I leave to book thinking “how big is the ship?”, “where would they get the wood?”, “why do they farm like 1750?”, “can you really make a gun, from just a copper tube in the wall?” etc. It seriously detracts from my experience with the book.


Trike | 8291 comments Sean wrote: "Trike wrote: "There has long been a discussion over whether Star Wars is “real” Science Fiction, for instance. That’s a valid question because even though Star Wars checks off a number of SF trope boxes, it also has strong Fantasy elements while missing the essential extrapolative “what if” element that is Science Fiction’s core."

Genre classifications aren't exclusive. A work can fall under more than one category, as Star Wars does. The fantasy elements don't negate the science fiction ones.“


Except that Fantasy does trump Science Fiction.

My PhD thesis was on genre, specifically whether one can draw distinct dividing lines between genres. My original thought was that it was impossible, since one genre blends into another. But the more research I did, the more I came to realize that it was possible to compartmentalize genres. It was the difference between SF and Fantasy that first steered me in that direction.

At the most basic level Science Fiction is the literature of the possible while Fantasy is the literature of the impossible. Their worldviews are mutually exclusive. SF says the universe is understandable while Fantasy says there are things we can’t know. Even Hard Fantasy, which treats magic like a science, doesn’t explain how it works beyond vague descriptions.

The Force in Star Wars is an example of this sort of thing. We can kind of describe how it works but we can’t really understand it, and it changes with each book and movie.

Most genres without specific settings can be combined without any problem. A Comedy Western? Sure: Support Your Local Sheriff. But you can’t have a Western outside of the American West, so there’s no such thing as a Samurai Western. It can certainly share elements of each of those genres but it becomes something else entirely. (Which is how we get new genres in the first place.) Adding a single sci-fi element turns a story into Science Fiction, such as in Joe Haldeman’s Tool of the Trade. The only thing that trumps it is Fantasy, where adding a single supernatural element to any story, even SF, turns it into a Fantasy.


message 29: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Trike wrote: "At the most basic level Science Fiction is the literature of the possible while Fantasy is the literature of the impossible. Their worldviews are mutually exclusive. SF says the universe is understandable while Fantasy says there are things we can’t know."

That's nonsense. Plenty of fantasy novels--the Wheel of Time, Discworld, Harry Potter--treat magic as something that can be studied, quantified and understood. And if you say, "Yeah, but those are arbitrary rules created by the author with no relation to the real world," you have to explain how Foundation, Dune, The Demolished Man and Babylon 5 are science fiction when they deal with completely made up psychic powers. And that's not even touching on the stories that deliberately walk the line between science fiction and fantasy like A Canticle for Leibowitz, or C.J. Cherryh's Morgaine novels.

Most genres without specific settings can be combined without any problem. A Comedy Western? Sure: Support Your Local Sheriff. But you can’t have a Western outside of the American West, so there’s no such thing as a Samurai Western.

Except there are numerous Westerns set outside the American West -- Drums Along the Mohawk (upstate New York during the Revolution); North to Alaska and The Far Country (both Gold Rush era Alaska); The Magnificent Seven, Vera Cruz, 100 Rifles, Major Dundee, The Wild Bunch, and A Fistful of Dynamite (all set in Mexico); and Quigley Down Under, The Proposition and the various Ned Kelly biopics (Australia). Russian Westerns, set in Siberia and Central Asia during the 18th and 19th Century, constitute an entire subgenre. Pretty much any place that had an anarchic colonial frontier can be used for a Western setting.


message 30: by Jessica (last edited Mar 15, 2018 05:24AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jessica (j-boo) | 322 comments Svend wrote: "After this discussion I want to go back to the book.
I hope vi can agree that, An Unkindness of Ghosts is a literary work about characters and identity politics transplanted to a generation ship.

..."


I imagine they got the wood from the Field Decks - isn't one of the decks a forest of maple or something? But yeah, as far as WHY they farm those decks the way they do, I have no clue. And the wood would still be a rather precious resource, although I guess the idea is that Lieutenant really wanted to make a spectacle with the gallows.

I do see your point about moving the bulk of the story to another setting without losing much besides that which is already problematic, BUT my issue with that would be that my favorite part of the story was the thread dealing with Aster's mother, which very much depends on the ship and mechanics and space itself.


message 31: by Tassie Dave, S&L Historian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tassie Dave | 3506 comments Mod
Yes it is the mystery about Lune that pushes it into Sci-Fi for me.


Svend Pedersen | 26 comments Tassie Dave wrote: "Yes it is the mystery about Lune that pushes it into Sci-Fi for me."

That is definitely the most Sci-Fi element.


message 33: by Ruth (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ruth | 985 comments I'd say AUoG is definitely science fiction - it's set on a space ship and the story is at least partly about the mechanics of space navigation, so it's sitting squarely in an SF setting with SF tropes.

I would also argue that science fiction can also be about imagining how societies would evolve in the future and in particular circumstances - The Handmaid's Tale, anyone? Call it 'social science fiction' if you like but it's still in the SF tent. So on that basis AUoG is a social science fiction story set on a generation ship - it's doubly SF.

And yes, it's also a litfic work about characters and identity politics. Books can be more than one thing.


message 34: by Kenny (new)

Kenny | 31 comments I don’t understand this need to pigeon hole genre. Science Fiction can be literary, it can tackle larger problems then the warp drive. In fact, I’d say most good science fiction, and fantasy for that matter use their setting to tackle themes from different angles then contemporary fiction can.

Saying something like “if you take the spaceship out, it would just be X.” Is like saying “Well if you take out the dragons and Ice Zombies, Game of Thrones is just historical fiction.” The setting matters in what genre a story is.


message 35: by Richard (last edited Mar 16, 2018 07:30AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Richard | 99 comments Sometimes they'll do a Shakespeare production where instead of swords, the characters will be holding guns, but the dialogue remains completely unchanged.

But what if, instead of swords, they were holding LASERS.


message 36: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 3909 comments Or laser swords!

Wait, did I just compare Star Wars to Shakespeare?


message 38: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Richard wrote: "Sometimes they'll do a Shakespeare production where instead of swords, the characters will be holding guns, but the dialogue remains completely unchanged.

But what if, instead of swords, they were..."


Then it'd be Forbidden Planet.


message 39: by Iain (new) - rated it 4 stars

Iain Bertram (iain_bertram) | 1300 comments Why does SF have to do with mechanical technology only.

AUoG is SF set on a generation ship king questions about biology and gender. It is not so much extrapolating how a FTL generation ship would work (which is almost certainly scientific rubbish no matter what book it appears in) but what happens to closed communities.

We have mutagenic effects leading to hermaphroditism occurring within the ship. This, combined with a disaster destroying the ships leadership leads to a breakdown in the society that results in slavery and a racial purity religion.

To me this is a book of sociological SF. This is a long standing and appropriate sub-genre. Left Hand of Darkness and Altered Carbon also fall into this category. LHoD relied on genetic manipulation in the distant past and AC relies on magic disc in the spine. They are still SF.


message 40: by Joseph (last edited Mar 17, 2018 07:48AM) (new)

Joseph | 2254 comments Richard wrote: "Sometimes they'll do a Shakespeare production where instead of swords, the characters will be holding guns, but the dialogue remains completely unchanged.

But what if, instead of swords, they were..."


For example


message 41: by Trike (last edited Mar 20, 2018 12:02AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Trike | 8291 comments Sean wrote: "you have to explain how Foundation, Dune, The Demolished Man and Babylon 5 are science fiction."

They’re not. Give me a hard one.


Sean wrote: "Except there are numerous Westerns set outside the American West"

No there aren’t. It’s the defining aspect of the genre.

Did you know there are more trees in the United States now than 200 years ago? Strange but true! It’s a trick question, of course.

“The American West” is a vaguely-defined geographic area. It includes everything west of the Mississippi River, east of the Rockies, somewhere in northern Mexico to southern Canada. Nowadays it has rigid, mostly well-defined borders, but during the frontier days it was constantly in flux. Sometimes Texas extended so far north it encompassed Wyoming while Mexico encapsulated all of New Mexico, Arizona and Southern California to the north and nearly all of Central America.

So both the Magnificent Seven and Lonesome Dove take place in the West, while Zorro doesn’t. Neither does The Man from Snowy River or The Sundowners, which take place in Australia. But anyone who enjoys Westerns will like all three since they share a lot of the same tropes and character types. And horses.

The Electric Horseman is a Contemporary Western, while Revenge is not, even though they are similar stories. The former takes place in the West while the latter takes place in Mexico.


Trike | 8291 comments Kenny wrote: "I don’t understand this need to pigeon hole genre. Science Fiction can be literary, it can tackle larger problems then the warp drive. In fact, I’d say most good science fiction, and fantasy for th..."

It’s only a need if you’re trying to find something similar to what you already enjoy. “If you like A then you might like B.” Otherwise it’s just fun.


Trike | 8291 comments Iain wrote: "Why does SF have to do with mechanical technology only. ."

I don’t think anyone believes that. Even in tech-centric stories the technology is just the jumping-off point. The real story is about the social impacts. I think it was Pohl who said, “A good Science Fiction writer doesn’t just invent the automobile but also the traffic jam.”


message 44: by Tassie Dave, S&L Historian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tassie Dave | 3506 comments Mod
Trike wrote: "I think it was Pohl who said, “A good Science Fiction writer doesn’t just invent the automobile but also the traffic jam.”""

You're paraphrasing Isaac Asimov.

"Keep in mind the fact that social science fiction is not easy to write. It is easy to predict an automobile in 1880; it is very hard to predict a traffic problem. The former is really only an extrapolation of the railroad. The latter is something completely novel and unexpected."

We've discussed this before 3 years ago. It's déjà vu all over again ;-)

Message 26 & 27 in this thread from January 2015

https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...


message 45: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Trike wrote: "Sean wrote: "you have to explain how Foundation, Dune, The Demolished Man and Babylon 5 are science fiction."

They’re not. Give me a hard one.


If your definition of science fiction excludes books that are universally recognized as core works of the genre, your definition is broken.

“The American West” is a vaguely-defined geographic area. It includes everything west of the Mississippi River, east of the Rockies, somewhere in northern Mexico to southern Canada. Nowadays it has rigid, mostly well-defined borders, but during the frontier days it was constantly in flux. Sometimes Texas extended so far north it encompassed Wyoming while Mexico encapsulated all of New Mexico, Arizona and Southern California to the north and nearly all of Central America.

Now you're just handwaving. Vera Cruz is set far outside any area ever claimed by the United States, and The Wild Bunch, 100 Rifles and A Fistful of Dynamite are set during the Mexican Revolution, long after the border between the US and Mexico was settled, but you will not find a single film scholar who would exclude them from the Western genre. They were marketed as Westerns when they were first released, and they're still marketed as Westerns. Expecting everyone to accept that they're not proper Westerns because of some nitpicky definition you came up with is absurd.


message 46: by Alex (new) - rated it 4 stars

Alex Bencomo (abenco) | 13 comments People classify things, that's what they do. Some things are easy: dogs are mammals, somethings are a little harder: platypuses are also mammals. Some of you take it as personal insults if someone else doesn't have your view on it.

This novel is science fiction, but of the softest type possible, which is totally fine, but to some that might not be enough to count.

Have a discussion, not a conversation. And remember we're nerds, nitpicky is what we do.


Trike | 8291 comments Sean wrote: "Trike wrote: "Sean wrote: "you have to explain how Foundation, Dune, The Demolished Man and Babylon 5 are science fiction."

They’re not. Give me a hard one.

If your definition of science fiction excludes books that are universally recognized as core works of the genre, your definition is broken.."


Definitions change over time. So do “universal opinions.”

Science Fiction is the literature of the possible. Fantasy is the literature of the impossible. If something is included in a work of Science Fiction that was known to be impossible at the time of the work’s creation then it is Fantasy. If it was created before we knew whether it was true or not, then it gets grandfathered in. If technology has since passed it by, in cases like 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, we grandfather it in.

Pern’s teleporting dragons were impossible when McCaffrey wrote it. The psychics of Babylon 5 were impossible when Straczynski wrote it. Therefore they are Fantasy. If you’re judging a work based on the furniture, you aren’t looking deeply enough.


Sean wrote: "Expecting everyone to accept that they're not proper Westerns because of some nitpicky definition you came up with is absurd. ."

I chose genre definitions as my PhD thesis back in 1985 and I’ve been reading about it and thinking about it ever since. There is not the universal agreement about what makes a Western a Western among scholars as you insist. That is a false Appeal to Authority because that consensus doesn’t exist.

I don’t come by my opinions on various genres lightly or without regard. I am aware it is not popular among people who have never before considered where to draw the line. I think these are workable definition regardless of what such Johnny-come-latelys think, because it is internally consistent and objective.

“When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move. Your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth and tell the whole world: ‘No, you move.’” - Mark Twain, Mark Twain's Fables of Man


Brendan (mistershine) | 930 comments Science fiction is a subgenre of fantasy, change my mind.


message 49: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 3909 comments Trike wrote: "If you’re judging a work based on the furniture, you aren’t looking deeply enough."

These always crack me up, partly because I would entertain the discussion but really the greater society wouldn't notice the distinction. I imagine it going like this:

Trike: Warp Drive is impossible, therefore Star Trek is fantasy.

John: The Alcubierre drive is at least a scientific possibility, so it's science fiction.

Onlooker: Oooh, spaceships! Let's go see the scifi movie.


Trike | 8291 comments Brendan wrote: "Science fiction is a subgenre of fantasy, change my mind."

Typical socialist Canadian, wanting everything handed to them, smh.


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