The OF Blog: Are we entering a new "age" of SF?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Are we entering a new "age" of SF?

Finished reading Roger Luckhurst's Cultural History of Literature: Science Fiction yesterday before crashing. While I'm hoping to have time shortly to write a review of it, one question that I had after finishing this 2005 book concerns an issue that he did not raise at all, that of the possibilities surrounding translations and the infusion of ideas and motifs from a variety of non-Anglo (the language and cultures that emerged from England over the past 600 years).

What do you think? Is there a real possibility that the exponential increase of SF translations into and from English might lead to the creation of new paradigms that will stretch our understandings of SF to a point where Campbell, Gernsback, and crew would have had an extremely difficult time grasping those stories' meanings? Or is it more likely that Anglo-American concepts will impose themselves upon the emerging global SF markets?

I wish I had time to think more upon this, but I need to return to bed. Muscle weakness and stomach cramping are not conducive for arguing a point right now...

5 comments:

Simon said...

Which books/authors are you referring to when you talk about books where Campbell, Gernsback, and crew would have an extremely difficult time grasping these stories' meanings"

Foreverlad said...

I'd say it depends. New motifs and ideas would be wonderful, but if the market (and by extension, its readership) isn't willing and ready to adopt them, it could be a long drawn out process.

Terry Weyna said...

I think it would be great if it happens, and I don't see any reason why it shouldn't. Today's better SF/F/H writers seem to widely read and very open to ideas both literary and scientific, and it seems to me that if they read and think, they can't help but be affected.

I'm pretty thrilled, personally, at the greater availability of SF/F/H written in other languages becoming available in English. What pictures into other cultures such works provide! It's very exciting to see the *imagination*, and not just the history and politics, of another land.

Matt Denault said...

...the creation of new paradigms that will stretch our understandings of SF to a point where Campbell, Gernsback, and crew would have had an extremely difficult time grasping those stories' meanings?

To some degree of course this has happened already, internally. If you talk to folks who were active in genre when cyberpunk exploded onto the scene in the mid-80s, there were apparently a lot of people in the Gernsback/Campbell school of SF who really felt that cyberpunk was treasonous, a betrayal of core genre SF principles.

Some people had the same reaction to the New Wave in the 60s and 70s.

But more towards what I think you're trying to get at, I think the question is it more likely that Anglo-American concepts will impose themselves upon the emerging global SF markets? will be crucial. I've heard Indian writer Anil Menon talk about his recent work helping to organize a Clarion-style workshop for aspiring SF writers in India. One of the things he said was that the aspirants, in their submission stories, tended to use settings like London and New York. These writers had experienced "SF" largely as an Anglo-American cultural concept, and also believed they had to use Anglo-American settings to sell their stories. It was difficult to help the writers understand that their own country and culture were storyable, were acceptable -- indeed, desirable -- as settings and bases for SF stories. That was not at all their default understanding.

Larry said...

Simon,

I'm thinking of those authors writing from a post-colonialist PoV; their viewpoints would have been ignored or suppressed at the very least if a Campbell or Gernsback had been in charge of editing short stories today compared to 50-80 years ago.

Mike,

I think the market seems to be quite willing, at least based on the increase in translations into English of non-English SF. I suspect this will only continue to grow with time.

Terry,

I feel much the same and knowing that there is a plethora of good stories awaiting me helps motivate me to learn languages quicker!

Matt,

You pretty much summed up my muddled thoughts there (I knew I should have rewritten that post, considering how much the vertigo was affecting me when I was typing). Hopefully, there'll be more authors who'll take their environs and make them into great stories. I know the Chileans have been doing this in recent years (Alberto Fuguet being the most prominent). It'll be interesting to see if this can be translated into SF in the near future.

 
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