Talking squids

Tsssk! Margaret Atwood doesn’t write Sf because she doesn’t write about “talking squids”. Her last novel, The Year of the flood, reviewed by UK LeGuin, is supposed to be Real Literature.  The Flood is good science-fiction, except  that you are not supposed to say it. High denial (S-F author is full denial stage)

My SF colleagues had a lot of fun trying to find something in their writing approaching this reduced definition of SF. I was certain I had coined in a story a funny-looking talking something, when… Ms Atwood changed her goalmark! Now, it must be a talking cabbage to pass muster as a real science-fiction writer.

Ursula K. Le Guin laments the passing of the squid on the Ansible : ‘[L]ast night on the Lehrer news hour Margaret Atwood did not say she did not write science fiction because she did not write about talking squids, but said that she did not write science fiction because she did not write about talking cabbages. I am pondering the significance of this change from sea beast to land vegetable, but so far it escapes me. She was otherwise charming, and I do think The Year of the Flood is good science fiction even though its cabbages are speechless.’ (23 September) Those eloquent cabbages presumably live on Planet X: the indefatigable Ms Atwood told the New York Times that her work is not sf since ‘I don’t write about Planet X, I write about where we are now.’ (21 September)

The ansible reports another funny thing concerning Cory Doctorow’s latest opus: Cory Doctorow has left our little genre behind, according to a review of his Makers subtitled ‘… a sci-fi writer growing up’: ‘It would be wrong to position this as a science fiction novel, even though it is set in the future and deals with technologies that do not yet exist …’ (Bill Thompson, New Humanist, September/October 2009)

The real reason is that the reviewer was enthralled with a good book, then the Pavlov reflex kicked in: (sing all together now): “If it is good, it can’t be science-fiction“.  Or the reverse: “If it is science-fiction, it can’t be good! ”

Ms Atwood’s book was ousted from the Booker’short list, by jury members who identified it (correctly) as SF, but were horrified by it. SF author Kim Stanley Robinson (of the Mars trilogy) asks why SF novels never wins the Booker Prize. Booker juries ignore SF submissions and give their awards to what usually turn out to be historical novels. He tells in his article, Science fiction: The stories of now: I say this as a happy fan and an awed colleague: the range, depth, intensity, wit and beauty of the science fiction being published in the UK these days is simply amazing.

Me, writing science-fiction? Naaah. I write real, grown-up, stern, serious, belly-gazing canadian literature! :^)


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