(urth) Short Sun blog review

Matthew Knight jacobeiserman at gmail.com
Tue Sep 21 17:46:55 PDT 2010

I've never been a fan of this rhetorical strategy, and judging that we have
all chosen to join a mailing dedicated to an SF author, I imagine that I'm
merely speaking to the choir here.  But separating the wheat from the chaff
according to genre distinctions, to me, belongs in a now-discredited world
of presumed canons and aesthetic distinctions based on assumptions that have
never been critically examined.  Hope my post-structuralist grad school
confusion isn't intruding too obviously here.

Two problems: why doesn't Wolfe qualify as literature--what is the
definition of literature and according to whom?  Doesn't this artfully use
language in a way that provides insight into the human condition through the
portrayal of well-drawn characters, however the fantastic the situation?
And secondly, even if we accept the arbitrary division that literature
refers to realistic and SF refers to (as yet) unrealistic (problematic for
all sorts of reasons, but...yeah), who decides that only the realistic
approach is legitimate?  Can't SF arise to greatness on its own terms?

Don't have time to get into this more, and I'm sure many blog posts, fanzine
articles, and dissertations have already been and will be written on these


On Tue, Sep 21, 2010 at 3:44 PM, Craig Brewer <cnbrewer at yahoo.com> wrote:

> I'm a bit confused by his summary:
> >>>>
> Wolfe is a good writer but I wouldn't call his work literature so much
> as eloquent, intriguingly convoluted post-new wave SF. Wolfe's
> penchant for Melville-like parables and analogies exists within a pulp
> continuum where faith in technology sits comfortably with faith in the
> supernatural. Genre expectations are satisfied; the Ark we thought
> irrevocably broken will be repaired to colonize yet another group of
> worlds."
> >>>>
> I don't understand his distinction between "literature" and "genre" here.
> Because there's optimism about technology and optimism about faith, the
> books
> don't count as literature? So only cynical works count as literature? On
> the one
> hand, this seems to ignore the fact that there are all kinds of crises of
> faith
> and ambiguities about the cultural value of technology in the books,
> especially
> if the inhumi's "evolution" is considered technology from a different
> standpoint. But on the other hand, why does this just become "eloquent,
> intriguingly convoluted post-new wave SF" if it doesn't ultimately belittle
> technology and/or show that faith can't exist alongside that?
> I just find the line of thought here particularly weird. It seems to come
> down
> to: I didn't like the books' take on the themes, so I won't value it with
> the
> term 'literature'.
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