June 18, 2009

Great Minds Discuss Ideas

"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people."
--Eleanor Roosevelt

In honor of Sharon Lee's declaration that June 23rd be known as Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer's Day, Booking Through Thursday's question this week asks is you read fantasy and/or science fiction and why or why not.

Hell yeah I do. It's funny, because I haven't actually been reading that much of this kind of thing recently, but just last night got around to Joe Haldeman's The Forever War, considered a classic of the genre. It was tough, brutal and even funny. More of a tougher look at the absurdist worlds of Pynchon, Vonnegut and Heller. It's the polar opposite of Heinlein's goofy Starship Troopers, showing off war as the pointless exercise it usually is. I think it's the first big SF satire of the Vietnam War which is practically a sub-genre in the field.

Theodore Sturgeon once said that ninety percent of everything was crap. When it comes to genre fiction, I think the number hovers closer to ninety-nine percent. But that 1% gold can be some life-changing stuff, full of the wonder and terror of our place in the cosmos.

I'm enjoying going back and reading a lot of children's books for my current studies because I skipped over them myself as a kid. I read a few, but after fifth grade or so, I went straight to SF. I may have stuck around fiction written for my age group longer if there had been much in the way of harder science fiction, but it was either realistic fiction or light fantasy in those days. We didn't have Haddix and duPrau or even K. A. Applegate.

So I went for Asimov, and Clarke, a bit of Heinlein, and on to Bear, Brin, Gibson, Bradbury, Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Ellison, Dan Simons, Ted Sturgeon, a pinch of Scott Card, Lovecraft, King, Barker, Neal Stephenson, Connie Willis, Leiber, Octavia Butler, Gaiman, Finney, Orwell, Susanna Clarke, Huxley, Stokey, Shelley, Straub, Tolkien, Mathesen, Ballard, Herbert, Atwood, and even just Chrichton.

It's funny that I started off ignoring the more fantasy-driven stuff in favor of harder SF, but now read a little of both. Science fiction and fantasy, at their best, are about the same things any great literature is about: what Faulkner nailed as "the human heart in conflict with itself."