January 21, 2010

Another Yay; Stirring the Pot

We've got renewed reason to celebrate around here, as you've no doubt already heard. Unless you've been living under a very media-isolated rock, you'll have heard the announcement about the ALA awards--and my very own co-blogger, Tanita, received a Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book award for Mare's War. That book is kicking butt and taking names this year, and I think I can safely say that we are all incredibly proud and excited. The ALA announced all of its other awards and honors on Monday, too; for the original release, click here, and for a roundup of other Cybils authors who were honored, check the Cybils site. There are a number of other truly wonderful and deserving titles on the Cybils finalist list, too, which is now available in printer-friendly format.

On that note, my work here as shill is done. :)

However, I also really wanted to share a quote I ran across this morning while reading a book review article (about the works of J.G. Ballard, with whom I'm not incredibly familiar) in the Jan/Feb Atlantic. The author of the article openly notes that he has never liked "so-called science fiction." Here's the quote:

The natural universe is far too complex and frightening and impressive on its own to require the puerile add-ons of space aliens and super-weapons: the interplanetary genre made even C.S. Lewis write more falsely than he normally did.

I was dumbstruck, essentially, by the article author's excessively pedantic and dismissive description of the entire science fiction genre. I know he's far from alone in that opinion, and certainly there are loads of pulpy science-fiction novels to lend weight to his assertion, but I can't help but feel that he's missing something essential here. Not just the many works that can't be distilled to mere "space aliens and super-weapons," but the element of imagination, of dreaming about the possibilities of the present and the future. It's as if there's no point in dwelling on anything other than grim reality and its equally dismal and/or incomprehensible implications for our future. But if that were true, we'd have no great creative works, no pioneering science. The creators of the Mars Rover certainly were not satisfied to remain earthbound.

Anyway, just sayin'. Rant over now. (And if you're interested, the article is here.)


E Wein said...

WHOA--serious congrats to Tanita--That is AWESOME news!

love, e wein

Anonymous said...

I remain delighted and dancing about for Tanita's news.

And now I'm dancing while completely gobsmacked by that article.

I'm reminded of something I read in The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy by Leonard S. Marcus. The answer is given by Lloyd Alexander:

"Q: Why do you write fantasy?

A: Because, paradoxically, fantasy is a good way to show the world as it is. Fantasy can show us the truth about human relationships and moral dilemmas because it works on our emotions on a deeper, symbolic level than realistic fiction. It has the same emotional power as a dream."

holly cupala said...

Many many congrats for Tanita! It was quite incredible to be present for the awards and cheering for friends!

J.G. Ballard: the author of Empire of the Sun (one of the few movies which, I think, surpasses the novel...just my opinion). I agree on the SF points - sf, fantasy, transitional punk, apocalyptic...serve in many ways to help us interpret that which is complex, frightening, impressive about our own "natural universe."

Sarah Rettger said...

I haven't managed to say congratulations to Tanita yet, so - congratulations!

And not to take anything away from your most excellent genre-snobbery takedown, but "pedantic and dismissive" pretty much sums up Christopher Hitchens, so I'm not surprised.

I am, however, going to look into J.G. Ballard now.

Sarah Stevenson said...

Kelly: Love that quote!

Holly & Sarah: I definitely want to look into J.G. Ballard, too--I know *of* Empire of the Sun but have never seen nor read it.

That was actually the part of the article that drew me in first--I was flipping through backwards (I'd just read the capsule reviews at the end of the book review section) and was interested to see something sci-fi-oriented; but then I was kind of appalled when I went back to read the article from the beginning.

Also, now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure I've seen Christopher Hitchens give a TV commentary on a news show once or twice, and I think I felt the same way about him then!

tanita✿davis said...

Weirdly enough, the word earthbound is highlighted and connects with an Ebay game by the same name. Weird.

I'm annoyed beyond words with the writer of this article, mainly because I think this is why people tend to write fantasy in droves and not try SF; science seems to hard and too ...something -- pure? -- to be involved in fiction. But what do people think helped to launch us toward the moon? All of the fictional yearnings toward space that people read in Amazing Stories. We have cell phones because Kirk and Dr. Spock needed those little flip-phone things for the Away teams. We have to dream things first before they're real.

Good grief.