james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
After all, I will argue that Starship Troopers is proto-MilSF.

Brin's system of sorting SF from F will produce counter-intuitive results, like Asimov's Foundation, which is all about restoring the Old Order What Stood for Thousands of Years, is fantasy, whereas any Diskworld novel about clackers and the post and dwarves and trolls learning to coexist is SF.

(it's important to note "Having said that, what is my definition of the separation?". Brin's definition, not THE WORD OF MIGHT DEGLER HIMSELF)

Date: 2017-03-13 03:39 pm (UTC)
kjn: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kjn
I'd say that any attempt to make a classification system of science fiction and fantasy will get at least one of (a) encounter important works that the system fails to include, (b) include works that are usually sorted in the other genre, (c) find works that manage to be under both categories, (d) find other idiosyncratic results.

In the case of Brin's rule of thumb, we get the the result that some Discworld novels are fantasy, and some are science fiction.

Date: 2017-03-13 05:16 pm (UTC)
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea (Default)
From: [personal profile] redbird
I think he's just classified War for the Oaks as science fiction, since a chunk of what it's about is social change in Faerie.

Overall, this seems about as useful a distinction as "we read erotica, you read porn, they read filth."

Date: 2017-03-13 05:18 pm (UTC)
redbird: congnitive hazard, one of those drawings that can't work in three dimensions (cognitive hazard)
From: [personal profile] redbird
It would be nice to think that someone, someday, will be able to improve on Terry Carr's definition of science fiction, but even if that's possible, this isn't it.

Date: 2017-03-13 11:43 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] oh6
I fear that definition is more aspirational than representative. At worst, it's effectively reactionary, as it assumes that fantasy is a lost cause as a progressive genre.

Date: 2017-03-13 03:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ghost-bird.livejournal.com
The sad thing is that he probably believes he's Teaching Critical Thinking(TM) by Challenging Our Preconceptions(TM).

Date: 2017-03-13 03:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] colliemommie.livejournal.com

Forget idiosyncratic classification systems, I'm concerned about his idiosyncratic use of italics.

Date: 2017-03-13 05:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] davidgoldfarb.livejournal.com
In fact, Brin himself seems to quite explicitly call out the Pratchett books you mention as SF.

He's found a lovely way to pat himself on the back for liking the books he likes, while feeling superior to people who like the books he doesn't like. I don't see his system as being terribly useful for any other purpose.

(I have no doubt that he'd find some way to classify Foundation as SF, by the by.)

obNitpick: "Idiosyncratic" has no E in it.

Date: 2017-03-13 05:15 pm (UTC)
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea (Default)
From: [personal profile] redbird
I think he's just classified War for the Oaks as science fiction, since a chunk of what it's about is social change in Faerie.

Overall, this seems about as useful a distinction as "we read erotica, you read porn, they read filth."

Date: 2017-03-13 05:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wakboth.livejournal.com
I like Brin's books, for the most part, but he just plain doesn't seem to get fantasy as a genre.

Date: 2017-03-13 05:56 pm (UTC)
kjn: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kjn
Or he gets it, but doesn't like what he gets. I think both Michael Moorcock or China MiƩville has made far more scathing critiques on fantasy, based on a similar analysis.

Date: 2017-03-13 06:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] viktor-haag.livejournal.com
Despite both of them making huge (or, at least, relatively huge) whacks of cash by writing in the genre...
Edited Date: 2017-03-13 06:42 pm (UTC)

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Date: 2017-03-13 11:15 pm (UTC)
jamoche: Prisoner's pennyfarthing bicycle: I am NaN (The Prisoner)
From: [personal profile] jamoche
And yet he very nearly wrote a pretty good one in The Practice Effect.

And IIRC nothing much changes there either - why should it, when magic a totally non-magic MacGuffin does everything for you?

Date: 2017-03-14 02:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] joenotcharles.livejournal.com

Ok, by a sane definition - The Science of Discworld. Fantasy or SF?

Date: 2017-03-14 11:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jsburbidge.livejournal.com
There's a certain tradition of defining SF to require that it be about change so as to exclude works like Crichton's, where the story arc may include advanced tech or disruptive science but always returns to the status quo ante. The big problem comes with the claim that fantasy is the opposite of SF, especially as there is no organic relationship between "magic" - the normal beginning point for a definition of fantasy - and "things don't change".

Date: 2017-03-14 02:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] viktor-haag.livejournal.com
But isn't the fundamental implication of magic (in the fantasy sense) that "things are as they have always been, you just must learn to see the things that your forebears did", and so it's at its root a reactionary worldview? Magic is about learning what has become lost to current folk, who aren't as wise as their ancestors; science is about accepting that your ancestors' wisdom was not sufficient to explain some things about the world and proposing a method for learning new things they didn't know (and thus imagining a world of wonders that require further investigation, not re-discovery).

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Date: 2017-03-14 05:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bunsen-h.livejournal.com
A number of the Discworld books are fundamentally about social change. Even if you exclude the later ones which involve the introduction of technologies such as rapid communication, trains, and the printing press.

Date: 2017-03-15 06:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wakboth.livejournal.com
The amusing thing here is that Lord of the Rings which is one of the ur-examples of fantasy is, ultimately, about the inevitability of change and how clinging to the status quo, even a good one, is self-destructive. :)

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Date: 2017-03-14 03:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sean o'hara (from livejournal.com)
Isn't it well established that it's impossible to come up with any strict definition of SF and fantasy that won't result in works that are clearly one being categorized as the other?

In any event, I don't see what's wrong with classing Foundation as fantasy. The second book is all about a guy with magical powers taking over the galaxy, and it gets more ridiculous from there.

Date: 2017-03-14 04:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] viktor-haag.livejournal.com
Agreed on your first point. I guess then what use is the definition? I suspect that its use is as a model or lens through which one can look to see how a narrative works; realizing that depending on one model or lens can only help you see one side of things more effectively. I.e. "all models are broken; some models are useful".
Edited Date: 2017-03-14 04:19 pm (UTC)

Date: 2017-03-15 02:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ethelmay.livejournal.com
I've always thought of sf as being a subset of fantasy.

Date: 2017-03-14 04:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vschanoes.livejournal.com
I'm not convinced of the utility of defining genres, period, and I'm intrigued about why certain genres (children's lit, SF, Fantasy) seems so obsessed with doing so, while others don't (maybe mystery has these conversations as incessantly and I'm just not privy to them, though). I like Attebery's fuzzy sets formulation, though I don't personally agree that Tolkien is at the center of fantasy--or at least of the fantasy I like best.

Date: 2017-03-14 04:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] viktor-haag.livejournal.com
Well, I guess, cynically, the definition of genres helps to produce and sell them in a marketplace.

Less cynically, they can be useful points of alignment for the creator and the perceiver. A creator can think of genre-alignment as a way to intertextually refer to other works that align to the genre, and thus draw upon a wider array of meaning context in their work, and also play with the tension between expectation and realization. A perceiver can think of genre-alignment as a way to help filter out stories that might be more likely to entertain them in a particular way, or satiate particular cravings (or less likely to put them off by presenting things that run counter to taste).

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Date: 2017-03-14 07:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sean o'hara (from livejournal.com)
Consider genre romance -- you might think weepy melodramas like Love Story and The Notebook would qualify, but romance readers absolutely do not consider them romances, and they'll get out the torches and pitchforks if a book's marketed as genre romance when it doesn't end with at least "happy for not".

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Whoah!

Date: 2017-03-14 08:24 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I thought this lot would have no problem at all with the idea of genre fluidity.



TSM_in_Toronto

Date: 2017-03-16 03:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mindstalk.livejournal.com
I don't think Brin's division is really useful for SF/F, but it is an interesting division of works' themes, and there is a correlation, though not a tight one, as the proposed counter examples show.

That said, while I wouldn't called Discworld SF, I'd say it is very much fantasy with a kind of SF feel or mindset -- not for the improvability (which comes after I first had this impression) but for the approach to magic and other 'fantastic' elements.

Ted Chiang, too -- many of his stories are pure fantasy in subject matter, but SFnal in mindset. Contrast with the far more common SF subject matter (robots and spaceships) but fantastic mindset.

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