January 8th, 2008


But are we TOP drawer?

I was reading this post on the Guardian UK book blog that asks "Why do critics still sneer at SF?" when I found a link to this 1965 NYT column by the late Kurt Vonnegut. The Guardian article isn't really new; it goes over a lot of the same old ground. But I have to say the Vonnegut column managed a nifty trick. He distanced himself from science fiction without actually dissing it. He refers to science fiction as a file drawer, and he says that the drawer is full of people who love being in it. He says some nice things about people who understand science and technology and some not-so-nice things about English majors.

But still it was 1965, and Vonnegut made a prediction. He said "... more and more writers in 'the mainstream,' as science-fiction people call the world outside the file-drawer, will include technology in their tales, will give it at least the respect due in a narrative to a wicked stepmother." I would argue that hasn't happened. Yes, plenty of writers use science fiction tropes, but that hasn't bought speculative fiction much respect.

I wonder what scottedelman would say about Vonnegut's time capsule assessment of the field? He seems very introspective about the past lately.