Monday, February 10, 2014

Note on not knowing what's up

You again.

I've been thinking a bit about how SF short stories, when they bunch up, often turn into novels. And how so many SF novels feel like sequences of linked short stories.

The SF fluidity between short form and long form is exemplified by the ubiquity of the fix-up. This sort of picaresque mode no doubt has a lot to do with the history of SF publishing, and the traditional career of the SF writer, working their way up through the short fiction to the novel, from the novel to undying glory and ecstasy. It probably also has to do with the voyages of the starships Enterprise.

But I wonder if it also has to do with the special kind of negative capability native to SF. That is, with the relative willingness of the SF reader to be "in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason" (Keats). Does intertextuality sometimes piggyback on the greater allowances SF readers make for the unknown? Can a SF story stand alone more easily than a realist story, or a detective story perhaps, because when a reader sees a character hurrying off, acting all portentous and weird, making a bunch of baffling references, then doing something inexplicable, possibly fatal or whatever -- then that reader can extend to them the same affable tolerance they would to the yawning of a wormhole, or the yawing of a warp-drive? Are the souls of SF characters as much phlebotinum as they are ectoplasm? Are they, perhaps, not woven into the story, so much as built into the world?

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