Archive for August, 2010

The Speculative Human

A couple of years ago, during some social event I found myself at, a woman mentioned having enjoyed the movie,  A Minority Report. She felt it necessary to qualify her praise, however.  “It’s, you know, just one of those sci-fi–”

I cut her, mid-sentence.  “Yes.  It’s from a Phillip K. Dick short story.  I think it was originally published back in the 50’s.”

My response might as well have sprouted spikes; she took a quick step back.  Just as quickly, she changed the subject.

Even in conversations between fans of science fiction and fantasy, we often fail to touch.  We reel off names, writers we’re excited about right now.  Me: Iain M. Banks, China Mieville, Paolo Bacigalupi, and the late Kage Baker (to name a few).  My fellow fan shakes her head, and says different names, names I usually recognize, but either haven’t gotten around to reading, or maybe am not that crazy about.  And so we gaze at each other across the chasm, sympathetic to one another, but not quite communicating.  And sometimes we’re not sympathetic, not even respectful of each others choices.  We might even roll our eyes at one another.  We’re human, after all.

And yet, given all of the above, I feel that nothing connects me to my planet, my fellow humans, and to the workings of my own brain the way speculative fiction does.  When Terry Pratchett is satirizing bureaucracy (or almost anything, really), I’m there.  When Bacigalupi’s agribusiness villains unleash plagues against crops worldwide, I hug my farmer’s market produce more tightly to my breast.  I connect with this stuff, and if I don’t get my daily fix, I feel less than fully sane. Speculative fiction is simultaneously about the way-out-there and the way-inside-here.  That’s what makes it different from much mainstream and lit-fic.

And I need to talk about it, write about it.  I need to order my thoughts and feelings about this stuff I like.  That’s what I intend to do here.  We’ll see what happens.  Maybe I’ll cross a few chasms in the process.  Let’s hope.

Thanks for reading.

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