Novelist and teacher M. Thomas Gammarino experienced an epiphany when he taught two courses in the same semester, one on science fiction, and another in modernism. Gammarino expected the two genres to clash, but happily discovered they supplemented each other. The reason, he explains in this Omni article, is that all art aims to enable us to see the world more intently by presenting it in unfamiliar and challenging ways:
In his 1917 essay “Art as Device,” Russian formalist poet Viktor Shlovky gave us the term ostranenie to describe the primary function of art. The term is usually translated as “defamiliarization,” though it literally means “strange-making.” The job of art, in other words, is to renew our eyes by making the familiar appear strange. Other modernists had— or would— put forth variations on this idea, from Mallarmé’s “Donner un sens plus pur aux mots de la tribu” (purify the words of the tribe) to Ezra Pound’s “Make it new,” and modernist critics regularly invoke this idea to illuminate the sorts of linguistic experiments writers like Gertrude Stein and James Joyce were up to.
I heartily agree. Both fantasy and sci-fi renew one’s sense of wonder in ways literary fiction cannot. That’s not to say literary fiction is incapable of reawakening the awe we felt as a child discovering our shiny, new world. Energetic, evocative writing in any genre helps us re-imagine the world around us, forcing us to see it anew. But literary fiction tends to focus on the inner world, while fantasy and sci-fi direct us toward the outer world — or even toward new, imagined worlds. Speculative fiction always goes big, reminding us of our role in society, the world, and the universe itself.
That’s what makes fantasy and sci-fi such powerful springboards for the imagination.
“This novella is small but packs a definite punch. From the very beginning it draws you in and keeps you interested. It also resolves things quickly and cleanly by the last page so there are no loose ends to leave you wondering after you close the book.”
“When you go mountain climbing, the first thing you’re told is not to look at the peak, but to keep your eyes on the ground as you climb. You just keep climbing patiently one step at a time. If you keep looking at the top, you’ll get frustrated. I think writing is similar.” Akira Kurosawa
Bewildering Stories ends the season — winter or summer, depending on your hemisphere — with the Review Editors’ selection of favorites from the third quarter of 2016. New readers will have easy access to the recent best of Bewildering Stories, and veteran readers will have a chance to catch up on anything they may have missed.
The Quarterly Reviews are not a contest, competition or poll. And there are no quotas: anything — from everything to nothing — may qualify in any genre. Rather, they answer a practical question: “If a friend asked you to recommend something outstanding from the past quarter of Bewildering Stories, what would you choose?”
There is nothing official about this, but at this blog, I am declaring that this whole year from September 6, 2016 to September 6, 2017 is International Reading Year! Care to join me and spread the word?
If you like this idea, please tell as many people as you can.
And thank you to various people in the blogging world for suggesting continuing National Read A Book day!
“A brilliant flash fiction can illuminate a world in a moment. It can tell an epic story in the space of a page. The compression necessary to a flash fiction piece means it takes on a greater urgency, a controlled burn that means every single word on that page is necessary, is living and breathing and is saying the thing that so desperately needs to be said. Every piece of kindling is cut and placed and perfect.” Amber Sparks