"SF is an opportunity to have an intense relationship with your own imagination. It's a kind of drive-by poetry, trashy and addictive; it's fun. After that, for me, it's an opportunity to explore that kind of imaginative artifact from inside, and use a little camped-up contemporary science as a way of generating new metaphors around my typical obsessions."
—M. John Harrison, author of Light
"Science fiction does not really try to predict the future. That is a fact. It's not debatable. That is not the role of science fiction, to predict the future. Science fiction books and stories are not judged on whether they come true or not. Because if that were the case there'd be one science fiction book: the right one."
A science fiction writer may have, and often does have, other motivations in addition to pursuit of profit. He may wish to create "art for art's sake," he may want to warn the world against a course he feels disastrous (Orwell's 1984, Huxley's Brave New World — but please note that each is intensely entertaining, and that each made stacks of money), he may wish to urge the human race toward a course which he considers desirable (Bellamy's Looking Backward, Wells' Men Like Gods), he may wish to instruct, to uplift, or even to dazzle. But the science fiction writer — any fiction writer — must keep entertainment consciously in mind as his prime purpose... or he may find himself back dragging that old cotton sack.
—Robert A. Heinlein, "Pandora's Box"
It is essential to understand the radical departure taken by genuine science fiction, which comes from a diametrically opposite literary tradition — a new kind of storytelling that often rebels against those very same archetypes Campbell venerated. An upstart belief in progress, egalitarianism, positive-sum games — and the slim but real possibility of decent human institutions.
And a compulsive questioning of rules! Authors like Greg Bear, John Brunner, Alice Sheldon, Frederik Pohl and Philip K. Dick always looked on any prescriptive storytelling formula as a direct challenge — a dare. This explains why science fiction has never been much welcomed at either extreme of the literary spectrum — comic books and "high literature."
As for the literary elite, postmodernists despise science fiction because of the word "science," while their older colleagues — steeped in Aristotle’s "Poetics" — find anathema the underlying assumption behind most high-quality SF: the bold assertion that there are no "eternal human verities." Things change, and change can be fascinating. Moreover, our children might outgrow us! They may become better, or learn from our mistakes and not repeat them. And if they don’t learn, that could be a riveting tragedy far exceeding Aristotle’s cramped and myopic definition. "On the Beach," "Soylent Green" and "1984" plumbed frightening depths. "Brave New World," "The Screwfly Solution" and "Fahrenheit 451" posed worrying questions. In contrast, "Oedipus Rex" is about as interesting as watching a hooked fish thrash futilely at the end of a line. You just want to put the poor doomed King of Thebes out of his misery — and find a way to punish his tormentors.
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