The Mundane and the Metaphorical

Much ado about Mundane Science Fiction. (See:  Wikipedia. )Here’s my take:

Mundane Science Fiction is a useful handle for sf stories of their type. What I don’t quite get is how Mundane Science Fiction (MSF) novels are better than, say, The Left Hand of Darkness or, say, The Sparrow.

As a caution against crappy sf, I like what the Mundane Science Fiction manifesto has to say. Glad someone said it.

My beef?

There is lots of crappy Mundane SF around too. There is no antidote for crappy stories, I believe, MSF included. That said, there is a more basic concern:

#1. MSF’s troubling stance that exploring off planet stories encourages an exploitative mind set, and even something as specific as “a wasteful attitude toward Earth.” An interesting idea, maybe. Worth discussing, maybe not worth a manifesto. Many environmental cautionary tales can be (and have been) fictionally set on extra solar worlds. I should know, I wrote one: The Seeds of Time.

#2, MSF’s bewildering sentiment that we tell better stories of people’s dreams, hopes and feelings if we avoid off-world settings and alien cultures. I always thought that I wrote about real people and their inner lives. I always thought fictional alien cultures can be the basis for an extended metaphor on the human condition. Why is it better to be in the realm of “reality?” If you want serious predictions of the future, sf is not always a good place to go. Even the best of our sf literature in the 80’s and 90’s missed the technological prophetic boat. The heck with predicting the future. Let’s play in it.

I want to emphasize that I don’t mind the category–although like Sean Williams,

I’m getting weary of so many. If you tell me your latest book is Mundane Science Fiction, great, I’ve got it ball-parked. But please don’t turn up your nose if I tell you I’ve just written about a world we’ll never see.

I just hope that MSF doesn’t provide the latest way to be With It: to be truly in tune with the Earth and human emotion. Isn’t that a shade condescending? Shall we revoke the awards for The Dispossessed?

And let’s all resolve not to write crappy sf. Of any sort.

2 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Mundane? Science Fiction

    As a consumer of science fiction and fantasy, I do not understand the apparently urgent need to parse the genre in this way. I take a little offense at the notion that someone, somehow needs to tell me that novel/story “x” is mundane, or otherworldly, or trash. Let me tell myself these things after I read them! I have enjoyed many authors’ efforts, and to be honest sometimes they fall short of expectations (my expectation that ALL of their works, and I tend to read everything an author writes once I discover them – including Kay Kenyon and Louise Marley, and Connie Willis, and Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, Katherine Kerr, etc. – will be as good as whatever work first trapped me).

    Humanity and its foibles can be expressed elegantly in many forms of fiction and non-fiction. A “mundane” classification, to me, is just plain silly.

    Ed

  2. Kay says:

    The real stuff

    Right, bad is bad, by whatever name. Why is this so hard to get? However, imho, Mundane SF is no worse than the rest of SF–not as a whole. It’s just that it’s no better. And see related topic in my September 16 blog, “The Hidebound Mainstream.”

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