‘ahems and ahahs’

Literature, & Etc.

Hard Fantasy Indeed

with 2 comments

Fantasy VS. Science Fiction

I was casually reading the news this morning and I stumbled onto this article over at CNN.com/entertainment: Arthur C. Clarke’s last vision. It goes on to discuss the last collaborative work that Arthur C. Clarke engaged in with his fellow contemporary writer, Frederik Pohl.  Clarke’s last novel is not my main focus in writing this particular posting, it’s the offhand commentary he makes.

Pohl said the type of work he and Clarke did was different from much of what is written today. He said that rather than delving into difficult subjects like astronomy, math and physics, young writers sometimes turn to an easier route by writing fantasy.

“Science fiction is sometimes a little hard,” Pohl said. “Fantasy is like eating an ice cream cone. You don’t have to think a bit.”

This is the type of commentary I’d expect from someone who does not read genre fiction to make. For someone who writes in genre fiction and writes in a genre which is consistently having to defend itself from critics who make derogatory claims similar to the one Pohl is making about fantasy, well I’m flabbergasted. Pohl has obviously not read the works of George R.R. Martin, or Steven Erikson or Terry Brooks. These are fantasy works that have casts of characters that span pages, that include the most complex of story lines. Genre fiction is much like any other type of fiction or literature, it has the same capacity for greatness as well as insignificance. There are writers who have the ability to push the limits of a genre into the epic and the grand, and those who simply reinforce tired stereotypes and/or common plots of a predictable nature.

A writer of your stature Mr. Pohl would do better to promote reading period, regardless of literary genre or type. I expect much better than this way of thinking Mr. Pohl, maybe you have spent a bit too much time in the science fiction section, I urge you to take a stroll down the fantasy aisle, there is plenty of “hard thinking” available, if one only looks in the right places.

Written by thebeliever07

August 6, 2008 at 5:59 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Wow, Pohl is a legend in the field. He is one of the cornerstones of science fiction. He is one of the old school writers, well-awarded with lots of clout.

    That said, there are some things you don’t say — or you have to phrase it the right way. While I agree with him fully and the spirit he is saying it in, he didn’t phrase it too well. Writing fantasy is easier. Why do you think Terry writes fantasy? So he doesn’t have to research. He has said it repeatedly that he would rather write something than have to research something and then write something. Many fantasy writers are the same way; they simply don’t have the background to write real science fiction.

    Real science fiction takes great knowledge to pull off, to weave it into the story, of all the applied sciences. Why do you think the majority of science fiction writers are also professors in applied sciences at major universities? Baxter. Hamilton. Bear. These writers have a dimension to them that almost all fantasy writers lack. Martin, Lynch, Brooks, even myself who is one tiny step away from having a biochemistry degree… these people could not write a science fiction book. Or if they did, it would take great amounts of time learning a discipline to do it. They don’t have the background for it. Those old school writers like Pohl grew up in the age of Einstein and Wheeler and Crick/Watson and Hubbel, when science ruled and magic was relegated to fairy tales. Pohl is definitely biased because of that, but he does raise an interesting point that does hold a certain high level of validity.

    Don’t mistake Pohl saying great books can’t come out of fantasy. That’s not what he said. He simply said it is easier to write fantasy because rather than just weaving a story and having believable characters, one must also incorporate a totally different line of story into the story of the characters and make it believable. Just from that simple fact of having to add one thing that fantasy writers don’t have to add, fantasy is easier to write.

    So don’t dismiss Pohl too much. There is a reason he said what he said. I have no doubt it wasn’t intended to upset anyone or was a slight to anyone. He just should have rephrased it better.



    August 6, 2008 at 10:01 pm

  2. The above was posted over at the Terry Brooks Forum in response to my original posting, huzzah for Shawn, cheers.


    August 6, 2008 at 10:02 pm

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