The look at James Gunn’s master thesis Modern Science Fiction: A Critical Analysis continues.
Essay: Definitions of SF and Plot Types
So why does Gunn’s thesis classify the genre by plot type?
Science fiction, as we noted in the preceding section, is a medium of ideas, and the only way ideas can work themselves out dramatically is in terms of plot.
Gunn looks at seven different definitions of science fiction from the seven anthologists he mostly relied on in his sample.
The most striking are from Sam Merwin, Jr and Groff Conklin.
Merwin succinctly said, “Science fiction is fantasy wearing a tight girdle”.
Conklin was longer, but I think he hit on something important with needing at least the appearance of rationality:
It may be suggested that science fiction is composed of “supernatural” writing for materialists. You may read every science-fiction story that is true science fiction, and never once have to compromise with your id. The stories all have rational explanations, provided you are willing to grant the word “rational” a certain elasticity.
While Gunn says any literary form that can be confined to a rigid definition has already ceased to grow. (My question when I hear these evolutionary arguments about how the genre must evolve and change is change and evolve to what? What is the defined standard? Is there no time in that evolution it is more fit for its purpose than other times? If so, what purpose? How will you know you’ve evolved enough?) Continue reading