Autobiography and Science Fiction: Children of Rousseau and Wonder

Extrapolation (1985), 26, (4), 277–284.


Autobiography and Science Fiction: Children of Rousseau and Wonder DONALD M. HASSLER ... we preach not ourselves. 2 Corinthians 4:5 • Unless the theorists and critics of science fiction are clear about what this peculiarly modem type of writing is, a danger exists that the borders of the genre will be either annexed by literature in general or invaded by the hordes of the larger category known as fantasy. Certainly the first violation is an aggrandizement to be hoped for, and science fiction in the future should be more recognized as fine literature. But the classification with fantasy is a mistake that theorists must take pains to avoid so that when general literature itself is understood, in some far distant Enlightenment, science fiction may be seen as a phenomenon in our time distinct from the various modes of popular fantasy. And further, I think, popular fantasy continually threatens to engulf science fiction and to blur the unique contributions of this hardy brand of modem Enlightenment thinking. In my 1982 book, Comic Tones in Science Fiction, I attempted to build on the ideas of Lem, Suvin, and others by suggesting the firm foundation of modem science fiction in the eighteenth-century Enlightenment as well as the tough-minded tone that distinguishes the "novas" of science fiction from the illusions of fantasy. I Significantly, at about the same time as Suvin's work and then mine, a movement was begun again to subsume science fiction as a division of fantasy. According to the preface by Robert Collins and Howard Pearce to the just-published conference proceedings that manifested this movement toward the "fantastic" in 1979: Realism, the literary technique that has accompanied the dominance of physical science as a model for the real, has continued to lose ground since midcentury. Convinced that a shift in philosophical climate was well established, we issued ... a'call for papers to be read at the First International Conference on the Fantastic. 2 Extrapolation, Vol. 26, No.4, ©1985 by the Kent State University Press 277

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Author details

Hassler, Donald M.