Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Disconnect of Sci-fi & Fantasy

Highly-regarded sci-fi author Poul Anderson in a classic rant detailing heroic fantasy's disconnect with reality:

Politics in general is much neglected... Our hero may lead a revolt [against a monarch] and find himself the next ruler. Little or nothing is said about the infinitely intricate mechanics of organizing a rebellion or, for that matter, about the legal questions involved.
Anderson plied his trade
mainly in sci-fi's 'golden age'.
Religion in general... is little used in our field... We may get a hero swearing by his particular gods and perhaps carrying through a small rite, equivalent to... a rabbit’s foot. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see an imaginary society which was pervaded by its faith, as many real ones have been.
• While no one expects heroic fantasy to be of ultimate psychological profundity, it is often simple to the point of being simplistic. This is not necessary, as such fine practitioners as de Camp, Leiber, and Tolkien have proven.
• Worse, because it is... obvious and... less excusable, is a frequent lack of elementary knowledge or plain common sense on the part of an author... Far too many writers nowadays have supposed that anything whatsoever goes, that practical day-to-day details are of no importance and hence they, the writers, have no homework to do before they start spinning their yarns. Not so! The consequence of making that assumption is, inevitably, a sleazy product.

Reasons such as these are why sci-fi legend Arthur C. Clarke lamented that his chosen field produced little actual literature.

(hat tip to my Facebook friend D Jason Fleming)


  1. I couldn't agree more! A flagrant offender are fantasies in which the plot revolves around returning a "rightful heir" to the throne, neglecting the fact that every dynasty at some point stole that throne from a predecessor - to say nothing of the cruelty, nepotism and corruption that are inevitable in any monarchy.

    1. Good point, Ken. Glad to hear from you.