Saturday, May 24, 2008

A very good observation

Karen Burnham has critiqued the latest issue of Baen's Universe on a web site called Spiral Galaxy Reviews. She had an opinion on the boundary between s-f and fantasy, and my story was part of the discussion:

"Baen's has an unusual practice of explicitly segregating their science fiction stories from their fantasy stories. This can provide fodder for the ever-popular "Guess the Genre Label!" game.

"For Mike Resnick's story in this issue, it's an easy call. It's set on another planet, it's got aliens—no problem, it's sf. Things get a little trickier with Sarah Hoyt's story. It features the possible reappearance of a figure from the past to help a woman deal with her issues. At the end the figure disappears. The choice here is between reading it as mainstream (everything is rational and she's slightly delusional) or fantasy (an ancient king reincarnated for a day just to help her with her relationship issues—totally!), not between fantasy and sf. This is clearly a genre magazine, so clearly the story must be generic—fantasy it is!.

"It may have been a bit harder to categorize Lou Antonelli's story. It's got a multiple-worlds thing going, where one world is science-based (Superconducting Super Collider) and one is magic-based (animal telepathy). His world-building indicates that the basis for this split lies not in differing physical laws but differing research grant allocations. This is really a science fantasy, the sort of thing that John W. Campbell banished to the pages of Unknown back in olden times. Unknown was a place where Analog (Astounding back then) authors could go to "let their hair down," i.e. not be "scientifically rigorous." (Stop laughing.) It spawned such tales as The Compleat Enchanter series by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt. Here Eric Flint seems to have applied the same general philosophy that Campbell did. Let's call it the one drop rule: one drop of fantasy makes it a fantasy. It's probably the only realistic way to draw the line if you're going to be throwing labels around, but thinking about it made me giggle a bit. On to the stories themselves!"

This is pretty sharp. I have to give her credit. I will next post her actual review of my story.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for mentioning my review! I'm glad you found something interesting in it; sometimes it's a little hard to get away from the "plot summary, value judgement, lather, rinse, repeat" cycle of reviewing.

    I have to say that one thing that made me pre-disposed to enjoy your story is that I just moved to Texas in 2008. It always tickles me to read about places that I could drive to, or that I've seen. A pleasure rarely indulged when one is an sf fan!

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