Gene Wolfe on Literature’s Mainstream

Renowned SF writer Gene Wolfe on the Science Fiction Studies website, in an interview with Larry McCaffery:

Larry McCaffery: Could you discuss what sorts of things have drawn you towards writing SF? Do you find there are certain formal advantages in writing outside the realm of “mainstream” fiction, maybe a freedom that allows you more room for exploring the issues you wish to develop?

Gene Wolfe: It’s not so much a matter of “advantages” as SF appealing to my natural cast of mind, to my literary imagination. The only way I know to write is to write the kind of thing I would like to read myself, and when I do that it usually winds up being classified as SF or “science fantasy,” which is what I call most of my work. Incidentally, I’d argue that SF represents literature’s real mainstream. What we now normally consider the mainstream—so called realistic fiction—is a small literary genre, fairly recent in origin, which is likely to be relatively short lived. When I look back at the foundations of literature, I see literary figures who, if they were alive today, would probably be members of the Science Fiction Writers of America. Homer? He would certain belong to the SFWA. So would Dante, Milton, and Shakespeare. That tradition is literature’s mainstream, and it has been what has grown out of that tradition which has been labeled SF or whatever label you want to use.

Also, it seems like someone has been reading their D’Aulaires:

…what fascinates me is that the ancient Greeks already realized these possibilities some 500 years before Christ, when they didn’t have the insights into the biological and physical sciences we have today, when there was no such thing as, say, cybernetics. Yet when you read the story of Jason and the Argonauts, you discover that the island of Crete was guarded by a robot.

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One comment

  1. Jan

    I had not thought of science fiction as an ancient genre until now. The hypothesis is compelling. What is particularly striking about Egyptian, Greek and Roman mythology is how accomplished and comfortable they were operating within the realm of astronomy, geography and oceanography. Plato referred to the cataclysm on Thira and the Pillars of Hercules while the Egyptians worshiped their sun god, Amun-Re. Their knowledge of all things celestial, terrestrial and extraterrestrial is simply mind boggling.

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