The Evolution of Beautiful Science Fiction
(I strongly object to the idea that Science Fiction has to be about science. In that regard it is the worst named genre ever. But undoubtedly some of it IS about science…)
— Damien G. Walter “To be true, Science Fiction must be beautiful”
Over on his blog, Damien G. Walter has written a short piece about beauty in science, mathematics and fiction (with a focus on Science Fiction). I agree with Damien’s argument that where prose fiction is at its most beautiful is when it interrogates the internal human experience. When fiction, under whatever label, takes the plunge and dives deep into inner space.
However, I want to talk a little about the statement quoted above, within the parentheses. Science Fiction is not the end of all fiction. No form of fiction is the final word. What evolved from one label (Scientific Romance) into another (Science Fiction) will evolve into other forms with a different labels. Maybe it is time to accept and understand that as a whole genre Science Fiction is just a step on this evolutionary path which will continue until all human language dies out.
(There is at the heart of Science Fiction I think a very American and extremely mid-twentieth century set of attitudes which is becoming a distant memory, even for Americans.)
Does that mean that Science Fiction is dying? Not exactly. At least not in an obvious and visible way. But at some point in the future it will be extinct. Nothing lives forever; everything dies. This is only natural and it causes less suffering to accept the transient nature of all things. Science Fiction is just a stage in the evolution of fiction that was born in 1926 and has, for a literary genre, had a long and relatively stable life. I do not want to be a cheerleader for the death of the Science Fiction label, but something better adapted to its environment and more beautiful will emerge to replace it and its institutions. Just as the literary fiction of the 19th, and the early and mid 20th centuries have been usurped by new fictions with new labels
Of course, on a personal level I would be very disappointed if in a thousand years, or even one hundred years, we were still reading something we’d easily recognize as Science Fiction.