On the Structural Analysis of Science Fiction


If SF is something more than fairy tale fiction, it has the right to neglect the fairy tale world and its rules. It is also not realism and has the right to neglect the methods of realistic description. Its generic indefiniteness facilitates its existence, for it is supposedly not subject to the whole range of criteria by which literary works normally are judged. SF is not allegorical, but then it says allegory is not its task: SF and Kafka are quite different. It is not realistic, but then it is not a part of realistic literature. The future? How often have SF authors disclaimed any intention of making predictions! Finally, it is the Myth of the 21st Century. But the ontological character of myth is anti-empirical, and though a technological civilization may have its myths, it cannot itself embody a myth, for myth is an interpretation, an explication, and you must have the object that is to be explicated. SF lives in but strives to emerge from this antinomical state of being. It becomes more and more apparent that its narrative structures deviate more and more from any real processes, having been used again and again since they were first introduced and having thus become frozen, fossilized paradigms. SF involves the art of putting hypothetical premises into the very complicated stream of socio-psychological occurrences. Although this art once had its master in H.G. Wells, it has been forgotten and is now lost. But it can be learned again.

On the Structural Analysis of Science Fiction, Stanislaw Lem

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