Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Of Other Worlds

Reading Lewis's essays on art, atmosphere, and Otherness in works of fiction, John W. Campbell's story "Who Goes There?" (Cue words: Antarctica, scientists, shapechanging alien) came into my mind as an example of one of Lewis's point. Sometimes the science part of Science Fiction is unimportant - there are only the trappings of science, but the same story could have been managed in another form.

Certainly true.  In the above, shapeshifting by any means would have been sufficient.  No need for aliens.  I wonder how often that is the case with Science Fiction, that it is really more speculative fiction with a little science thrown in.   I have no idea whether it was more common in the old days or more common now.


karrde said...

What is the difference between Speculative Fiction and Science Fiction?

Or the difference between hard-sci-fi, soft-sci-fi, and space-opera?

It depends...

Come to think of it, should certain plays of Shakespeare be classified as speculative fiction? Not the loosely-based-on-history-stuff, but A Midsummer Nights' Dream?

Were the fairies considered 'real', or 'speculative' in the story-telling? What about the witches in Macbeth, or the ghost of the King in Hamlet?

Closer to home, consider Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne wrote several short-stories that feel like speculative fiction to me.

Rappaccinni's Daughter has most of the elements of mad-scientist story.

P.'s Correspondence feels like time-travel, or alternate-reality.

I get the feeling that speculative fiction has always been around in one form or another, and that science-fiction is a variant of speculative-fiction.

Texan99 said...

Yes, the great old story remade as "The Thing," with the sturdy plot device of "Ten Little Indians." I watched it again on TV the other day, and it definitely held up as terrific suspense. That genre works best if the author refrains from explaining too much. The more thoughtful character will lock himself up in a room and commit suicide over the angst-filled realization that he can't tell who is human. The man of action will just fight back. The whole thing is memorably eerie, especially the beginning and ending with images of a man cruelly and inexplicably targeting a frantically running dog.

Sam L. said...

T99, there's also "The Lost Patrol" scheme, where characters get picked off one by one. Aliens, anyone? (Loved the visuals, but kept saying "Dumb, dumb, dumb" to myself for all but the set-up.

Texan99 said...

Yeah, "Ten Little Indians" works anytime there's a fairly small group that's isolated -- on a spaceship, in a lab at the South Pole, on a country estate on a long weekend, in a hotel snowed in for the winter, at a remote campsite. "Who Goes There/The Thing" relies on that set-up plus the scary "who's human and who's just an empty shell" gimmick ("Invasion of the Body Snatchers," "Stepford Wives"), which is especially scary when you're cooped up with them.