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ejp626

Science fiction vs. literature

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I actually think that PKD is a pretty lousy writer (most of the time) but he was a brilliant, often off-the-wall idea guy.

i think pkd was the model for kilgore trout (just my personal opinion).

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A great not mentioned:

Stanislaw Lem

makes me wish I could read Polish.

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A great not mentioned:

Stanislaw Lem

makes me wish I could read Polish.

Lem is mentioned several times above. ;)

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Villiers de L'Isle-Adam, "L'Eve future"

Mary Shelley, "The Last Man"

Fontenelle, "Entretiens sur la pluralite des mondes" (arguably much of the rationalist literature of the 17th century, including many of Leibniz's tracts, could be considered a kind of science fiction)

Avital Ronell, "Crack Wars" (like "The Telephone Book," CW contains elements of narrative)

Edited by j lee

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Stanislaw Lem is your man. (BTW, he championed PKD as a partial exception to the general trashiness of the field).

I don't think anyone has mentioned Olaf Stapledon. A giant who was so fecund with ideas that they're STILL stealing from him. Arthur C. Clarke certainly acknowledged his great influence.

When I read Don Delillo's White Noise, it struck me as a science fiction novel; almost as though he had achieved what PKD had tried to (Dick's ear for prose was, unfortunately, leaden in the extreme). Pynchon could be seen as SF, too. And Franzen's The Corrections has some SF elements, if we define SF as being fundamentally about the interface of technology and humanity. Delillo and Franzen are both particularly "Dickian" in their attention to the technology of pharmaceuticals, though Delillo's concerns are wider (his attention to the effects of various information technologies as well as the "airborne toxic event" that features prominently in White Noise).

Anyway, I still feel that Lem is the best writer generally considered to be of the realm of Science Fiction.

Edited by Kalo

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Phillip K. Dick. I've been reading and rereading him since the 60s. "Ubik" is next up.

Same for Kurt Vonnegut. If you haven't read any try "The Siren OF Titan" for starters. That's due for a revisiting on my part.

Ooooo, this is spooky. About a month ago I finally got around to reading Ubik. I just decided to dig out Sirens which I gave up on early in the going about 15 years ago (I found the receipt as a bookmark.) 30 pages into Siren now and I can't believe I stopped where I did. I suppose I found it too different from Vonnegut's other books at the time. Or I've grown up!

In between those by pure chance I read 2 books concerning the almost end-of-the-world both centered around San Francisco. Dick's Dr. Bloodmoney (dee-lightful!) and George Stewart's tale of a quick & deadly plague and the aftermath. No, I don't wish harm to San Francisco, honest.

Not sure if I'd call the latter great literature, but it was an engrossing read. Dick's imagination is so vivid...where's my wine tasting thesaurus?

Not qualified for the label argument, but I stepped into this anyway.

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I don't find Dick's prose "leaden" at all or that he didn't have an ear for it. I guess it's just a matter of personal taste. I find his style to be very direct and compelling.

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No "leaden" seems to be a weird thing to call Dick.

He has his faults certainly, and a fair many bad moments, but he could write very well in a plain style if you asked me, and was quite good at developing character by narrating in a characters own language. (We might observe the "oriental" turn to the way characters think in Man in the High Castle.)

Perhaps this sometimes comes off as a bit awkward? But he isn't reaching for beauty of language, he's reaching for a language that resonates with how someone might think.

--eric

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What always has endeared me to PKD was that his main male characters were very human; they almost always were having women problems!

The justaposition of the fantastic future material world, and the age old angst of the male character, is always a hoot!

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Haven't read much sci-fi (in fact, the only Bradbury I've ever read was Dandelion Wine, which was not sci-fi), but my gut feeling is that, just as the detective novel replaced the western as a dominant cultural narrative about 60-70 years ago, so may the sci-fi novel now be eclipsing the crime story.

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I'd have to say I'm a fan of PKD, lest anyone think otherwise. He's an example of the type of writer who has great strengths that transcend his mediocre prose. Theodore Dreiser is perhaps the foremost example in American literature of this type. His prose was godawful, but his novels are compelling.

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Well, I'll just disagree then. I don't feel PKD's prose is mediocre, or like RDK that he was a pretty lousy writer. I feel that his style is very spare and modern and as Eric has mentioned tied to the characteristics of thoughts. Maybe it IS a personal thing, because I find that it really feels natural to the way that I think.

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Also, I think I like his non-science fiction work best!

I also like Michael Moorcock's non-science fiction work a lot.

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I'd have to say I'm a fan of PKD, lest anyone think otherwise. He's an example of the type of writer who has great strengths that transcend his mediocre prose. Theodore Dreiser is perhaps the foremost example in American literature of this type. His prose was godawful, but his novels are compelling.

Agreed.

On the other end of the scale perhaps, is Ursula K. LeGuin, who had and has excellent prose (especially by genre standards) but who's written very few stories that are compelling as SCIENCE FICTION.

(BTW, to me Olaf Stapledon is Da Man when it comes to SF. He's the original Old Growth Redwood and most of the writers since are saplings growing in his giant shade.)

Edited by BruceH

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Haven't seen AA Attanasio mentioned here yet. His writing has always struck me as being on the more "literary" side of the fence, as opposed to writing strictly for "genre". His Radix books have been favorites of mine for awhile, and Solis is one of my hands-down favorite books, period.

Gonna stick in a favorite fantasy writer as well: Just finished the third George RR Martin book in his Fire and Ice series. What a fantastic storyline, all the way around. Too bad it's so long between books. The downside of epic series writing, I guess. Someday, I hope some writer has the patience to finish a storyline BEFORE he/she starts publishing. Five years between books is a long time to wait.

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The thing I always found interesting about PKD's fiction is his vision. With maybe a few exceptions, I felt he was telling the same story over and over again, but from many different angles. A Scanner Darkly, UBIK, Three Stigmata, and Flow My Tears are the books I still hold on to.

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