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October 19th, 2012, 03:52 PM #16
I merged the two threads you had and kept it in the SF forum, no need to have multiple threads with the same discussion, keep it all centralized.
October 19th, 2012, 05:22 PM #17
Dan Simmons' Hyperion, Miller's A Canticle for St. Liebowitz, Clarke's 2001, Flowers for Algernon, Asimov's Foundation, The Walking Dead, etc., you can pretty much find it throughout. And that's why the books are not escapist for readers. They're fun, but so are contemporary dramas and comedies and historical novels that don't contain speculative elements. Those unreal elements are tools mostly to put characters in heightened, extreme circumstances (including magic realism, near future SF and the rest,) where they face issues that may greatly change their perspective of their surroundings and themselves, as can be done with suspense, westerns, high drama, etc. And that's thought for us. The most comic princess adventure story, the sappiest romance, doesn't take us out of our own world; it just shifts the focus in a symbolic way and lets us explore in a different, altered direction. It can get very cultural if the author wants to explore a specific aspect of current culture, like environmental post-apocalypse SF stories or Charles Stross' Rule 34. Or it may simply be speculative or a combo.
So you could use reflection as the umbrella idea, but it sounds like you're trying to not limit them too much in their research agendas (to teach them how to research and make an argument which is cool.) But you may want to limit it to stories in which there is a world that is distinct and separate from our current world or alternate versions of our current world. That would include portal and multiverses and post-apocalypses, SF stories set in a future substantially different from now, pretty much all secondary world fantasy stories, journeys to hidden lands, journeys to hells or lands of the dead, etc.
An alternative, if you would rather not narrow it down, would be to concentrate on immersion. In most SF/F/H, the main character(s) become immersed in a world different from what he or she knew before. This includes many contemporary fantasies where the person learns about things that have been hidden or learns more about things that they weren't that familiar with before. They enter into new societies. Secondary world fantasies do this with main characters encountering lands, cultures, or circumstances new to them, immersing the character in that world. SF in near future still does the same thing -- how do scientists deal with a computer that has become self-aware, or with a virus that is mutating or an expedition to a planet made of mainly graphite and diamond, etc. The character moves from what was known before to what has not been known, one world to another.
This is essentially what psikey tends to go on about. He believes having a hard SF story in which a main character is immersed in science ideas and introducing those early on in education illuminates those worlds of science and inquiry for young readers.
KCF -- There was only a brief period in the early 1990's when contemporary fantasy novels were not plentiful, which had more to do with book economics and the Great Paperback Depression than cultural factors. The increase in contemporary fantasy titles was chiefly the result of Anne Rice -- who started her run before the Wall came down, Laurell K. Hamilton, Neil Gaiman and a few others who did well or caused comment (such as Emma Bull's Territory) in the 1990's. The number of contemporary fantasy titles in the late 1990's were quite large, the number of paranormal romance titles with contemporary settings also got quite large then. It, however, takes a few years for most people to notice. By 2004, a cluster of hit authors allowed for further expansion, which coincided with expansions in horror (fueled largely by film stuff,) paranormal romance and romance altogether, and all other areas of fantasy -- historical, comic, secondary world and of course, YA. But the beginning of the expansion would more accurately be 1997. Secondary world hasn't dropped off (except in the sense that all fiction authors have seen declines of their individual sales which again is due to book distribution issues, the collapse of the wholesale market and other market factors,) and has been helped in expansion by the expansion of contemporary fantasy and YA fantasy. I'm not saying 9/11 has not effected individual titles, and it definitely reinvigorated spy thrillers, but the lure of contemporary fantasy, particularly urban fantasy, is not politics but the suspense market. Noir is a perennial.
October 19th, 2012, 06:10 PM #18
October 19th, 2012, 06:14 PM #19
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- Oct 2012
It's hard to address every point here, but if I may critique, I feel you are attaching your *own* interpretation of "escapism;" one that has negative connotation. (Which is of course many informed SF/F readers' position on the word, including my own....usually.) But when I cast the word in the prompt, I don't mean it for any philosophy other than the verb itself, escape, and I think giving the students freedom to interpret that word themselves and deciding whether it should be a negative or positive thing is worth seeking, perhaps even spending a great deal of time on. The word itself is loaded. While I recall writing a response on "escapism" -- to an old professor who disliked SF/F -- as an uninformed way to dismiss the genre, going on how SF/F elements are tools for exploring otherwise un-explorable ideas (which is still my opinion today), I recently read a psych-related article on dissociation by Martha Stout called, "When I Woke Up, It Was Tuesday," and it made me think that escapism could be a good thing as well, or is at least not necessarily devaluing anything. Do you see what I mean? I will now definitely consider the word choice.
October 20th, 2012, 12:29 AM #20
Yes, and basically I agree with you. Your students certainly could explore escapism as a theme, depending on the parameters you set for the course. But escapism in the context of SF/F/H scholarship does have a particular meaning and so could cause some confusion. Of course, there are a lot of confusing terms in SF/F/H.