Friday, February 06, 2009

Reconciling the Snovian Disjunction

""""To insist on the miraculous is to deny to the machine at least some of its claims on us, to assert the limited wish that living things, earthly and otherwise, may on occasion become Bad and Big enough to take part in transcendent doings. By this theory, for example, King Kong (?-1933) becomes your classic Luddite saint. The final dialogue in the movie, you recall, goes, "Well, the airplanes got him." "No. . . it was Beauty killed the Beast." In which we again encounter the same Snovian Disjunction, only different, between the human and the technological.
But if we do insist upon fictional violations of the laws of nature -- of space, time, thermodynamics, and the big one, mortality itself -- then we risk being judged by the literary mainstream as Insufficiently Serious. Being serious about these matters is one way that adults have traditionally defined themselves against the confidently immortal children they must deal with. Looking back on Frankenstein, which she wrote when she was 19, Mary Shelley said, "I have affection for it, for it was the offspring of happy days, when death and grief were but words which found no true echo in my heart." The Gothic attitude in general, because it used images of death and ghostly survival toward no more responsible end than special effects and cheap thrills, was judged not Serious enough and confined to its own part of town. It is not the only neighborhood in the great City of Literature so, let us say, closely defined. In westerns, the good people always win. In romance novels, love conquers all. In whodunits, murder, being a pretext for a logical puzzle, is hardly ever an irrational act. In science fiction, where entire worlds may be generated from simple sets of axioms, the constraints of our own everyday world are routinely transcended. In each of these cases we know better. We say, "But the world isn't like that." These genres, by insisting on what is contrary to fact, fail to be Serious enough, and so they get redlined under the label "escapist fare."
This is especially unfortunate in the case of science fiction, in which the decade after Hiroshima saw one of the most remarkable flowerings of literary talent and, quite often, genius, in our history. It was just as important as the Beat movement going on at the same time, certainly more important than mainstream fiction, which with only a few exceptions had been paralyzed by the political climate of the cold war and McCarthy years. Besides being a nearly ideal synthesis of the Two Cultures, science fiction also happens to have been one of the principal refuges, in our time, for those of Luddite persuasion."""""

Capn Tom's complex and informed zaniness, while at times a bit tiresome, always outperformed Updike's sludgy prose (RIP John Updike. May he rest in sludge).

King kong, you say?????????????????

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