But it is also clear that the language of science (fiction) does not necessarily hold sway in South Africa. This is not to say that it is a primitive place, pre-scientific in understanding and experience – these are colonial notions based on beliefs of Western civilisation as a teleological end-point for socio-cultural development. There are a multitude of discourses operating in South Africa, as befits the diverse (and sometimes fractured) nature of experiences and cultural contexts, which underpins the diversity of the country’s human resources.
It is unfashionable to assert it, but the novel does, I believe, still have a socio-educational value. It is not just Miss Manners. Fiction can make us better, or at least, better informed citizens. In a technological age, for example, it is important that the population should know something about the machinery that makes modern life possible and how it works. Science fiction has done as much for the factual scientific education of the average reader as all the educational reforms introduced since CP Snow’s 1959 polemic The Two Cultures lamented his fellow Britons’ epidemic ignorance of the second law of thermodynamics. The fact, revealed in a survey by the magazine Wired in November 2005, that 40 per cent of Americans believe that aliens are in the habit of routinely visiting our planet and taking away sample earthlings for full body cavity probes, suggests that sf may also have a lot to answer for in dumbing down the citizenry.
This is also a post to say that my blogging frequency is likely to be somewhat reduced this month. I’ll be around, but I have some things I need to get written, the looming prospect of two weeks that are likely to be extremely work-heavy, and I really need to knuckle down on the Clarke reading front. When I get my life back: Spin. Or Twenty Epics. Or possibly the forever-delayed post on why “Magic for Beginners” is so wonderful. Bet you can’t wait.
- It’s the week after Worldcon, so of course there has been discussion about Hugo voting trends, how the awards should be reformed, and what the value of awards is, anyway. And as a result of the Best Editor split, there’s now a wiki of sf editors.
- But this year that’s been somewhat eclipsed by what Harlan Ellison did; David Moles has the essential roundup of who said what. The best posts you might not have seen yet are by Alan DeNiro, Meghan McCarron and Ben Rosenbaum. The most impressive train-wreck of a conversation (aside, presumably, from whatever’s going on at the SFWA forums) is this one at Ed Champion’s place.
- Young Adult literature seems to have caught the blogosphere zeitgeist, too, from the debate at TEV (which turned into a more general debate about the merits of genre) to two posts at SF Signal to David Moles’ request for YA he should read. (Even Instant Fanzine’s latest discussion is about a YA book.)
Next week: all slipstream until the end. Oh yes.