Saturday, December 27, 2014

Wonder, Terror, Excitement

I have read that novelist / poet / critic Kingsley Amis (whose works I have not read) once described the “purpose” of science fiction to be “to arouse wonder, terror, and excitement.

Hmm. Interesting. My own definition would be

“Science Fiction exists to make the reader think by showing him what he’s never thought of before.  Of course, large amounts of whoa! should be added to that mix.”

But back to Amis’s definition … I like it.  It works for me.  In fact, I have experienced copious amounts of each quality in some recent reads (recent meaning over the past year):

WONDER: Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke

TERROR: Any of the more science-based tales of H.P. Lovecraft

EXCITEMENT: Lord Valentine’s Castle and Majipoor Chronicles by Robert Silverberg

Now, some may pigeonhole Lovecraft solely into the Horror genre, and perhaps exile Silverberg’s Majipoor works to strict Fantasy.  Maybe I agree with that, maybe I don’t. 

But – what authentic SF works have I read that would heartily embody all three facets of Amis’s definition?

Hmmm.  A quick survey … how about:

Man Plus by Frederik Pohl

The Mind Parasites by Colin Wilson

“Sandkings” by George R. R. Martin

Eifelheim by Michael Flynn

“Who Can Replace a Man?” (short story anthology) by Brian Aldiss

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

Hyperion by Dan Simmons

“The Martian Chronicles” (short story anthology) by Ray Bradbury

Of these, the first, third, fourth, and seventh are true exemplars of the definition.

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