posted by Karen Burnham at Monday 3 January 2011 @ 12:01 am BST
This is the first discussion of the resurrected Locus Roundtable group. I tossed out the following prompt to the participants. Click here to see the entire discussion.
Damien G. Walter posted the following on io9.com:
In science fiction [the] argument sometimes arises as a belief that SF does not need to function as art. It does not need to be beautiful, as other kinds of fiction might. Its characters do not require depth. Its prose can lack precision or clarity. It can tell hackneyed stories in the service of new scientific ideas perhaps. Its an argument that fewer people accept today than might have a decade ago, and yet much interesting SF still falls short as fiction.
The physicist Paul Dirac suggested that for an equation to be true, it must be beautiful. In Dirac’s thinking beauty was a way of discerning the truth, as much a part of the scientific process as observation. If science fiction is a way of reaching for the truth, then shouldn’t it also be beautiful? Can a work of science fiction really have anything true to say, if it fails by the standards of fiction?
But what makes fiction beautiful? For me, the great strength of prose fiction is its ability to step inside the human experience. To explore the internal world that exists inside us all. When science fiction is beautiful it is most often because, however strange the external world it explores, its first concern is with the internal experience of that world.
Here’s the whole article: http://io9.com/5715458/to-be-true-science-fiction-must-be-beautiful
Is there anything worth saying on this topic, or has it all been said before (and probably all been said before in 1955)? Can we ever grant SF a pass on literary merit because it’s the Literature of Ideas? Is the beauty=truth premise actually valid?
I got responses from Paul Graham Raven, Gary K. Wolfe, Andy Duncan, Russell Letson, John Clute, Cheryl Morgan, Paul Witcover and Terry Bisson, who all easily rose above the limitations of my initial prompt. Click through to the full post to see the discussion play out. If you prefer to see all the responses on a single page, the pull-down menu at the top of the stand-alone page should have a ‘View All’ option.