In other news, my most recent "History of the Genre" segment is up in the latest episode of the StarShipSofa podcast. This one focuses on "the best author you've never heard of," a pioneer near and dear to my heart. It begins roughly two minutes into the podcast. You can download it here, listen to it streaming here, or get it via iTunes under "StarShipSofa." A list of my other podcast commentaries, interviews, and unabridged dramatic readings is available here with links. To those of you listening, many thanks indeed!
"More than one commentator has mentioned that science fiction as a form is where theological narrative went after Paradise Lost, and this is undoubtedly true. Supernatural creatures with wings, and burning bushes that speak, are unlikely to be encountered in a novel about stockbrokers, unless the stockbrokers have been taking a few mind-altering substances, but they are not out of place on Planet X. The form is often used as a way of acting out the consequences of a theological doctrine. The theological resonances in films such as Star Wars are more than obvious. Extraterrestrials have taken the place of angels, demons, fairies and saints, though it must be said that this last group is now making a comeback.
"We want wisdom. We want hope. We want to be good. Therefore we sometimes tell ourselves warning stories that deal with the darker side of some of our other wants.
"Literature is an uttering, or outering, of the human imagination. It lets the shadowy forms of thought and feeling — heaven, hell, monsters, angels and all — out into the light, where we can take a good look at them and perhaps come to a better understanding of who we are and what we want, and what the limits to those wants may be. Understanding the imagination is no longer a pastime, but a necessity; because increasingly, if we can imagine it, we'll be able to do it."
- Margaret Atwood, "Why We Need Science Fiction"