Mainstream writers don’t trust their readers to make connections. Sf understands that the human mind is an intrinsically metaphorizing machine, and that therefore you do not have to labor the connections to make your point. That’s why Suzy McKee Charnas’s work or Le Guin’s better novels are better and more intelligent and persuasive about women’s oppression than, say, The Handmaid’s Tale . The polemics and satire in Perdido Street Station don’t undermine the secondary world I create, I hope.
China Mieville said that in an interview in 2003, so please, before you get out the pointy sticks, don’t blame me.
But I have to note that he really pinpoints what I don’t like about the pseudo-SFnal texts written by certain mainstream writers: the pervasive sense that they’re convinced they’re smarter than the whole lot of us put together, and that they can demonstrate this by sermonizing via narrative, while holding the speculative elements at arms length. (And handling it rather awkwardly as a result of that, as well as because they’re not really well-versed in how to write SFnal narratives.)
Writing a story about the end of the world, which happens at some point in the future, and then sternly insisting that every technology mentioned in it already exists, is an idiocy because writing about the future necessitates an assumption that technologies (and other things) that don’t now exist, and which we would not necessarily guess might exist, will by then exist. It’s a cheat and a not-so-subtle sign that the author very profoundly does not “get it” about SF.
I mean, look at this promo ad copy:
This is Atwood’s dystopic future: genetically altered animals (pigoons and wolvogs); the elimination of the middle class; ecological disaster; a video game named Extinctathon (SIMs gone wildly amuck); the commodification of just about everything; and, humanity’s extinction. Why does her vision resonate and disturb so deeply? Because it’s entirely possible. As you’ll see in the interview, Margaret pulled these developments directly from the headlines of our newspapers, magazines and websites.
Not only can Oryx and Crake be added to the shortlist of classic dystopic novels like Brave New World and 1984, it is doubtless the most inventive and unnerving novel written in some time.
Someone out there hasn’t been reading SF in a while. Personally, I can think of a number of genre novels that, even just in synopsis form, kick Oryx and Crake right off the consideration table.
Hell, I suspect that even the best of John Brunner’s novels would, after so many years gone by, still read as fresher and more inventive that Oryx and Crake. Not that I’ve read it: my appetite for self-righteous tedium is so weak I’d probably never get past the first chapter.