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Date: Thu, 24 Apr 2003 11:03:29 -0700 (PDT)
From: Craig Brewer 
Subject: Re: (urth) Generic Considerations

I know this is a rather unphilosophical take on what
is a fascinating issue, but it seems that the issue of
"real" worlds in fiction is much more of a
historically generic issue.

I'm thinking particularly of the rise of the novel and
its separation from medieval romance. One of the large
differences between romance and novel was the issue of
story vs. allegory. Romance itself had always been
caught between the two and in the 17th and 18th
centuries, people would that they were writing
"novels" rather than "romances" in the medieval sense
largely because of its associations with allegory. So
even when you had early gothic novels like _The Castle
of Otranto_, people would call it a novel rather than
"supernatural romance" because it was more "real" than
an allegory...even though it had ghosts and statues
coming to life, etc.

My point, with that one example, is that fiction
(which is already "false" to the extent that it's
intentionally made up) may find its degree of reality
not through correspondence to something "out there"
but by the way it corresponds to traditions of writing
that have their own assumptions about reality. That
may help explain why Vonnegut and W. Burroughs can get
away with saying that they don't do sf when their
alternate worlds are often more removed from "everyday
reality" than a lot of, say, Ellison's work (imho).
They put (or are put) in a "literary" genre rather
than "sf," both of which are genres with less than a
century of history as individual genres themselves.


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