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 Post subject: Darko Suvin's First Book
PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2011 10:27 pm 
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I'm reading Professor Emeritus Darko Suvin's Metamorphoses of Science Fiction (1979). It begins with a theoretical part and goes on to an historical part. I am reading the first. It is dense and highly analytical, with many useful distinctions and definitions. Prof. Suvin first develops a definition of SF (or perhaps: what he thinks it ought to be) and then applies this to notions of Utopia. So far the book is fascinating but difficult. Well worth reading if one wants to think about the genre.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 17, 2011 11:36 am 
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I read some essays of Suvin's on Philip K Dick about 20 years ago. I recall he was very keen on the satirical elements and sociological critique in his fiction, and less enthusiastic about what he called the 'ontological games', which he argued characterised PKD's later work. I remembering thinking this a bit odd, since "ontological games" are such an important part of Dick's fiction, and seem just as present in his 1950s novels as his 1970s ones.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 17, 2011 2:02 pm 
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Saw DS on TV, once, in a debate about genre... but I can't remember the focus/ topics covered.

I do remember that, over the years, several academic critics have latched onto his useful definition(s) of SF, especially the bit about "cognitive estrangement".

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 19, 2011 10:45 am 
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I'm still reading Darko Suvin's book. Despite its difficulty I was thrilled by the long argument for SF as the literature of cognitive estrangement. At first the notion is informally described via a quote from Brecht: 'A representation which estranges is one which allows us to recognize its subject, but at the same time makes it seem unfamiliar.' Then the notion of cognition is introduced, to help apply Brecht's idea to SF. Cognition differentiates, it is argued, SF from fantasy, myth, and folktales. Then comes a long section about utopian literature. To get a definition of SF Suvin uses his concept of Novum (the new), since not all texts need treat of something essentially new or surprising. Finally, a work's Novum is said to cause a tension in the reader's mind. This elicits the estrangement. The end-result is a notion of SF as a genre of cognitive estrangement that includes utopian literature as a subgenre.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 19, 2011 1:37 pm 
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Sounds interesting George. I dug out my Suvin book - it wasn't an entire book on Dick, just one essay in a collection called 'Positions and Presuppositions in Science Fiction'. I can only assume my memory has been rewritten by some shady PhilDickian organisation or other in the years since. :wink: There are some interesting-looking essays in there, so perhaps I should revisit them at some point, since my memory clearly can't be relied upon!

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 20, 2011 12:09 pm 
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i have Positions.... too, but haven't looked at it since I bought it, right after I bought Metamorphoses.... .


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