Science Fiction Repair Shop: A Mind So Open It Hurts Dept.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2013-01-06 10:00:00-05:00 No comments

George Saunders Has Written the Best Book You’ll Read This Year -

It would be so weird if we knew just as much as we needed to know to answer all the questions of the universe. Wouldn’t that be freaky? Whereas the probability is high that there is a vast reality that we have no way to perceive, that’s actually bearing down on us now and influencing everything. The idea of saying, ‘Well, we can’t see it, therefore we don’t need to see it,’ seems really weird to me.

The quote is from Saunders himself (whose work has been compared to high-art SF), and for me it seems to sum up the difference between the sorts of people who not only read SF but take strong cues for their worldview from it, and those who don't. There is always more to our world, and it helps to know of it, even if our knowing is forever incomplete. It's not the body of knowledge, then, but the thirsting, the act of knowing how much or little we do know.

One of the toughest things about coming up against other people who are incurious is to discover it in yourself as well. I know that I am compulsively interested in certain things, and in others not at all, and it hurts to know how this segregation is only keeping me from being that much wiser and wider-minded — that it prevents me from not only writing but living that much better. It isn't that we should all become polymaths, but that we should let the bottlenecks of our taste be that much less constraining on our creativity.

By the time I started writing Flight of the Vajra I'd been exposed to a number of different strains of space opera style SF, from Lensman to Honor Harrington, and I had a good sense of what I liked and didn't like to read. A person cannot be compelled, and will not be impelled, either, to write the kind of book he wouldn't want to read himself.

I knew I wasn't ever going to produce something in the vein of the David Drake saber-rattlers — not just because of my views about war (pace Harry Harrison for more on that score), but because I knew what I wanted to do wasn't going to start or end there. And yet it behooved me to know that much more about what I was trying not to be, so I found myself reading a lot of books I didn't like, the better to know that much more what I did want to be like.

That said, I didn't exactly want to make a career out of it.

Tags: Flight of the Vajra Science Fiction Repair Shop literature philosophy science fiction