Science Fiction Repair Shop: To Scratch One's Own Itch Dept.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2014-03-18 14:00:00 No comments

I feel bad admitting to people that there was a time in my life when I stopped reading SF entirely for something like years on end, despite having been steeped in it as a kid. It's a little like confessing you haven't eaten in that restaurant since you got slightly sick in there ten years ago, despite them having changed the staff and remodeled the place.

I'm willing to accept some of this as a product of being attached to whatever it was I grew up with (Lem, Dick, Sturgeon, Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Tiptree Jr., Delaney, Zelazny, Ellison, Philip Jose Farmer, etc.), but also a matter of the way my expectations changed for it. A lot of what I encountered of SF as a kid was escapism, but the stuff that really stuck with me, that convinced me SF was not just escapism and had the seeds within it for saying things as profound about the human condition as any other literature could, became my bar-raiser.

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In short, I'm spoiled, and I know it. And being spoiled doesn't thrill me one bit, because it puts me in the weird position of having to seek out, for the sake of my own satisfaction, things that are not part of the genre I'm allegedly aiming for. This is why apart from those above folks, the likes of, say, Shusaku Endo or Boris Pasternak or Knut Hamsun populate my endtable more often than most of the recent crop of "straight" SF, or YA SF, or SF-plus-literary (the latter usually an amalgam of the worst pretenses of both halves).

Somewhere along the way I felt like I was looking for something in SF that I just don't feel like I get from SF anymore, because both the SF delivered today and the person I am now have changed drastically. And that's part of why I feel obliged to go and write that stuff, whatever it may be — to scratch my own itch.

That doesn't mean I do it well, though. I tried to do this with Vajra (Fight Of The...) and ended up simply recapitulating what I saw were the mistakes made by the current crop of big-gauge SF. The inability to see the future through anything but one's own lens of the present was the least of my mistakes.

And yet I did feel like here and there I was touching down on, however fleetingly, the shore that I had unthinkingly rowed away from all those years ago.

When I first learned of how Akira Kurosawa once said "I think in all my movies there are three or four minutes of true cinema," I felt appalled that anyone could think so little of their own work. Now I know all too well how it's possible: his eyes are always on the stars we can never see. As, I fear, so are mine. But the answer to that is not to shut one's eyes entirely; rather, it's to peer all the more deeply.

Tags: Science Fiction Repair Shop science fiction writing