Science Fiction Repair Shop: The New Absurd Is The New Normal

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020-06-13 17:00:00-04:00 No comments

From the afterword to The Late Mattia Pascal, which you really should read:

Life's absurdities don't have to seem believable, because they are real. As opposed to art's absurdities which, to seem real, have to be believable. Then, when they are believable, they are no longer absurd. An event in life may be absurd; a work of art, if it is a work of art, cannot be. It therefore follows that to criticize, in the name of life, a work of art for being absurd and unbelievable is sheer stupidity. In the name of art, yes. But not in the name of life.

-- Luigi Pirandello

Given how absurd things have become, maybe the term "literature of the absurd" is now best seen as a mistaken one. So much about our moment in time makes little sense until you look closely, and realize how the seeds of all that is happening were simply waiting for the right soil to land in.

I'm trying to keep hope that good things will come of this moment in time — e.g., more white people realizing it falls to them, not nonwhite people, to end racism; more existential questions about policing — but it only now occurs to me that maybe one other thing that might come of this is a new literature of the absurd. Maybe better to say, a literature with a better understanding of the absurdity of modern life, a literature newly informed by our firsthand experience as a culture with absurdity.

Such a literature wouldn't see absurdity as mere happenstance, but as the abrupt unveiling of long-gestating circumstances, made visible all at once to those who for too long walked around with their eyes closed, but always visible — painfully so — to others whose lived experiences were somehow not enough to change things. Such a literature would have more to say about the absurd experience than to simply mock it; it would give us the tools to understand it from the inside out, and to further dismantle it. And maybe one of the best ways to provide the needed dramatic or ironic distance for such stories is through fantasy and SF.

Tags: existentialism fantasy science fiction sociology these troubled times