Fantasy Books Essay
In America whole magazines began to be exclusively devoted to them.
The execution was usually detestable; the conceptions, sometimes worthy of better treatment. Then, perhaps five or six years ago, the bulge still continuing and even increasing, there was an improvement: not that very bad stories ceased to be the majority, but that the good ones became better and more numerous.
I shall begin with that sub-species which I think radically bad, in order to get it out of our way.
In this sub-species the author leaps forward into an imagined future when planetary, sidereal, or even galactic travel has become common.
I presume that the authors of such stories are, so to speak, Displaced Persons—commercial authors who did not really want to write science fiction at all, but who availed themselves of its popularity by giving a veneer of science fiction to their normal kind of work. A leap into the future, a rapid assumption of all the changes which are feigned to have occurred, is a legitimate 'machine' if it enables the author to develop a story of real value which could not have been told (or not so economically) in any other way.
Thus John Collier in (1933) wants to write a story of heroic action among people themselves semi-barbarous but supported by the surviving tradition of a literate culture recently overthrown.
I will now try to divide this species of narrative into its sub-species.Let bad tragedies be censured by those who love tragedy, and bad detective stories by those who love the detective story. Otherwise we shall find epics blamed for not being novels, farces for not being high comedies, novels by James for lacking the swift action of Smollett.Who wants to hear a particular claret abused by a fanatical teetotaller, or a particular woman by a confirmed misogynist?They will be like the frigid preaching chastity, misers warning us against prodigality, cowards denouncing rashness.And because, as I have said, hatred assimilates all the hated objects, it will make you assume that all the things lumped together as science fiction are of the same sort, and that the psychology of all those who like to read any of them is the same. It is nothing to me whether a given work makes part of it or was written long before it occurred.Against this huge backcloth he then proceeds to develop an ordinary love-story, spy-story, wreck-story, or crime-story. Whatever in a work of art is not used is doing harm.The faintly imagined, and sometimes strictly unimaginable, scene and properties, only blur the real theme and distract us from any interest it might have had.He is therefore, on my view, fully justified in positing such a state of affairs in England after the destruction of our present civilization.That enables him (and us) to assume a familiar climate, flora, and fauna.Of the articles I have read on the subject (and I expect I have missed many) I do not find that I can make any use. For another, many were by people who clearly hated the kind they wrote about.It is very dangerous to write about a kind you hate. I don’t like detective stories and therefore all detective stories look much alike to me: if I wrote about them I should therefore infallibly write drivel.