Friday, July 22, 2011

Why Science Fiction Will Lead to a New Renaissance

I mentioned in a previous article that science fiction serves a necessary and important role the sustaining of the integrity of the human psyche, as the world moves into the future. Here I will try to explain its role as a bridge to a new renaissance-like age of art.

The first step to clearing our heads, is to redefine, for ourselves, what exactly science fiction is. One of the main definitions that has been put forward is by the theorist Darko Suvin. He defines the genre as providing 2 functions. One he calls "estrangement", which simply means that the reader senses the events and surrounding of the fictional world, as "feeling" different from ones own. The second condition, which is harder to grasp is "cognition", which means that somehow, the reader looks at the world in such a way that while they find it foreign, they see it as logically built up from some common, basic building block, that is shared with the normal world. This permits the reader to reevaluate his own world thus producing "cognition".

Now, estrangement, without cognition, Suvin simply defines as "fantasy". In other words, we accept the world as foreign, and don't demand an explanation as to why. When estrangement is combined with cognition we get science fiction. Specifically, cognition lines up with science, and estrangement lines up with fiction, and thus science fiction is a synonym for cognition estrangement.

Why this definition is important, is that it allows us to reevaluate all literature and art, in terms of these conditions. Of course he did not intend it, but it does really fit the task of illuminating art to the point where its value can't be denied. And I believe that it will give the theoretical push to collective creativity, that we may find more, and more wonderful ways, of producing those 2 caveats he suggested, cognition and estrangement.

We can apply these conditions to any work, take for instance Oliver Twist, by Dickens. When we interpret the city of London as some incomprehensible dream world, it gives the story a whole new aspect of worth. It can be directly read to increase the imagination, and the patterns found therein can be used in any other art form. All of these years it has been slowly and sneakily building the foundation for a renaissance.

Once we take science fiction seriously, it can begin to serve its purpose as the backbone of a new and more fantastic art form.

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