Ron Henry writes:
>I suspect it *is* true, Zvi, especially if we accept the sort of adaptive
>reading strategy models that Delany himself usually promotes. I personally
>know few (no?) people who began reading science fiction as adults.
>Also, I'm not sure David was saying that adults attempting to enter the
>conceptual sphere of sf acquire the strategies but miss the "sensawonda",
>so much as that they don't acquire the strategies at all, later. That they
>don't have the time and patience and enthusiasm to learn the ropes of sf
>reading. (I could be wrong; pls correct me if I am, David.)
There are, I am sure, as many reasons for not enjoying science fiction as
there are people who don't enjoy it. The "sensawonda," or lack thereof,
may, however, be of crucial importance. Just as one can know, on an
intellectual level, what sonata-form is but still not enjoy Mozart, can
have knowledge of the forms a poet is working with and the tradition she is
working within but still not be moved by the poetry, one can, I think,
understand the ways science fiction works without being in love with the
genre. In most cases where a real love for a type of writing develops I
think the "sensawonda" precedes the intellectual grasp, but that then the
scholarly tidbits one goes on to accrue: the historical, formal, critical
knowledge that one is moved to acquire, can deepen that appreciation, can
make the "sensawonda" even more wonderful.
I don't think it's impossible for the dynamic to work in the other
direction--from intellectual knowledge to gut love. I do think it's less
common for it to work that way.
Also, I hasten to add, lest I'm misunderstood, I'm not one of those who
thinks analysis and scholarly study rob a work (of any type) of any of the
beauty and power it might possess. Far from it. The more one knows, the
less naive one's reading is, the more, I believe, there is to enjoy.
>It might just be that learning the conventions necessary to access the
>rewards of sophisticated sf or poetry is a process that requires, or at
>least is usually enabled by, the enthusiam and spare time of adolescents.
>Perhaps "grown-ups", with demanding careers, domestic responsibilities, and
>the inhibitions that come with being an adult in late capitalist western
>society, simply don't have the surplus mental and emotional resources to
>devote to the task of mastering a para-literary set of conventions?
In some cases this is certainly true. In other cases I suspect it's just
that the literature-shaped hole in people's lives is often
addequately--nay, joyfully!--filled by the time they reach adulthood.
They've already discovered the types of writing that speak to their
condition and thus have no pressing need to explore new ones. Adolescents,
I believe, tend to be more open because they are still searching for the
literature they need.
I'd like to say a word out two about the term "mundane fiction." I think I
understand the move Delany and others are making in using this term, but am
I the only one who bridles a bit at seeing writers as defiantly non-mundane
as: Don DeLillo, Gertrude Stein, Rikki Ducornet, Thomas Pynchon, George
Perec, Walter Abish, Samuel Beckett, David Markson, Cormac McCarthy, Jorge
Luis Borges and . . . the list could go on . . . subsumed under such a
Although I have experienced the "sensawonda" less often reading science
fiction than I would like to have, my strong reactions to the work of the
writers above allow me know what Zvi, Ron and others are alluding to when
they talk about it.
Finally, this list has been great fun so far. The level of the
contributions is stunningly high. Thanks, everyone, and let's keep on
Zvi: I'm curious. How may of us area there?