Daily Archives: September 21, 2008

Ping From MV

I’ve made it to Martha’s Vineyard to start teaching at Viable Paradise. It seems lovely; the cell phone reception sucks. Don’t expect to see too much of me this week. Rumor is, however, that the Internet is vast and that you’ll have many things to amuse yourself with.

Whatever X, Day XXI

In 2005, I settled one of the great genre questions of all time. It was easy, really.

DECEMBER 2, 2005: How to Tell SF From F

Uh-oh. Just when we least expected it, a seminar on genre theory broke out online! It’s about what the difference between science fiction and fantasy really is.

Call me unbearably shallow, but here’s how you know the difference. You walk up to the main character of the story in question and say: “Hey! Main character! That deus ex machina doodad you have on your belt, does it have, like, a battery?”

If he says “Why, yes, there’s a tiny nuclear fuel cell in there that will power this baby for 10,000 planetary revolutions,” well, then, you’ve got some science fiction there. If he says, “Of course not, it was forged in the eternal flames of Mount [insert typewriter spasm here] by the dwarves who serve the elder and/or fallen god [insert second typewriter spasm here], and holds captive his immortal soul” or some such, well, that’s fantasy. Everything else is pretty much elaboration and variation on the point.

If the story features a nuclear fuel cell made by the dwarf servants of the dread god Typewriter Spasm, what you’ve got is an editor asleep at the switch. Never fear, he or she will be beaten presently.

There. Settled. Now, let’s cure cancer!