Edward: Welcome back, everyone, to our continuing series on new entries to the English canon from genre fiction!
Scott: Last post, we finished up with our favorites from the world of fantasy that we didn’t have much hope for. But we are back with a whole new genre.
Edward: It was hard to say that those works would not make it, as they are dear to our hearts, but that just means it’s time to perk ourselves up by talking about works that will take us to the stars!
Edward: “Sci-Fi is an interesting genre in that it encompassed what we now think of as fantasy, horror and alternative history, along with its aliens, space-ships and robots. Science Fiction is still the broadest genre, taking in stories that, in form, may have very little in terms of similarity. These stories can be subtle, taking place merely a few years into our future, dealing with small but impacting scientific advances, or they can be bombastic space operas. That range, along with the often-times serious nature of the stories that defy mere escapism, has made Science Fiction the most favorably viewed of the popular genres by academia and intelligentsia. Furthermore, there have been a number of relatively recent authors of this type who have made it into the Canon. I say recently, but that’s something of a stretch as I am thinking of Jules Verne, primarily. But modern Science Fiction, for all its growing presence and power, is still not seen as valuable as other literature.
“This will change. So let’s get to predicting, shall we?
Edward’s Prediction for Canon Inclusion #1:
Dune, by Frank Herbert
“I always feel a bit of shame whenever I predict the inclusion of a book I have not yet read. This is again the case. Nevertheless, even with my tangential exposure to the book, I can say with certainty that it is an utter classic, and a shoe-in for the Canon. Smashing cultures, political-religio machinations and philosophy, Herbert has managed to create a complete and detailed world that has extraordinary depth, influencing writers across multiple genres and leaving a huge mark on the literary landscape that is impossible to ignore.
“You know, Scott, that Dune was a major influence on Robert Jordan?”
Scott: “No, I’m afraid I didn’t. Dune is very much a classic work already among the Sci-Fi readers and I think it is only a matter of time for it to be included in the canon. Science Fiction has been steadily gaining popularity with readers and now that we live in a world where some of these things seem feasible, there is less of a stigma attached to Sci-Fi works. I’ve noticed many similarities between Western novels and Science Fiction, most notably the concept of unknown space. With that, I’d like to introduce my first prediction:
Scotts’s Prediction for Canon Inclusion #1:
Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
“This book was really one of my favorite works growing up, and to this day I see a lot of promise for its inclusion. Card has really created a work that epitomizes the change from innocence to experience. In some ways this has all the elements of a coming of age story, but with all that space and war represents as a realm of mystery and the unknown. It forces us to deal with the concept of childhood in an age that has become overcautious with the mental strain placed on young minds.
“The sequels to Ender’s Game are one of the things that make the story truly unique. The second work, perhaps even defining its own series, deals with the story of Ender’s second-in-command, Bean. While Ender’s books wax philosophical at times, Bean’s books mirror the events in the same universe, but deal with the struggles of politics and war among the nations of earth. Both are fascinating reads, but Ender’s Game is the cornerstone for the series and a book that will be enjoyed by both young and old.”
Edward: “Yes, Ender’s game is one of my favorites too, and an excellent choice.”
Scott: “Ed, have you recognized any similarities between the Western and Science fiction genres?”
Edward: “I have, though the similarity varies. At times it is as obvious as Joss Whedon’s TV show Firefly, and other times it is more subtle. And then there are the crossovers (such as last year’s movie, Cowboys and Aliens). Of course, Sci-Fi is a wide genre that covers many types of stories, some of which are very different from the tropes familiar to fans of westerns and space opera; such as my next pick for Sci-Fi works that will be entered into the Canon:
Edward’s Prediction for Canon Inclusion #2:
A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller Jr.
“The post-apocalyptic subgenre is almost an entire genre unto itself, but for the purposes of this post, we’ll wrap it up into Sci-Fi. This book, following the story of the human race after a nuclear holocaust, is a marvelous portrait of human society and civilization. It is a study in how we perceive the world around us, how we react to it, and how, if we’re not careful, we will fall into these same old traps. Religion and the circular nature of things take center stage as well. Infusing the writing with a sometimes dark humor, Miller manages to create a compelling narrative of the human race spanning centuries. An excellent read that chooses not to spell out things for the reader, and instead let them piece things together for themselves. A Canticle for Leibowitz is one of the best examples of the genre, its subgenre, and a great addition to the Canon.”
Scott: “The post-apocalyptic has always been a source of intrigue for me. Personally, I enjoy the vivid exploration of the anarchy that follow these events and how humanity reestablishes civilization in some form or another. The creation of civilization, though it is usually portrayed in fiction, is something much closer to home. It deals with how we deal with our desires without the formal structure of society. The rise of the Interweb brings me to my next pick, one that has had a significant impact on literature, but also represents our own reflection in the digital age.”
Scott’s Prediction for Canon Inclusion #2:
Neuromancer, by William Gibson
“Out of all the literary works that have popped up over the year, I would say that Neuromancer has probably the best chance of being included in the canon. Therefore, the fact it is second on my list might raise a few eyebrows; however, I’m not putting these in order of preference, but as they came to mind. Many people will recognize the word cyberspace. How can we not? It has become the embodiment of a large part of our modern world. The word cyberspace was popularized by William Gibson in Neuromancer, though he coined the phrase in an earlier work.”
“This book has become a classic among many cyberpunk and net enthusiasts and it represents a drastic change in the way we began to perceive the “hacker”. If there is any book that defines us as the computer-deluged civilization we’ve become, it is Neuromancer.”
Edward: “Yet another fantastic sounding book I need to read. One might wonder if we’re really qualified for this, Scott!”
Scott: “I begin to think you are right, but the purpose of this is partially to recommend books for each other as well. That being said, do you have any other picks I’ve not added to my reading list?”
Edward: “Well, you’ve set my mind at ease, Scott. True enough, part of the wonder that is the breadth of genre fiction is how much of it there is yet to explore. And in that vein, I highly recommend to you…
Scott: ah AH wait! This is getting a bit long and our readers might be tired. So lets continue next time with our picks that are personal favorite, but probably not likely to join the Canon.
Edward: Yikes! You’re right, the time has just flown by. Well, until next time!