Hal Duncan's take on "narrative grammars" of fantasy and science fiction

Thanks again to Larry for getting the word out concerning such posts.:-)

Duncan wrote a long and interesting post on his blog on the topic of "narrative grammars" in SFF.

Here's an excerpt:

Really, my earlier post is not so much an attempt to distinguish genres as it is an attempt to analyse the distinctions already at play, to unpack the politics of the argument(s). My own take on it is that the set-subset model of Fantasy and SF is just one model, that it's in conflict with the alternative subset+subset model in which SF and Fantasy are both contained within a larger superset. I may not have been clear enough in expressing my own belief both models are flawed. Truth is, I think the whole debate is fucked up beyond all reason, degenerated into endless disputes over semantic boundaries because the basic terms are overloaded. We end up talking at cross-purposes when we use these terms; some will mean the marketing category, some will mean works of a specific formula associated with that category, some will mean works of a particular aesthetic form they consider characteristic of that category, some will mean works of a multitude of aesthetic forms that are all published in that category, and some will mean the sum of all works in all those varied aesthetic forms, whatever category they were published in.

Clute acknowledges that the terms SF, Fantasy and Horror are problematic, but in accepting that we're stuck with them I think he fails to deal with this problem. In taking the subset+subset model as a given, treating SF, Fantasy and Horror as subtypes of the larger set of fictions he refers to as "fantastika", he presents his narrative grammars as the additional A, B and C which distinguish these genres from each other. But this approach, directly linking each label to a particular aesthetic form, is at odds with many who would use the terms as signifiers of a loose aggregation of works in multiple aesthetic forms, or who would see the underlying aesthetic form as something much less rigidly circumscribed in terms of narrative.

Read the entire piece here.

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