Charles Stross on his website, as part of the comments to Rudy Rucker’s 8th guest post came up with an interesting little bit of history as to why science fiction is not considered literary and I quote:
“… around 1900-1920, the nascent modernists in literature came to a fork in the road: they could choose to document the existing human condition in photographic detail, or they could choose to explore the human condition via metaphor, confabulation, and extrapolation (the tools of SF and fantasy). They took the former path; thus defining SF/F, by virtue of having taken the other route, as a refutation of the literary virtues.”
And yet now some of these literary writers are finding their way back into science fiction. I can only speculate as to why. But one guess is that they have nearly exhausted what they can do to examine the human condition in detail. They see that science fiction is still going strong, coming up with completely new ideas, doing rather novel takes on old SF themes and placing the humans in completely different settings so they have to react totally differently.
But I reckon even if the literati continue to step over into SF, the divide will continue. Why, you well may ask?
They will tend to use the tried and trusted SF tropes to examine the human condition, which is after all what they tend to be good at. Yes, they’ll tweak the SF tropes to their own ends, but that’s all they’ll do. Tweak.
What most of them will not do is come up with completely new ideas.
Yes, the dividing line will move, but the dividing will still be there.
Will the two groups (ideas-SF and human-reaction-SF) work better together in the future? I hope so, if only to allow the ideas-SF to use the human-reaction-SF as a catalyst for developing even more new ideas.
And how does this affect me?
Well I’ve just done a first draft of a short story, which is an interesting new scenario, one that I haven’t seen the like of anywhere in science fiction, or other literature for that matter. The problem is it is so out-of-the-box that in places it is difficult to explain, or to put across the emotional impact. It’s almost as if I need a whole new set of words to explain it. This is exactly the kind of new idea that the literati can build on and explore from the human reaction viewpoint. Maybe one day… well a gal can dream, can’t she?