Are critics right in saying Speulative fiction is rarely original? - Page 2


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Thread: Are critics right in saying Speulative fiction is rarely original?

  1. #11
    This is a quote I read a long time ago, but a writer's job is to make a reader feel.

    So maybe it's elitism. The same kind when new genres were taking shape. At a time they were unproven. When science fiction didn't have a big audience. Some prominent critics said science fiction isn't a literary genre. The case is that many people argue it isn't.

    Here's another quote for thorough examination:

    Literary theory has a different definition at what is considered literary which means the scholarly opinion but not fan based opinion says it does not fit the following definition.

    It’s just not what a literary novel’s supposed to do. It’s supposed to show us something in a new way we haven’t seen before, deliver a revelatory glimpse into the human heart, or some unrevealed section of this heartless world or, any damn thing really. So long as it’s novel. Formula fiction that succeeds based on how well it delivers on expected and well-valued virtues is antithetical to literary fiction.
    Does cliche produce poorly written work? Or are all stories meant to be retold in a different way like JohnCalliganwrites was implicating?

    As for what they meant by a heartless world I don't know this argument but would be interested in hearing more about it. I was thinking literary theory can apply to other genres that aren't considered literary. It just doesn't seem to be by someone who knows literary theory to be something interesting to read.

    And since I know nothing of literary theory I think I will come back later until I have a better understanding to ask that kind of question.
    Last edited by Theglasshouse; January 29th, 2020 at 11:51 PM.
    I would follow as in believe in the words of good moral leaders. Rather than the beliefs of oneself.
    The most difficult thing for a writer to comprehend is to experience silence, so speak up. (quoted from a member)

  2. #12
    I think there are a bunch of different factors here...

    1. Robert Heinlein wrote in one of his books "when it's time to railroad, you can railroad, but not before."

    It's basically a very simplified wording of the notion of collective consciousness or collective ideas. It was impossible for human beings to invent the railroad before we were ready, but once we reached that point, it was impossible to stop it. We see this all the time in science or technological breakthroughs. Once a new concept is reached, it seems to happen almost simultaneously all over, either that or the world seems to adapt to it almost instantly (look at modern smartphones, for example, which rapidly took over).

    I feel like the same thing can happen with creative ideas, too. Sometimes books or movies will come out in rapid succession that have similar themes / concepts -- and the timeframe is too close for there to be any realistic way the creators might have copied from one another. It was just a certain combination of social, cultural, and creative influences that created a recipe that a number of people put together on their own. The ingredients were there for anyone to combine and once those ingredients reached a tipping point of abundance, it makes sense that many different people would combine them.

    2. There is a psychological phenomena called cryptomnesia.

    Essentially how it works is that you see, hear, or read something. Your brain catalogs the memory, but not the source. At some point later, you have "inspiration" that is really that cataloged memory, but because your brain has forgotten the source, you become convinced that this is a new and original thought of your own.

    The most common relatable example of this is you say "hey, I think we should remodel the bathroom like this..." and your significant other gets annoyed and says "I was just telling you I wanted to do that last week." It isn't that you weren't paying attention, it's that your brain genuinely forgot the source of the inspiration, and so thinks the idea is yours.

    I personally have run into this with some of my writing. I've written a scene or a plot point in a story. Then after that, I've reread or rewatched something I hadn't experienced since I was a kid and realized that the idea was eerily similar to what I had written -- so much so that it was the obvious (but forgotten) inspiration and I've had to rework my story as a result.

    3. I think that within any given culture / society, there is a certain language to storytelling. Just as language has a certain structure -- that is, the majority of sentences within the English language will follow the same basic structure, even if the words are different -- I think the same general idea applies to storytelling, too. There is a certain structure we tend to follow when telling stories to one another. If we follow that structure to slavishly, it becomes overly predictable. However, if we deviate too far from the structure, the story becomes incoherent and impossible to follow.

    And this idea of structure can certainly be further segmented in genres, too. Which is why romantic comedies, for example, tend to follow a different structure from horror stories.

    It only makes sense that if there is a basic structure to storytelling, if you consume enough there might creep in a sense of unoriginality.
    Last edited by InTheThirdPerson; January 29th, 2020 at 09:00 PM.

  3. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Terry D View Post
    40,000 years ago a cave-man painted a picture of a bull on a cave wall. 39,999 years ago another drew a picture of a woolly mammoth, and was promptly told he was unoriginal.
    Reminds me of a saying I heard somewhere a while back: "Every story that will be told, has been told." I take that the mean that it's not what your story is that's important, it's how you tell it.

    Outside of plagiarism which is a very bad thing, of course.
    Last edited by Xander416; January 30th, 2020 at 09:43 AM.

  4. #14
    I think the concept of originality gets confused with predictability.

    Most stories aren't particularly original, that's true even in high-end literary fiction. I can't say how many times I've read a story that felt original at first, usually because of some relatively fresh setting or time period -- Iraq in the 1800's or something -- only to find once I got past that first, happy feeling of 'this is new!' that most of the actual story was more or less following familiar ground. There was still a protagonist, usually some sort of romantic interest, usually some sense of personal struggle/growth through an exterior force, usually some kind of good/evil clash. These things run through all genres and markets fairly consistently. To that extent, it's REALLY rare to find 'original' writing.

    Yeah, occasionally there will be a new spin, and often that's enough. Nobody would have given Brokeback Mountain a second look but for the fact it involved a gay relationship. If there was no sexual component or if it was a man and a woman instead of two men, it's suddenly just another western-themed romance story (of which there are zillions). That one difference made it unpredictable, which made it feel original (even though in most respects it wasn't at all), which made it important.

    As to why speculative fiction is more often tarred with this accusation, I don't know. I think a lot of speculative fiction tends to be more polarizing generally because, well, it's speculative... By definition, 'speculative' means 'not of this world' and it's far harder to hold a reader's attention to something they initially may not relate to very much. It's hard NOT to have a definite reaction one way or another on stuff that involves alien planets or made up civilizations or ghosts or whatever. Either you buy into the ideas or you don't. And if you don't, then everything about it is going to annoy you.

  5. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    As to why speculative fiction is more often tarred with this accusation, I don't know. I think a lot of speculative fiction tends to be more polarizing generally because, well, it's speculative... By definition, 'speculative' means 'not of this world' and it's far harder to hold a reader's attention to something they initially may not relate to very much. It's hard NOT to have a definite reaction one way or another on stuff that involves alien planets or made up civilizations or ghosts or whatever. Either you buy into the ideas or you don't. And if you don't, then everything about it is going to annoy you.
    I was thinking about this some today.

    In some genres, especially thriller, literary, and romance, I think books are judged on character more than any other aspect. Thriller has a heavy dose of "high concept" and literary has "prose" but all three really need great characters who act like people (most of the time).

    For science fiction, I think books get judged less on character, at least out the gate. Having a great high concept is king. World building is next. Then you have your research and your surprising but inevitable twist based on the technology / magic rules. After all that, you have character. And then the first thing that is judged on character is how marketable and memorable the image of the character is.

    I've personally DNF'd three of the last four science fiction books because the characters were plot mules instead of real people, and they did just way too much stuff that I don't think a person would do. The one I read was more of a thriller (imo), and the main character was very good.

    So, you get into reading the SF book, and the character comes off as kinda wooden and in service to the plot, and THAT is the element that makes it seem like everything else.

  6. #16
    I always feel there is a greater propensity for self-importance/arrogance in speculative fiction versus 'normal books'. This can lead to greater animus when it falls flat.

    Speculative fiction requires an author to say "not only do I demand my reader simply imagine some people saying and doing imaginary things...but I also demand my reader suspends belief in their own reality." That can be a big ask. So when the result feels half-assed the ridicule can be magnified.

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