m. c. de marco: To invent new life and new civilizations...

Space Fiction

The LA Times calls Doris Lessing’s Nobel prize a victory for science fiction because she sometimes writes it:

“What I would like to be writing,” Lessing wrote in 1983, “is the story of the Red and White Dwarves and their Remembering Mirror, their space rocket (powered by anti-gravity), their attendant entities Hadron, Gluon, Pion, Lepton, and Muon, and the Charmed Quarks and the Coloured Quarks. But we can’t all be physicists.”

While you, I, Doris Lessing, and M.G. Lord know science fiction is a fertile genre, that’s no reason for the latter to wax hallucinatory about the genre’s influence over the Nobel:

Science fiction was messy. It tackled big themes: What makes us human? Are we alone in the universe? Does God exist, and if so, might she be vicious? It aspired to be epic, and an epic, as midcentury novelist Marguerite Young has aptly observed, must have “a vast undertow of music and momentum and theology.”

“Shikasta” had all these things, and they contributed, I suspect, to the Nobel committee’s recognition of Lessing as an “epicist of the female experience.”

It’s far more likely that Canopus in Argos has finally blown over than finally arrived. It certainly didn’t go over well at the time:

But many readers and critics now fear that she is tumbling from the pedestal they erected for her. Their worries began in 1979 when the publication of ‘‘Shikasta’’ launched what Mrs. Lessing calls her ‘‘space-fiction’’ series - ‘‘Canopus in Argos: Archives.’’ Instantly, Lessingites and the greater literary world reeled in shock as the advocate of social concern on this planet adopted the viewpoint of outer space: The formerly realistic writer had been transformed into a cosmic visionary.