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

Fantasies of Justice

Via whump.com: Lois McMaster Bujold spoke about genre in her guest of honor speech at the World Science Fiction Convention earlier this month. Here are her one-word genre definitions:

In fact, if romances are fantasies of love, and mysteries are fantasies of justice, I would now describe much SF as fantasies of political agency.

She explained this conclusion at some length:

I expected to learn a lot about romance through writing one, and I did. I was more surprised to learn something new to me about fantasy and science fiction — which is how profoundly, intensely, relentlessly political most of the stories in these genres are. The politics may be archaic or modern, fringe or realistic, naive or subtle, optimistic or dire, but by gum the characters had better be centrally engaged with them, for some extremely varied values of “engaged”. Even the world-building itself is often a political argument. And, oh boy, are the political aspects of the fiction ever valorized in the reviews. I had not noticed this the way a fish does not notice water. Only when I’d stepped onto the shore of the neighboring genre and breathed a contrasting air did I discover there even could be a difference — and what a difference it was.

The distinction between the personal and the political can be used to classify other genres as well. Literary fiction, little as I’ve read of it, seems to be as purely personal as romance. Thrillers, on the other hand, are almost always apocalyptically political, like (or so the claim is, anyway) science fiction.

So to get back to classifying horror, I think it straddles the line between the personal (everybody dies alone) and the political (the zombie apocalypse is everybody’s problem). Supernatural fiction leans towards the personal with its moral focus, but often there’s an apocalypse looming in the background there, too.

I feel a story idea coming on, involving focus groups and Gallup-polling the apocalypse, because (the blurbs would all say), the apocalypse is political.