Friday, August 24, 2007

Without Prejudice

The latest issue of New Scientist contains an interview with Jeanette Winterson. As is all too often the case with ‘literary’ novelists who commit science fiction, she wants to make it clear that what she has written isn’t in any way SF:

Q: What do you think about novelists and science?
A: I hate science fiction . . .
Q: What’s your next book about?
A: . . . A girl builds a multi-gendered robot, which then kills her parents because it sees them mistreat her, so they both go on the run.

Actually, it’s slightly unfair to stitch her up by ellipsis. Her full answer to the question about novelists and science was this:

A: I hate science fiction. But good writers about science, such as Jim Crace or Margaret Atwood, are great. They take on science because it’s crucial to our world, and they use language to give energy to ideas. Others just borrow science and it ends up like the emperor’s new clothes, with no understanding of the material. But you shouldn’t fake it because science is too important, it’s the basis for our lives. I expect a lot more science in fiction because science is so rich.

Which is exactly what the best science fiction novels and stories, and ‘literary’ novels dealing with science, are all about. What a pity that Winterson had to spoil some common sense with a crass disclaimer.


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