Friday, 19 June 2015

Genre Stories

When a short story is published in a science fiction magazine, we know that the story is sf. Likewise with a detective magazine etc. However, an sf story published in an sf magazine might also be a detective story whereas I do not think that a detective story in a detective magazine can also be sf? Science fiction has been a more clearly delineated literary ghetto. Isaac Asimov and Larry Niven each pioneered an sf detective series within their respective future histories whereas a futuristic novel would not so easily cohere with a contemporary detective series.

In any case, a text should be self-explanatory. If a story is republished anywhere else, then its genre should be easily discernible, if not from the title, then at least from its opening passage. Poul Anderson and Gordon R Dickson needed to convey that "The Adventure of the Misplaced Hound" was:

science fiction;
an installment of an already existing series;
at least in part, a Holmesian pastiche.

They succeeded:

the story was published in Universe Science Fiction and collected in Earthman's Burden;
the title is Holmesian;
the opening sentence communicates humor by parodying a line from Gilbert and Sullivan;
the opening paragraph refers to the Inter-Being League, already familiar from previous Hoka stories, and also to the Interstellar Bureau of Investigation, clearly a detective outfit;
by the middle of the second page, we have learned that our regular hero and the visiting IBI man will visit the Tokan equivalent of England, where we might expect them to meet a Hoka Holmes, especially if we have noticed the cover of Earthman's Burden.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

And I just have to LAUGH at the very idea of a Hoka Queen Victoria! Esp. if the Hoka lady was just as formidable and strong willed as the Terrestrial Queen Victoria. Indeed, Plenipotentiary Jones was rather appalled at the idea!


David Birr said...

In "Yo Ho Hoka!" there's mention of a Hoka queen ("a lusty wench, if you'll pardon the expression") who's decided to become Theodora of Constantinople. If she's to live up to that name, she must be pretty formidable and strong-willed, herself. It's only briefly brought up to resolve the problem of a Hoka Viking who dreams of becoming a Varangian Guard -- how can he, when there's no Constantinople? Thanks to "Theodora," now there is....

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Birr,

Drat! Why didn't I think of that too? I checked my copy of EARTHMAN'S BURDEN, and you are right, the queen of the Hoka kingdom of Natchalu read some books about the Byzantine Empire and fell hard for the idea of being a Hoka Empress Theodora. Perhaps it's just as well no mention was made of there being a Hoka Emperor Justinian, who was just as formidable and iron willed as Theodora! (Smiles)


David Birr said...

One more Hoka-related (sort of) comment: I've begun reading *The Wonder War* (1964) by Laurence M. Janifer, a rather whimsical short novel about a Terran agency with the mission of preventing wars between extraterrestrials -- not out of altruism, but because wars tend to accelerate technological, especially weapons, development.

To keep the aliens ignorant and primitive without a nakedly imperialist crackdown, just keep 'em at peace.

The relevance to the Hoka stories? One reason for preferring not to go with open imperialism is that it'd be loudly protested by "the Interbeing League, led by the fiery and idealistic A. B. Jones...."

Paul Shackley said...

So THE WONDER WAR is set in the Hoka timeline (we think)?

David Birr said...

No, Paul, I don't think so. It seems pretty clearly just Janifer's salute to PA and/or Gordon Dickson, that he uses a name resembling that of one of their characters as an offscreen character in his work.

There's no real likeness between the histories ... and while I don't recall the Hoka stories ever pinning down a specific year, *TWW* is set in AD 2124, which strikes me as not leaving enough time for the development of the Hoka 'verse.

Not to mention that although there are several spacefaring species already in the Hoka stories, the whole thrust of *TWW* is that NOBODY but Earth has space travel, and Earth means to keep it that way.