Friday, 30 March 2018

Shared Fictions

James Blish's "On Science Fiction Criticism" (see here) is a reply to Michel Butor, "Science Fiction: The Crisis of Growth" (Partisan Review, Fall 1967). Butor argued that many partially imagined future cities - or presumably other settings but he focused on cities - were fragmentary and unsatisfactory. He suggested instead that:

a number of writers should accept a common setting defined and described as closely as possible;

such a common fictional environment would acquire the power of a classical myth;

other writers would be obliged to accept this common city and readers would even build it!

That last point is pure moonshine. There are now shared futures because, e.g., the Man-Kzin Wars period of Larry Niven's Known Space future history has been franchised. However, we still read many futuristic fictions, mostly written by single authors.

I hope I have shown that a single future history by a single author can be extremely detailed and entirely satisfactory. For American future history series, start with the Original Triad:

The Future History by Robert Heinlein;
The Psychotechnic History by Poul Anderson;
The Technic History by Poul Anderson.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Despite the fact that I'm no longer a fan of most of Asimov's SF, I would have included his three original FOUNDATION books as one of those American "future histories."


Paul Shackley said...

They are, of course, but there is a special relationship between what I call the Triad:

Anderson modeled the Psychotechnic History on the Future History;
Anderson also wrote the Technic History which grew organically but became a Heinlein-model future history.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I understand your point better. And what became the Technic History originally started as two separate series, about Nicholas van Rijn and Dominic Flandry. On an impulse, PA linked the two when he mentioned Old Nick in THE PLAGUE OF MASTERS. The rest, as the saying goes, was history!