“But you see, when you start writing out the details of everyday Russian life, the absurdity just overwhelms you. At some point, you give up. Your characters start flying around, they sprout fangs and tails. Because that’s the only way to stay true to the material. Russian reality is too phantasmagoric to fit into realist logic.”
Our day-to-day lives are becoming more science-fictional. Every day, newspapers produce more headlines from the frontiers of modern science. . . Of course, with these advances come anxieties about Faustian bargains and Pandora's boxes."
The crew of a rocket ship headed for the planet Mars is dying and plagued by nightmarish visions and dreams. Meanwhile, the inhabitants of Mars — [the ghosts of] supernaturalist authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, Algernon Blackwood and Ambrose Bierce — are fading from existence as the people of Earth burn the last of their books, outlawed a century ago for their superstitious themes. Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare are there too, although Dickens bitterly resents his "ghettoization" among genre writers.
"If look at the best of literary fiction," he told me, "you see three-dimensional characters, you see exquisite sentences, you see glowing metaphors. But if you look at the worst of literary fiction, you see that nothing happens. Somebody takes a sip of tea, looks out the window at a bank of roiling clouds and has an epiphany."
Genre fiction, by itself, can be just as fallible.
"In the worst of genre fiction, you see hollow characters, you see transparent prose, you see the same themes and archetypes occurring from book to book. If you look at the best of genre fiction, you see this incredible desire to discover what happens next."
—Science fiction readers are problem solvers! Stories with downbeat endings, in which the characters have no hope of solving their problems, are strongly disliked by Analog readers. In a good SF story, the characters strive to solve their problems—and even if they fail in the end, they go down fighting, not whimpering.
Reality is getting far too strange, far too fast for "real" literature to get by on hardscrabble bildungsromans and so on.
By fixing, then, the date of my story Sixty Years before this present 1st November, 1805, I would have my readers understand, that they will meet in the following pages neither a romance of chivalry nor a tale of modern manners; that my hero will neither have iron on his shoulders, as of yore, nor on the heels of his boots, as is the present fashion of Bond Street; and that my damsels will neither be clothed 'in purple and in pall,' like the Lady Alice of an old ballad, nor reduced to the primitive nakedness of a modern fashionable at a rout. From this my choice of an era the understanding critic may farther presage that the object of my tale is more a description of men than manners. A tale of manners, to be interesting, must either refer to antiquity so great as to have become venerable, or it must bear a vivid reflection of those scenes which are passing daily before our eyes, and are interesting from their novelty. Thus the coat-of-mail of our ancestors, and the triple-furred pelisse of our modern beaux, may, though for very different reasons, be equally fit for the array of a fictitious character; but who, meaning the costume of his hero to be impressive, would willingly attire him in the court dress of George the Second's reign, with its no collar, large sleeves, and low pocket-holes? The same may be urged, with equal truth, of the Gothic hall, which, with its darkened and tinted windows, its elevated and gloomy roof, and massive oaken table garnished with boar's-head and rosemary, pheasants and peacocks, cranes and cygnets, has an excellent effect in fictitious description. Much may also be gained by a lively display of a modern fete, such as we have daily recorded in that part of a newspaper entitled the Mirror of Fashion, if we contrast these, or either of them, with the splendid formality of an entertainment given Sixty Years Since; and thus it will be readily seen how much the painter of antique or of fashionable manners gains over him who delineates those of the last generation.
Considering the disadvantages inseparable from this part of my subject, I must be understood to have resolved to avoid them as much as possible, by throwing the force of my narrative upon the characters and passions of the actors;—those passions common to men in all stages of society, and which have alike agitated the human heart, whether it throbbed under the steel corslet of the fifteenth century, the brocaded coat of the eighteenth, or the blue frock and white dimity waistcoat of the present day.
- Walter Scott, Waverley
"Realism has the effect of granting primary status to the external, whereas in our experience, the internal is often the more important. The great filmmakers understand this trap -- that strict "realism" is, in fact, the least true interpretation of our experience of life; that a work springing from the imagination which adopts the guise of objective reality can only be a lie."
The State of Visual Narrative in Film and Comics by Peter Chung
"It always amuses me that the biggest praise for my work comes for the imagination, while the truth is that there's not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality. The problem is that Caribbean reality resembles the wildest imagination."
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