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The Lit-SF Debate Has Become A Trope In Its Own Right

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Yet another literary boffin has said science fiction novels can't be literary, and it's (not surprisingly) sparked some controversy. Benjamin Kunkel in Dissent Magazine wrote a long exegesis on the difference between SF and literature — in a nutshell, literature has more complex characters and trickier dilemmas about the place of the individual in society. Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber took issue with Kunkel's analysis. I had a sense that Farrell was oversimplifying Kunkel's argument, and that Kunkel was actually making some valid points mixed in with his ill-supported generalizations.

I was struggling with how to say that in a blog post, but luckily, Cheryl Morgan did it for me. Her thoughtful response to Kunkel's argument is well worth reading for its own sake, as she dissects the difference between genres and tropes. (Like, it's actually possible to write a novel about clones without doing the usual "Are clones human?" thing.) In a weird sense, the debate over literary fiction vs. SF has in itself become ridden with tropes, and Morgan does a good job of cutting through them.