Pellucidar is Science Fiction.

There's a reason sci-fi and fantasy occupy adjacent aisles at the bookstore: they're very closely related! In both cases we're asked to adopt an unlikelyu or impossible premise. "Once upon a time, in a galaxy far far away," to mix the two quintessential opening gambits. The "science" in science fiction is really magic with an extra patina of believability.  Back when science WAS very nearly magic, when engineering exceeded the grasp of most of the population and more miracles were wrought every day, there was more science fiction.  We've a better grasp now, and miracles are a bit harder to imagine, and we have to allow a little more artistic license in judging whether the science in the fiction is hard enough.

What's the definition of the genre to be then?  My favorite is a typical one: you begin by saying "what if..." What if we had one crucial interesting keystone upon which to build our setting, a hollow earth, (we discover with a zeppelin or bone shaking tunneling machine), FTL spaceships (cause the pilots do drugs?), a world-spanning internet game world you could lose yourself in (don't we already?), or a submarine that could stay underwater indefinitely (thanks to a magic power source), or shrink to the size of a dot (thanks to a shrink ray, duh.)  I tried to squeeze several ideas into that sentence, mainly that the science has nothing do to with it: it's a quick handwaving to cover where the author needs to access a quick miracle, and you're supposed to look away and say, "ok" because it's science. So I'm introducing Pellucidar to the list today, under the protection of "science enabled this discovery"'s no different than Alien.

This thesis makes fantasy a little more hardcore than science fiction. Both reader and author of a book about talking rabbits, their civilization and pilgrim's progress are showing more guts than those who need a radioactive spider bite to unlimber the permissive half of their imagination.  A new reality, launched with a "what if?" That's as close as I can get to a truly necessary definition. You may legitimately add that science has to provide the what if, but my thesis is that that part is gratuitous, and accounts for why we see the presence of science in such varying degrees. It's really just imagination, sugar coated so that it goes down easier.

1 comment:

  1. Saw this today: