John C. Wright (johncwright) wrote,
John C. Wright
johncwright

Mundane SF

Let no one think I am a proponent of 'Mundane SF': As far as I am concerned, if it does not involve space travel, it is not science fiction.

Instead of trying to give any sort of reasoning to support this standard, I have decided to use a lot of exclamation points, which makes my assertion invulnerable to counter-argument. It is one of the things I learned on the Internet !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
Let us see how this standard works in practice:

  • HG Wells' THE TIME MACHINE? Not SF!
  • FIRST MEN IN THE MOON? SF!
  • ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU? Not SF!!!
  • J.R.R. Tolkien  LORD OF THE RINGS? SF! (Earendil flies an orbiter to Venus. Well, its a sailing ship, and it turns into the planet Venus, but close enough).
  • E.R. Eddison's THE WORM OROBOROS? SF!!!!! (Lesseingham flies to Mercury in a primitive biological space-vessel-- erm. Well, he flies in a dream in a chariot pulled by hippogriffs, so that almost counts.)
  • A PRINCESS OF MARS? SF !!!!!!!! (John Carter travels to Mars in a Saturn V rocket. Except, without the rocket. By astral projection, after death. So that is almost like a Goddard rocket. Almost).
  • STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND? SF!!!!!!!!!!!! (Herman the Martian flies to Earth from Mars, except his name is Mike, not Herman.)
  • GLORY ROAD? or what about DOOR INTO SUMMER? Not SF! The movie METROPOLIS? Not SF! The serial FLASH GORDON? SF! See? This standard works for all uncertain cases. SUPERMAN? SF! It has a rocket in it!! A space rocket!
  • NINETEEN EIGHTY FOUR? I don't see a space rocket anywhere. BRAVE NEW WORLD? Hah!
  • NINE PRINCES IN AMBER? Not SF!! Where is Corwin's rocket!? He needs a rocket for it to be SF!
  • The movie APOLLO THIRTEEN? SF! THE RIGHT STUFF? SF! DOCTOR NO?! It's got a space shot in it! And so does AUSTIN POWERS!!!!  For that matter, THE ROCKETEER does not have a space rocket in it, but it stars Jennifer Connelly, so I think it should count anyway. JANES ROCKETRY REPORT - Precision guided news and analysis? Google Driving Directions to Cape Kennedy?  Clear SF!!!! It is all SF!!!

Arguably, this definition of science fiction is too broad, for it allows over the threshold many books that do not contain a beautiful space princess.

So if we examine the list we have here developed, we can see which of them qualifies, under the Space Princess standard.

 PRINCESS OF MARS?  Deja Thoris. Bingo. THE WORM OROBOROS has Lady Prezmyra; FLASH GORDON has Princess Aura. LORD OF THE RINGS? Arwen is a princess, and Elbereth might be considered a princess. Close  enough for government work. FOUNDATION by Asimov has a princess on the planet Kolvin who comes on stage. DUNE has Princess Irulan. The ROCKETEER has a scene where Jennifer Connelly is DRESSED as a princess, so I still think this counts. Also, while the Ang Lee movie THE HULK, the movie A BEAUTIFUL MIND and CAREER OPPORTUNITIES do not exactly have space rockets in them, the Hulk can jump a long way, and John Forbes Nash is almost as smart as Richard Seaton or Hari Seldon. In any case, they also have Jennifer Connelly in them, so these all should count as SF. However, 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY does not have a princess in it, and neither does DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, so we have to categorize these as mainstream films.

I think this standard works very well! Call your local bookstore and have them move all those books by Clarke and Bradbury and Zelazny, Jules Verne and Walter Gibson in with the Whodunnnits and Romances.

Next up: why no movie can really be a Western without a giant steam-powered spider driven by Kenneth Branaugh.
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