2007/12/12

Taking Notes: 'Hard Reading: The Challenges of Science Fiction' (2005) by Tom Shippey

這是利物浦大學英文所教授 David Seed (上他的 seminar 壓力超大 ^^;;)所編纂的 A Companion to Science Fiction 收錄的第一篇論文,談的是(純文學底子的人)閱讀科幻時所面對的「挑戰」。作者 Tom Shippey 在文末提到他是集合四篇舊作加以摘錄、改寫而成,其中 "Preface: Learning to Read Science Fiction" (1991) 是很好的科幻精讀指導教材,裡面的重點也大多重現於本文之中。廢話不多說,劃重點:

閱讀出處:
Tom Shippey, "Hard Reading: The Challenges of Science Fiction" in David Seed (ed.), A Companion to Science Fiction (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2005), pp. 11-26.


首先自然是前面所提到的科幻精讀實戰教範,Shippey 以 George Orwell 的 Coming up for Air (1939) 和 Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth 的 The Space Merchants (1953) 兩部小說的開頭為例,闡明純文學與科幻閱讀的不同之處,從而帶出 Darko Suvin 科幻定義的「操作模式」。

p. 11
it can be shown that reading (or even viewing) any form of science fiction does involve one extra intellectual step over and above those necessary for reading other forms of fiction.〔雖然大概會有人不贊同,認為讀任何東西都會如此,但 Shippey 在後面當場拿出實際範例佐證。以下四頁全都是逐字逐句的講解說明〕
p. 15
To read The Space Merchants -- to read any science fiction -- one has first to recognize its novums, and then to evaluate them. There is a discernible and distinguishable pleasure at each stage, as you realize how things are different, how they are similar, and go one to wonder, and to discover, what causes could have produced the changes; as also to speculate what causes have produced the effects of the real world, the effects with which we are so familiar that in most cases they are never given a thought.

......〔順便帶一下 Suvin 的定義〕

"Estrangement," with reference to the examples given, means recognizing the novum; "cognition" means evaluating it, trying to make sense of it. You need both to read science fiction.

上面的論點換個說法,也可以說成「科幻在本質上是富含大量資訊的文類」:
p. 16
Science fiction, however, is intrinsically a "high-information" genre. Novums, just because they are novums, are very hard to predict. Some of the words in the Pohl and Kornbluth passage would take many guesses to arrive at if they had been blanked out: ......〔後頭舉 Gibson 的 Neuromancer (1984) 為例,說明 novum 太多、太難理解的情況會變成怎樣。〕

......〔本段再舉 Pohl 另一部作品 The Years of the City (1984) 中,自行發明英文的無性別第三人稱單數字彙的情況,這些字所帶來的資訊因而衝擊我們的思維。〕Things do
p. 17
not have to be the way they are. This is the assertion that science fiction insistently conveys, in its scenarios, its explanations, even in its vocabulary -- through all the various forms of the novum.

與 high information 相對的則是科幻作品在 "degraded information"(資訊退化)方面的應用。Shippey 首先以 H. G. Wells 的短篇 "The Country of the Blind" 為例,很直覺地帶入「封閉世界」的次類型(generation ship 為其中著名的典型):
There is a kind of symmetry, furthermore, in the way in which science fiction has learned to exploit the opposite of "high information," not low information so much as "degraded information." The classic subgenre to illustrate this is the "enclosed universe" story, whose paradigmatic example is H. G. Wells' 1904 novella, "The Country of the Blind." ...... a basic feature inherited from Wells is that the cosmology of the enclosed universe -- which we, the readers, are quite sure is false, information seriously degraded -- has to be made to seem reasonable, plausible, indeed (given the evidence available) inescapable. It is the central character trying to reach what we would take to be a true understanding who appears insane. So vital is this reversal of "common sense" (...) that one almost inevitable feature of such stories is discovery of the "captain's log," an account written by someone sharing our readerly viewpoint which explains how the "enclosed universe" arose: for a truly closed system based on degraded information (like Wells' blind persons' valley) must have its own methods of ensuring that correct information (like the existence of sight) is not received.
下一段舉例分析 Brave New World (1932) 和 Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) 本質上也是「封閉世界」的故事,獲得結論:
p. 18
...... Arguably, what "enclosed universe" stories tell us is that we are all living in the glass bottles of Huxley's novel, enclosed by the invisible constraints of society, convention, and language. In a further paradox, degraded information may be even more informative than high information, if it allows one to perceive the process of degradation.

接下來探討科幻作品除了 intellectually challenging 外,還有 emotionally challenging 的特性。最顯著的作法即為 "cancellation of iconicity":(萬物皆可當,噢,是崩壞 X-D)
However, a point that has begun to appear from what has been said so far is that science fiction is not only the most intellectually challenging of genres, it also may well be the most emotionally challenging. The corollary of Things do not have to be the way they are is that Nothing is sacred -- and in science fiction, "Nothing" means NOTHING. Science fiction habitually works through what one might call the "cancellation of iconicity." ......
以下透過小說作品,特別是 Norman Spinrad 的 "A Thing of Beauty" (1973) 中美國形象(特別是自由女神像)的崩壞,來說明國家形象的毀壞其實是很「平常」的,並探究其背後因素:
p. 19
Spinrad's story is typical rather than exceptional. Many American authors have produced critiques of America, or stories of the Fall of America, turning routinely on the
p. 20
disfigurement of myth or the "cancellation of iconicity," and their efforts were preceded by a number of British authors from even before Wells' time who imagined the destruction of London, ...... Yet these images, while arresting, are also evidently highly threatening, to many deeply unwelcome. It is surprising, and encouraging, to find so many of them at home in a commercial, mass-entertainment genre; though one should add that it is a feature that makes much of he genre literally unreadable for those not prepared to have their certainties challenged. John Huntington has introduced to science fiction, along with Suvin's "novum," the idea of the "habitus," the reader's set of "values, expectations, and assumptions" (......) It is not essential for science fiction -- as one can see from almost any episode of Star Trek -- to step outside the comfort-zone of modern Euro-American consumers, but it is surprisingly common. Only a minority, perhaps, is prepared to consider an alternative (national) habitus, a place where America in particular does not exist or has lost dominance.
可崩毀的不只是國家而已,Shippey 再舉兩個例子,圖書(館)〔亦即「知識」、「文化」等等)和人類「萬物之靈」的地位。


對於專業讀者(professional reader)而言,科幻還提供了一種「意識形態上的挑戰」(ideologically challenging)。他先從文學理論開始發難,並以 Kingsley Amis 的 The Alteration (1976) 為例:〔這邊對於沒有藝術史和文學理論背景的我來說十分難食......〕
p. 21
As a result, science fiction can further be seen as not only intellectually and emotionally challenging, to all readers, but also and in particular to professional readers, ideologically challenging -- something that probably accounts in part for the long hostility it has faced from literary critics. ......
p. 22
〔在分析完 Amis 文本的例證之後〕
All this, one could say, is an exact rendering of the critical concept of "textuality." According to the Toronto Encyclopedia of Contemporary Literary Theory (Makaryk 1993, cited here only as a statement of what is generally accepted):

the term marks both a breakdown of the boundaries between literature and other verbal and nonverbal signifying practices, and a subversion of the principle that any text can function as an object whose meaning is coherent and self-contained. (Jones 1993: 641)
p. 23
There is no problem in illustrating either of these statements within science fiction. Science fiction habitually breaks down the boundary -- or fails to recognize any boundary -- between literature and other forms of signification, like putting the Statue of Liberty on magazine covers. ......〔繼續以 Amis 的文本作例子來說明 "textuality"〕

One could say something very similar with regard to Derridean concept of différance, with its double meaning of "difference" and deferral." The Toronto Encyclopedia explains that:

if there are only differences [within the system of language] then meaning is only produced in the relation among signifiers not through the signified; the signified is thus endlessly deferred and delayed through the differential network (Adamson 1993: 535)

......, but there is no doubt that this is a reasonable description of what a reader of "alternate histories" has to do. 〔這邊不把他對 Amis 文本的舉例拉進來不行〕In the Amis passage, Blake's "still-brilliant frescoes" and David Hockney with his "Ecce Homo" mosaic have to be seen in their immediate textual context; the difference between that and what we regard as the real-world context (Blake marginalized to ephemera, Hockney in Californian exile) then has to be recognized, thus différence. [sic] But judgment as to which is more real or more plausible has to be deferred to allow the novel to continue to be read, thus différance. And this process, repeated literally thousands of times in the course of any complex "alternate world" narrative, creates an exceptionally strong sense of how fragile our own "real" history is. Things did not have to be that way. Books like The Alteration are profoundly disorienting. They depend very heavily, to use another critical term, on "intertextuality," and they make you feel how much of our perceived reality is intertextual too.
接著 Shippey 闡述科幻與文學理論中 ideological gap 的成因。
And yet in spite of these apparent or potential exemplifications of "literary theory" within science fiction, all who are familiar with both will be aware of an immense ideological gap. This is caused by the issue of science, and the claim of science to ultimate authority. If there is one thing that characterizes all schools of modern
p. 24
literary theory, it is their denial of objectivity. To quote this time the Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism (Groden and Kreiswirth 1994), once more for its deliberate centrality:

If language, metaphor, and consciousness really are structured by difference, then there can be no solid foundation, no fixed point of reference, no authority or certainty, either ontological or interpretive. (Kneale 1994: 187)

Such views have become entirely characteristic of the authority structure of the critical profession, and are impossible to reconcile with the claims for truth-to-fact of much science fiction, and all serious science. This is the last and most insuperable of the obstacles preventing science fiction from being accepted into the central and authoritative core of literary culture. ......〔說來說去還不都是人文與科學「兩種文化」的鴻溝越來越大的緣故......〕


最後 Shippey 統整出他同事(同行)為何無法忍受或閱讀科幻的因素,指明這些就是閱讀科幻時讀者所要面對的挑戰,做為本文結語:
I would sum up by remarking that for many years I have encountered colleagues who have told me (a) "I cannot bear science fiction," and (b) "I have never read any." How can both these be true? I assume that someone comfortable in his or her own habitus, sure that the patterns of history are unshakable, tacitly confident that the future will be much the same as the present, someone of this fairly normal intellectual type will rapidly detect, but immediately reject, the very idea of the novum, without which science fiction cannot work at all.〔也就是 Shippey 在 "Preface: Learning to Read Science Fiction" 中所說的「馬上偵測出某文本是科幻,並討厭之」X-D〕 At a deeper level, the penchant of
p. 25
science fiction for seeking out sacred cows of any kind to slaughter (not just the discredited ones of the past) is likely to trigger an emotional rejection. Finally, the over-powering authority of science within our culture is hard to bear ideologically for some of those who have no access to it. And yet the very mainspring of science fiction as it developed from nineteenth-century "scientific romance" is awareness of change on every level from shaving to sex and war, and conviction that this process is now unstoppable (except by disaster, a frequent science fictional option). We really have no idea what will happen next. Or rather, we have no certainty, but plenty of ideas. It is this openness, this sense of potential in every sphere, that has given science fiction its host of readers, and which makes it, as I have said, a uniquely challenging but also uniquely rewarding genre.

1 comment:

Pai said...

原來前幾天讀的就是這篇 XD

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