The Asimov Continuum in Taiwan ?!

第 98 期的 Foundation 裡,有一篇由 Michael LeBlanc 所撰寫的 "Judith Merril and Isaac Asimov's Quest to Save the Future" (pp. 59-73),內容探討這兩位具有崇高歷史地位的科幻作家,儘管政治理念和對科幻的觀點與信念有著巨大的差異,卻不約而同地在 1960s 暫別科幻,到了 1970s 卻針對人口爆炸與環境保護等議題共同探討人類未來的歷史。儘管他為文重點放在兩人之間的對比,不過讓我最感興趣的是 Asimov 當初決定淡出科幻創作的背後因素。Asimov 從科幻轉入科普的過程,可以和他的「華文世界代言人」葉總舵主推廣「科科」的理念相互對比參照。我從而發現自己的「The Gernsback Continuum in Taiwan」論點很可能需要修正,或許需要改成「The Asimov Continuum in Taiwan」。但要做出決定性的推論,我必須再參照更多 Asimov 的史料。

以下摘錄文中敘述 Asimov 轉換跑道的過程,粗體是我認為的關鍵點:

p. 64
Unlike Merril, Asimov's movement to non-fiction was not politically motivated. He thought that he had achieved his peak in science fiction in the mid-1950s; it was time for him to move on to promoting science education. As a physical scientist〔怪怪的,Asimov 應該是學化學的,或者這裡的 physical 要解釋成物質科學?〕, Asimov quickly found a new and more prominent niche for himself as a full-time writer of non-fiction science articles, editorials, and books.

Asimov's slow departure from sf literature began in the early 1950s, when he discovered that people were willing to buy his non-fiction, as he admits in his final memoir, I, [sic] Asimov. The market for popular science articles grew in the late 1950s, after the Soviet launch of Sputnik in 1957 created fears in America about a "science gap". American editors sought out accessible science articles and Asimov was only too happy to provide them. F&SF offered Asimov a monthly science column, which Asimov wrote from 1958 to 1991 -- producing a total of 399 columns. With these new possibilities, Asimov officially retired from science fiction writing and the teaching side of his academic position at Boston University to focus on his "science fact" articles, books, and F&SF science column in 1958.

By 1958, Asimov had been writing science fiction for twenty years and, according to the author of his "unauthorised" biography, Michael White, had, at last, run out of ideas. Whether or not White is correct, it is clear that Asimov could feel the centre of the genre beginning to shift away from hard science. New sf writers, such as Philip K. Dick, were using science fiction to explore philosophical questions and the human condition. Asimov, on the other hand, largely focused on the interactions between people and technology.〔即 the Campbellian way〕 In the 1960s, when Harlan Ellison launched his American New Wave anthology of original stories, Dangerous Visions (1967), he asked Asimov to contribute a new story. Asimov politely declined:

[...] I couldn't face trying to write a story that would pass muster in the 1960s, when such talent
I had suited the 1950s. I felt that I didn't measure up any longer and I didn't want to prove it.

While his stories were never revered for their narrative style or characterisation, his ideas of future science and technology -- and society's interactions with

p. 65
them -- were highly valued during the 1950s. These ideas were still valued in the 1960s, but Asimov recognised that contemporary sf writers had moved on to ther frontiers. Science commentary offered Asimov a safe and financially lucrative field -- a place where he did not have to test his fiction against the new standards and experimental approaches of the 1960s.

先不論 Asimov 回鍋後的成績如何,他受到「非科幻迷」的注意有很大的一部分也正因為他投身於科普寫作事業。因此倘若真有推廣科幻的 Asimovian approach 的話,應該會有下列的特徵:

1) 科幻與科普並重,在行外甚至以科普為先。
2) 科幻理念是 Campbellian 式的,強調科技與人的關係,提出問題,尋求「可能」解決之道。

嗯,樣子好像出來了。接下來若要「真的」著手開始研究的話,恐怕要從 Asimov 傳記中找出他對科幻與科普推廣的思考與見解,再來和總舵主的作法相比較。

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