Taking Notes: 'Confessions of an Accidental Encyclopedist' (2006, 2007) by Gary Westfahl

本文前身曾在 2006 年的 WorldCon 中發表,堪稱是 Westfahl 對於 The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy 這套書,乃至於整個科、奇幻文類所提出的個人見解。以下摘錄我所認為的重點部分:

Gary Westfahl, "Confessions of an Accidental Encyclopedist, Or, How I Prepared New Maps of Hell and Other Exotic Territories" in Locus Online

paragraph 4:
...... one can characterize a literary encyclopedia not simply as a comprehensive reference to a genre but also as an extended effort to provide a definition of the genre. And considered in that context, I would argue that The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, serendipitously, is a reference that powerfully conveys some of my own views about the special characteristics of science fiction and fantasy.

paragraph 5:
Its first message is simple enough: science fiction and fantasy are forms of literature which are about something. ......
paragraph 6:

...... science fiction and fantasy writers have generally felt they have something to say about subjects that are more important than literature, ranging from Physics to Politics, and one reason they write their stories is to say those things.
paragraph 7:
......Now, aficionados of other genres might protest, but I suspect that if experts were asked to list 400 themes for a proposed Encyclopedia of Themes in Mystery and Detective Fiction or an Encyclopedia of Themes in Westerns, they would face the different challenge of coming up with enough topics to fill their volumes.

paragraph 8:
This encyclopedia's second message — conveyed by the fact that it deals with themes addressed by multiple authors instead of the output of individual authors — is that science fiction and fantasy are best regarded as the collective products of a group intelligence at work, not as sets of stories produced by isolated geniuses. In this respect, again, science fiction and fantasy are at odds with the characteristic approaches of other literary critics, who tend to select certain superior writers, designate them as the "canon," and devote their attention only to this chosen few. If asked to characterize science fiction and fantasy, then, such critics would reconstruct the genres as a select group of idiosyncratic talents and develop elaborate theories of the genres that pertain exclusively to those meritorious writers. However, most science fiction and fantasy critics recognize that these genres more accurately represent ongoing conversations between writers and readers, and that even its masterpieces are best understood and become richer if they are considered in the context of that conversation. ......

paragraph 9:
A third message embedded in the encyclopedia will be, for some, more problematic — a tacit assertion that science fiction and fantasy are similar, closely related genres which can be appropriately addressed by a single reference. As I need not note, there have been countless arguments to the effect that science fiction and fantasy are quite disparate, even oppositional, genres, ...... Yet considering science fiction and fantasy together as one broad category strikes me as defensible on both historical and ideological grounds. ......
paragraph 10:

More to the point, like married couples, genres that spend long periods of time in each other's company begin to resemble one another. Thus, works of fantasy, instead of allowing almost anything to happen, are increasingly inclined to impose upon their fantastic worlds an overall sense of logic and consistency which recalls the atmosphere of scientific rigor long expected in science fiction. As for science fiction ...... rather, numerous authors have clung tenaciously to an outdated consensus future ......


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