Entries in Realism (2)



A few weeks back Ted Meissner (a/k/a The Secular Buddhist) interviewed me for his podcast, topic being my recent paper at the JOCBS. It's up now at the website:

Episode 245: Was the Buddha an Anti-Realist?


Realism vs. SF

Damien Walter has an interesting article up on the Guardian website about the role of fiction and fantasy in the modern world. His claim is that SF and Fantasy are better genres for getting at the fantasy that surrounds us in the form of marketing and advertising.

I think there's something to that. The conceit of realist fiction is that it's an accurate window onto reality in a way that Fantasy is not.  In contrast to realism, says Walter, SF and Fantasy are often typecast as "escapist nonsense".

To be fair, ninety percent of everything is crud anyway, so of course much SF and Fantasy is as well. But at least it holds its fictional elements on its sleeve, so to speak. It beckons us out of our normal, everyday world and asks us to imagine something different for a time: to dream.

Dreaming isn't necessarily escaping; it can also allow us to get the distance we need to look at the world in a new way. Much of our understanding of the world, even of such basic things as our own identity, or the role of free will in action, are conditioned by ill-conceived or poorly considered tropes.

As Walter notes, one approach to mind-bending is to go in for the easy fix of post-modern relativism, where nothing counts because everything does. That's a dead end, a recipe for boredom. Although they superficially appear allied, unlike post-modern relativism Fantasy must have its own rules, its own internal realism if you will, to function well in a narrative context.

It's in the skew of those rules from our own daily reality that SF and Fantasy can allow us to see the world anew, without becoming unmoored.