Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I Talk Too Little

So the folks over at SF Signal approached me to answer their latest Mind Meld question, to wit, "Which science fiction or fantasy novels, past and present, do you consider to be the most controversial? Why?" And I answered, but I composed my answer during a couple of spare moments during Polaris, sitting cross-legged on the floor of the Doubletree Hotel while that leashed slave chick I mentioned last entry paraded back and forth. So I was a bit distracted, and misread the question so I thought they were asking us to focus on a single book — and while I cited several I ended up going with Delany's Dhalgren, praising its lyricism, its plotlessness, and all that explicit gay porn.

And now I'm a wee bit embarrassed because the other respondents provided answers with far more depth than mine, citing obvious examples I'd missed (The Satanic Verses. The Iron Dream. A Clockwork Orange. Duh.), and occasionally making a good case for less-obvious ones (Sawyer's The Terminal Experiment never struck me as especially "controversial", but evidently its Nebula win provoked a certain amount of outrage back before my time). So if you want some really thoughtful commentary, skip the first paragraph and go from there. (My eye was especially drawn to Tim Holman's shrewd observation that these days, the most controversial element in science fiction is the lack of controversial works it's producing. Amen.)

Anyhow, I'll try to be more verbose in future. Promise.

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Blogger Mac said...

Yep, "Dhalgren" is as neglected as it is transgressive.

July 17, 2008 12:13 AM  
Blogger HannuB said...

I agree, Dhalgren *so* rocks!

But If I would add to my list a book I believe to be singularly the most controversial and transgressive the genre has produced, that would be J.G. Ballard's utterly incredible Crash. Sex. Car crashes. More sex.

Not a Transgressive book just for transgressions sake, but to my mind important social commentary. With teeth. With chainsaws and flamethrowers. And an attitude approaching critical mass.

Controversial as hell, too. According to legend, after reading the MS, one critic advised the publisher in a letter, saying: "This writer is clearly beyond all psychiatric help. Do not publish".
And the Cronenberg movie adaptation wasn't half bad either.
Ah, they just don't write books like that anymore...

Another book by Ballard I would also add to the list would the truly original and disturbing series of 'condensed novels', The Atrocity Exhibition (how can you resist a story with a title "Why I want to fuck Ronald Reagan").

Not necessarily a genre book, but I would still like to add Thomas Pynchon's cool-as-fuck Gravity's Rainbow to the list as well. My mind is still churning from the first reading experience of almost 30 years ago...


July 17, 2008 9:14 AM  
Blogger adrienne said...

you talk too little, yeah, like i talk too little.

July 27, 2008 11:32 PM  

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