There Is No Spoon: #1

It feels almost impossible to kick off the reboot of “There is No Spoon” without talking about Fringe — both the TV show with which I’m currently obsessed and the branch of science dedicated to phenomena almost too weird to be believed as real.

For starters, 2012 marks the beginning of the show’s (i.e. Fringe’s) fifth- and final season — much to my chagrin, given that I only (finally) started watching it this year. N.B. I’m historically late to the party when it comes to catching what’s hot on TV. I’m all caught up on Breaking Bad (i.e.), but then again I also started watching it this year as well. Ibid Game of Thrones. Ibid The Walking Dead. Ibid etc. etc.

Fringe science is probably just about the most interesting branch of science you can study and still consider what you’re doing studying. I have to assume that the amount of truly unbelievable events that take place in the show spawned the idea to have a documentary program solely dedicated to Fringe science (Dark Matters: Twisted but True on the Science Channel, narrated by John Noble himself!). Between the two shows, I’ve managed to sketch out an entire Moleskine notebook worth of new ideas. I just need to pick a spot and dive in!

I should probably also note that I’ve kind of been on a science-fiction and fantasy (SF/F) bender for the better part of 2012. Movies, books, video games — almost all of the media I’ve been consuming (apart from documentaries) have been SF/F-related. This phenomena happens to me somewhat frequently, where I get into something and then I really get into it, to the point where it becomes almost all-consuming. However, the migration toward SF/F has ostensibly been a completely logic one.

When I wrote a column for Specter Magazine dealing with similar subject matter (~this time last year), I was always trying to shoehorn physics and other sciences into the mold of literary fiction. I felt like there were so many more possibilities open if we explored the boundaries of humans’ understanding of the universe, if we mulled over the possibilities of parallel universes and mined the infinite labyrinths of human consciousness.

It wasn’t until this year that I realized (late again, just like my TV-watching habits), SF/F authors have been grappling with these concepts since time immemorial. I realized that the line between SF/F and literary fiction were blurrier than I’d ever considered, especially in the hands of authors like M. John Harrison, China Mièville, Ursula K. LeGuin, and Gene Wolfe. Indeed, what we’ve come to value in literary fiction (those of us snooty enough to admit it), elements such as: complex, highly-literate, multilayered narratives — the aforementioned authors’ work contains in spades.

M. John Harrison’s Viriconium is transcendent in its scope and complexity. The book has haunted me since I closed its covers and begged me to revisit it sooner rather than later. I’d reviewed it initially on Goodreads but felt that my review was lacking in any kind of meaningful interpretation of what I’d experienced reading the book. It haunted me from story to story and each of the three novellas. There was so much range, so much scope and yet the entire omnibus is ostensibly limited to a single city and its surrounding areas.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that — in a nutshell — I agree with the wave of writers such as China Mièville and Lev Grossman (and the countless number of those who’ve come before) who are arguing publicly for Science-Fiction and Fantasy work to be given as much esteem and consideration as its Literary brethren.

In fact, it’s an idea I think I’ll visit often in this column, that of the blurry line that exists between genre- and literary fiction, between fiction and nonfiction, between all categories with grey and porous boundaries. I’ll probably consistently argue the demarcations are arbitrary and that writing should be judged on its merit rather than where it’s located in Barnes & Noble.

But I’m not opposed to playing devil’s advocate for the sake of a good discussion.

In any case, I hope this column piques your interest and I hope you’ll log on each Thursday to find out what’s new!


Joseph Owens Joseph Michael Owens

Joseph Michael Owens is the author of the 'collectio[novella]' SHENANIGANS!, and has written for [PANK], The Rumpus, Specter, Grey Sparrow & several others. He is the blog editor for both InDigest Magazine and The Lit Pub, but you can also find him online at Joe lives in Omaha with three dogs and one wife.

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  • Mike Duncan

    I met John Edgar Wideman at a reading in 2010. I’d read two of his books: a novel, and a memoir. What interested me was that many of the characters in the novel appeared in the memoir. I asked him about that decision and his answer surprised me.

    He said that genre is a trap, the he just writes and lets other people figure out how to classify it later. I loved that and think it applies to the whole genre/literary fiction debate.

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