without knowing of the Mundane Manifesto, let alone that such a movement existed, and certainly without having read a single word of the dogme. If I had, it would have been much worse a book for it. For at one level you can call such a dogme creative constraint. At another it’s box ticking. Ignorance, in my case, was bliss. And I wish I was ignorant again, because I don’t want those boxes there, to either have to tick or ignore. The real creative freedom is the constraint of writing the book you want to write, nothing more. And that can be very very hard in as small and communicative a world as SF.Right. SF isn’t futurology, although futurology is one of its several methods.
Will I then be co-opted against my will, like being converted to Mormonism after your death? (How unfair is that? Now you really canít win.)
It’s not just the Mundane Manifesto is totally unnecessary to produce the type of science-fiction it celebrates (one very very much worth celebrating, and that is due its time in the sun), it’s that the genre has a much richer palate of colours. It’s a poor manifesto that would venerate Verne (tech-speculation) but consigns much of H.G. Wells’ core texts to the ‘bonfire of stupidities’ (interplanetary war, aliens, time-travel). To me, one of the strengths of SF is that it is an allegorical literature: parables and myths of our age. That TV has appropriated and devalued many of them is tribute to their strength, not their weakness. To me, any literature that writes about the future (not all SF does by any means) cannot be realist…, to quote likelihood of a possible future is just hand waving.
I tend not to write about big space-ships, interstellar travel (in my work, it tends to be uncomfortable and very very slow) or aliens. In this way, my work may seem to fit the Mundane Manifesto. But when I need to, I will use those colours to make the allegorical point I want. In Sacrifice of Fools I used the alien Shian in a pastiche of the movie Alien Nation (great premise, shit movie—just another stupid drugs film, eventually) because they were the most effective tool to satirise my own country of Northern Ireland. Had I applied the dogme of MSF, I fear it would have become a dull, tendentious, grim and worthy chunk of urban grime. (Of course, you may very well think this about SoF anyway.)
On the larger matter, I’m once again drawn back to Chip Delany’s point, in a New York Review of Science Fiction essay from two or three years ago, that we need to stop trying to define SF, and work on describing it instead. As Chip observed, definitional arguments, by their nature, invariably wind up quibbling over edge cases at the expense of examining the broad middle. In a way I can’t quite lay my finger on, it seems to me that the turn of mind that’s attracted to definitional argument—a turn of mind well-represented in our subcultures—is also the turn of mind that makes check-box manifestos. And that while this kind of quibbling and box ticking definitely scratches an itch, it’s not the same itch as the one that leads to art.