Mar. 6th, 2013

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Or at least of a philosophy of science fiction...

I've just read John Inglesant by J H Shorthouse, for my work on English Civil War fiction.

The edition I have (1930) has an 1881 introduction which is actually more interesting than the novel. Shorthouse wants to create Philosophy Fiction. "books where fiction is used expressly for the purpose of introducing Philosophy. In such books, where philosophy is put first and fiction only second, it is evidently permissible to introduce much, and to introduce it in a way, which could not have been tolerated in pure fiction." Translation: if I feel like giving you a three page lecture on Arminianism, while reducing five years in my hero's life to one paragraph, I will.

As far as the creation of "realism" is concerned, Shorthouse declares,

"The characters are, so to speak, sublimated: they are only introduced for a set purpose, and having fulfilled this purpose--were it only to speak a dozen words--they vanish from the stage." Which as he points out, is in a way not so unlike real life. He continues...

"To compare such a book with the most successful efforts of the greatest masters of modern fction, where everything is sacrificed to sparling dialogue, is to aim beside the mark. Everything which these great masters have so successfully accomplished, it was, fortunately for me, my business carefully to avoid."

Hugo Gernsback, eat your heart out.


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