2018 ISSUE OF URTHONA ON THE THEME OF SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY
Please let us know if you have any thoughts about a Buddhist perspective on this kind of literature, or any author recommendations – apart from the obvious ones.
Science Fiction and Fantasy allow unfettered licence to the imagination. This can be liberating but also it has drawbacks. Many books in these genres lack emotional depth, and get lost in the details of building an alternative world or worlds. On the other hand there is the opportunity to deal directly with universal archetypal themes – heroism, betrayal, the quest for truth and beauty, the unmasking of comfortable illusions of self and world – that are not easily dealt with directly in genres that are tethered to what we think of as ‘realism’. So we want to seek out the best writing there is in this area, particularly from contemporary authors, and ask what it has to offer spiritual seekers in the 21st century.
It has been quite a learning curve for me looking into this area as I have not explored it since I was a teenager. So far as I can see there is a great deal of very fine recent science fiction out there. I have enjoyed reading Venor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep, Dan Simmons The Hyperion Cantos (a sci-fi version of the Canterbury Tales) and Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station.
However the fantasy genre seems to be quite moribund to me! It has been taken over by the Grim-Dark Game of Thrones type of fantasy almost completely it seems. There are a few rather whimsical English fantasy books from the last few decades such as those by William Horwood, but that it is it apart from Phillip Pullman – we have covered him in issue 19 but may return to him in this or a future issue.
So do let me know if you feel I have missed out on any other fantasy authors after Lewis and Tolkien who have moral and imaginative integrity, or if you have any science fiction recommendations that we might have missed.
I’m aware of the book ‘Dharma of Demon’s and Dragons’ on a Buddhist approach to this literature, which is useful if a bit superficial in my view, and we will build on what Loy did there.
Our plans so far include a piece on the novelist Nicola Barker, hopefully an interview with Christopher Priest, something on ‘The inklings – Tolkien, Lewis, Williams, something on Phillip K Dick, and possibly to reprint an interview with LeGuin we did about 15 years ago. Movie wise we have a piece on some classic alien encounter movies such as ‘forbidden planet’, and a review of the recent release ‘Arrival’. We would of course like to cover the seminal work of spiritual / cosmic science fiction: Olaf Stapleton’s ‘Star-maker’.