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Dan Goodman's prediction and politics journal.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Monday September 6, 2004. This is my view of social reality:

American society is not what it was an hour ago. It changes (or stays the same) as individuals act or speak -- and as other individuals react to their own interpretations of what these individuals do and say.

There are also changes when objective reality changes -- or when new information comes along. But these aren't direct changes; they have to be interpreted.

American culture also changes, though probably more slowly.

Over an hour's time, these changes are usually slight enough that nobody's planning has to change. But over a two-year House term, a four-year Presidential term, or a six-year Senatorial term, the changes can be very large. Large enough that what worked well enough to get someone elected last time might not work at all this time.

Artistic taste, comparative popularity of recreational drugs, economic demand for certain foods -- these are also constantly changing.

And so is what suppliers think the customers want. Writing how-to-write in the 1980s, Lawrence Block had to explain what tie-in novels had been; they'd stopped being published. Now they're being published again; sometimes the majority of sf/fantasy novels on the shelves are tie-ins. Did the saleability of tie-ins actually change? I suspect not.

In the newsgroup rec.arts.sf.written, the question "Where are the boundaries between science fiction and fantasy?" comes up now and then. For some people, there are sharp boundaries -- ones which are part of natural law. Others see large gray areas: some fiction is definitely sf, some is definitely fantasy, but a lot is a bit of both.

I'm likely to say "This week, if there are spaceships in it, it's science fiction. Regardless of how much magic and how many elves are in it." I then explain that at one time, a novel with both sf and fantasy elements would probably be classed as "science fantasy." And that the classification might change again.

Does it matter that I see things this way? I think so. It means I don't react the same way as people who see Eternal Social Truths; or those who see conflict between classes as the major force in history.
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