Role of the Fable In Speculative Fiction

On oldie but goodie:

“The aspect of the fable in speculative fiction that most interests me is the quality of social influence.  The old form of the fable served to reinforce social norms, functioning as an enculturation device.  As fable has been expressed thus far in speculative fiction—Robert Coover’s A Child Again comes instantly to mind—this newer form serves as a cultural subversion device.  Rather than merely reinforcing or repeating received norms through the fable, the fable in speculative fiction serves to thwart social norms that no longer serve humanity.  The fable now becomes a tool that can be used to teach new ways of being, new modes of thought.

The fable in speculative fiction can “safely” inform and question “what is” by exploring “what could be.”  Apocalyptic/dystopian, horror, alternate history, or sci-fi can perform the same function as fable in speculative fiction, but none of those subgenres contain the safe distanced effect that the fable embodies.  The fable is far more universal in its appeal than the others which rely on the willingness of the implied reader to think with different intelligences.  Additionally the older form’s broad social acceptance and “safe” quality allows the newer form of fable to “get away” with more before the implied mainstream reader, usually socio-politically conservative already, begins to dismiss or reject the fable’s claims.

Further, from a writer’s standpoint, I really enjoy the fable as a storytelling lens because it allows me to conjure the image of the oral storyteller and bring a present-moment feel to the textual written artifact.  It opens possibilities for exploration that don’t exist in the other sub-genres.  When combined with sci-fi or alternate histories, the fable form or fable voice allows those possibilities to open up exploratory variations in interesting ways.”

I still feel that way six years on.