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.

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Switching the Form of an Artifact

I’ve been hashing through my “shitty” draft of Run, which started out as a post-apocalyptic novel. What if a community can train for war to find peace? After all, it hasn’t worked IRL pre-collapse, why should it post-collapse?

I don’t know if I’m running out of steam or if I no longer want to go in the same direction the story and characters were for the first 200 plus pages. The technology monkey-wrench for the story always seemed a little “off”—I usually research and find a tech to mess around with before I write a story and this time I seem to have gone the wrong way. So two things are working against the momentum and motives for finishing. I need and want to finish the manuscript. I care about the people.

But as I sat back spending two weeks too many figuring out the problems and solutionizing I realized, hey, this might be a much better graphic novel. Then I was going to re-write the same thing just switching the format. But today I realized, now, cross-formatting would do the story some good. Writing visually affects the way an artifact sees and feels, not only the way it “looks” as a graphic novel script. A novel has its own distinctive vision and feel. They are two different artifacts and need to be treated accordingly.

Which brings me to the present exciting thing-to-be-mulled-over-more-coffee: If I write the same tale, having fixed the tech monkey wrench to something with more umph given the post-petrocollapsed northeastern Pacific Rim world I imagined onto paper, well, digital paper in any case, shouldn’t I also allow the variation in style, story and outcomes that are bound to come along with a format change? It seems like a good idea.

Like I said, coffee and mulling. That’s where Run is headed. Maybe it’ll give the ending some distinction-by-artifact.