Reassessing the mundane – James Patrick Kelly on Mundane SF

Think what you will about literary manifestos, there’s no denying that the Mundane SF movement provoked a reaction among the sf community.

The original Mundane Manifesto, written by Geoff Ryman, has been lost to the digital abyss of the interwebs, but many others have built on his initial ideas, and the Mundane SF blog keeps up a regular barrage of thought-provoking posts designed to make the reader reassess the purpose of science fiction writing.

Over at Asimov’s, James Patrick Kelly takes a look at the thus-far short history of the sub-genre, and concludes:

“… I have written some stories that fit the MundaneSF prescription and some that do not. I find myself in sympathy with their arguments when I recall my intentions as I wrote those particular stories that pass their test. It is difficult to write about futures that could actually come to pass, and not only are most of the tropes they decry unlikely, but some are in dire need of an aesthetic makeover. And yet, since so many of my best known—and favorite—stories are clearly not Mundane, I can’t in conscience declare myself for the movement.

But I am listening to what they say.”

Futurismic, by definition, has a certain sympathy with the thinking of the Mundanistas – as do I on a personal level. But I still love wide-screen space operas and well-written far-future interplanetary stories – sub-genres that the Mundane movement would see relegated to the status of pulpish wish-fulfillment and fantasy.

As Futurismic readers, I assume you all enjoy reading stories that fit the Mundane template. But do you agree that those which don’t fir the template are failing to use the full potential of science fiction as a vehicle for ideas? Should fiction have any purpose beyond entertainment?

2 thoughts on “Reassessing the mundane – James Patrick Kelly on Mundane SF”

  1. I think one can look at the Mundane Manifesto in the same way as the Dogme films. There’s no reason that enjoying the results of the movement is antithetical to enjoying other types of output. The MM is just another way of injecting something into the process of creation through restriction.

    I also think your two questions suggest a false dichotomy (or maybe it was just my reading of them). You can believe that fiction has a purpose beyond entertainment without even discussing the use of a structure for science fiction to fulfill it, yes?

  2. TBH, I was just tossing out ideas to start a debate, taleswapper. The one thing that really bugs me about the Mundane ethos is its “my way or the highway” vibe (which may well be meant jokingly at times, but still has the ability to get my back up). I like Mundane sf; I also like space opera. I don’t see a dichotomy myself, but I know there are some who do … I was hoping they might rise to the bait! 🙂

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