July 17, 2008
by: jovial_cynic

I finally got around to finishing up Obama's Dreams from my Father, which turned out to be a fantastic book. Having grown tired of political conversation, I was glad to find that the book had almost nothing to do with politics -- it was a narrative about the life of a man who had to come to grips with conflicting ideas of his identity... conflict not only within himself, but also from those around him who weren't always sure what to make of him. It's in this context that I've found myself as well -- not only now, but also in the reality of my childhood. The split nationality, feeling almost (but not actually) at home in several places... this resonates strongly with me, and the smaller our world becomes, the more I'm sure others will feel this same sense of disjointed identity.

A while back, I tried explaining to my Korean mother about this feeling, and she said that my description felt like a sense of longing for home, which she periodically experienced. However, for her, "home" actually exists -- she could take a flight to Seoul and then take a bus down to the little town of Ha-Dong in South Korea and literally be back home. For me... it feels like there is no home. There is no sense of a resting place. For many people with a first generational split in ethnic identity, there is only restlessness. And now having read a second book on such a familiar subject (the first was One Thousand Chestnut Trees), there is a morbid sense of comfort in realizing that so many others feel the same detachment.

The next book I'm reading is a collection of science fiction books -- the "Best of 2005," it states. With as busy as this summer has been for me, I'm finding less and less time to sit and read; the only way to find satisfaction with reading is to wade through a bunch of short stories -- a novel will simply take too long, and I don't feel like waiting that long for plot resolution. Short stories get me through the whole range of plot-inspired emotion, which is a large part of the appeal of reading fiction.

Apart from a series of Larry Niven books, I haven't read a lot of science fiction. At a young age, I broke into reading novels with a bunch of Dungeons & Dragons fantasy novels -- mostly DragonLance, and an occasional Ravenloft book here and there. Lots of swords, dragons, magic, etc., etc. However, the medieval-fantasy genre got a little tiring and repetitive, so I stepped out of it for a while. I think that my fickle mind can only handle escaping into a familiar fiction landscape for so long before I need some change.

I'll try the science fiction thing for the next 650 pages and see what happens next.


Luke said:
I guess that's why it's probably good that I'm white. Cause I'm so mixed nationally that my home is the whole earth. ;)
July 17, 2008

jovial_cynic said:
I used to view it that way too -- I'm both white and Korean... so I used to think that I had two homes. But two halves of an identity don't actually add up to a whole identity. It doesn't really work out that way.
July 17, 2008

Ken said:
Science Fiction is my favorite.
I also had the juvenile fascination with fantasy novels. Harlan Ellison (the famed sci-fi author) once refered to the fantasy genre as a "form of nostalgia" for a time which we romanticize because we didn't live in it.

I've also heard the opinion that science fiction is the last great literary frontier, where all the greatest and darkest aspects of the human condition can be explored. Sci-fi is the only genre that matters anymore, I tend to agree with this.

I should let you borrow Philip K. Dick's VALIS. You'd love it.

July 17, 2008

jovial_cynic said:
I recently had a debate with TimDogg about this very topic, and he brought up that our notion of fantasy tends to be scoped to the medieval fantasy genre, when in fact movies like Donnie Darko and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind are also examples of fantasy... in which case, I don't know that the fantasy genre is any less of an uncharted frontier than the science-fiction genre. We joked recently that science-fiction may actually be losing some of its general appeal on account of us currently living in the future.
July 18, 2008

Ken said:
I would disagree that Donnie Darko and Eternal Sunshine are fantasy.

IMHO they are both as sci-fi.
Actually, I call Eternal Sunshine my favorite science fiction movie.

Sci-fi hasn't lost any of its appeal for me, even stuff written decades ago. It's about imagining the potential advances of science(Eternal Sunshine), or scientific anomolies (Donnie Darko)and observing the effects/reaction of the human characters in those worlds.

July 18, 2008

jovial_cynic said:
Maybe this simply demonstrates the ineffectiveness of labels.

But if we have to stick with labels, I think good arguments can be made both ways. I don't see Donnie Darko being dependent on anything science-related; the required object that caused the anomaly simply had to be metal, and from metal we have the creation of a temporary parallel universe. The world is populated by ghosts of sorts and Donnie is enabled with powers of sorts. I think this aligns perfectly well with the fantasy genre.

Eternal Sunshine... maybe you're correct in suggesting that it fits more appropriately with sci-fi. It is dependent on a particular technology.

July 19, 2008

Marc said:
I guess that being able to label something as science fiction depends on your definition of science fiction. Personally, I think that science fiction can be a large umbrella that covers anything that's can't be explained by science. That could be anything from ESP to alien invasions or the current (barf) vampire craze.
April 22, 2009

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