In talking to Roberts, he keeps coming back to the metaphorical quality of science fiction. This metaphor could be an accurate extrapolation of real science, or a hyper-real reflection of our own problems, or something wackier, but metaphor is the common denominator.
“Samuel Delany once said that science fiction is radically metaphorical literature because it aims to represent the world without reproducing it, and I think that’s true,” Roberts says. “If someone asks me for a definition of science fiction, if someone jumps up at me on the street and says, ‘Adam! Define sci-fi!” I’ll usually mumble something about when near the start of Kubrick 2001when the monkey throws the bone into the air and, just after reaching its peak, the bone suddenly, beautifully, wonderfully transforms into an orbiting spaceship.
Roberts can point to many reasons why the scene is powerful, but is keen not to reduce the image to those explanations.
“It’s about technology, about how humans use tools, about our habit of interacting intrusively, even violently, with our environments, about the splendor but also about the limitations of these tools, about how even a spaceship is, at its core, a kind of primitive human prosthesis,” he says. “But when you start to explain the cut in those terms, you become aware that you’re losing something, missing a key aspect of it. that makes it work so well. It doesn’t work by a process of rational extrapolation, but metaphorically. Kubrick’s cut looks more like a poetic image than a scientific proposition. And that, in a nutshell, is my definition of science fiction. This genre that I like is more like a poetic image than a scientific proposal.
Adam Roberts is the lead tutor for Curtis Brown Creative’s new six-week science fiction writing online course. The course runs for the first time from April 27 to June 6. If you want to learn how to write your own out-of-this-world stories, register before April 25: https://www.curtisbrowncreative.co.uk/course/writing-science-fiction/
Curtis Brown Creative is one of the most successful writing academies in the UK, offering courses online and in London. It is the only creative writing school to be owned and operated by a major literary agency (The Curtis Brown Group). Find out more about the courses they offer here: https://www.curtisbrowncreative.co.uk/