On the limitations of literary fiction, as compared with genre

by look i have opinions

“[A]t the time [early twentieth century] most writers of ‘realistic’ fiction were, I think, afraid of attacking emotions directly. Emblematic of the feelings you could portray—and the limits on the techniques you could use to portray them with—is the famous last sentence of Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms: Lieutenant Henry’s newborn son has just strangled at birth in its own umbilical cord. […] Then, stoically, he tells us: ‘After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain.’ And the novel is over.

“Now, adolescent boys loved this kind of thing. It reassured them: No matter what happens to you, don’t worry: You’ll look okay.


“Then we grew up a little. One thing growing up entails is learning that once, twice, three times in your life you will experience some passion—jealousy, love, lust, hate, grief—to the point where you lose it. If you happen to be in public, it doesn’t matter.


“For some reason, while writers in the literary precincts were extolling this notion of great emotions never expressed, science fiction was willing to take on, relatively speaking, the emotions full force. You would think it would be the other way around. Possibly it was the distancing effect of all that technology, which made (some) SF writers more willing to chance the grand emotional move.”

—Samuel R. Delany in an interview in Black Clock issue #1, spring 2004/summer 2004