Friday, August 20, 2010

An odd little tale.

I hope you've read The Pelican Bar already because I have to say this is one of the oddest bits of science fiction I have ever read. We often think of space opera, steam-punk, cyber-punk, or military SF when we think of science fiction. This leaves a gap in our collective definition of science fiction. That's why The Pelican Bar blindsided me when I read it. The story seems like it's more of conspiracy nut bait, something that happens in a dystopian present, than it is science fiction. Then I realized, after finishing the book, that I've forgotten one of the basic elements of science fiction, the exploration of the sciences. We're all familiar with the SF works that deal with physics, astronomy, engineering, and biology, but there is a gap that most of us miss, psychology. The Pelican Bar is an exploration of psychology, of what happens to the human mind when subjected to certain stresses and situations. We see a teenager grow and learn in an environ that most of us, and her especially, have never been subjected to. It's sobering to realize what the protagonist goes through, but you also realize that she has grown and is probably better for it.

In short, sometimes that which doesn't seem like it's SF, actually is.

3 comments:

Katy said...

I really enjoyed this story. It didn't seem to fit in with the others we read, and I liked that. The stories in the anthology in general have opened my eyes to what all can be included in the science fiction genre. This one definitely was a psychological exploration. It brings back out motif of "what if?" What if we were put into that situation? How would we act when we were released? Where would we want to go first after years of captivity?

Plus, your post made me feel better about not being the only one to have already done the reading :D

Courtney said...

I just re-read part of the story. It took me a while to admit that it was science fiction. Reading this post, and especially the interview with Karen Joy Fowler, kind of help put it in perspective. While it is not obvious science fiction full of aliens and alternative worlds, it does bring to light a different sect of science fiction that focuses on human nature.

Also I like to think that the captors were aliens. It's more fun that way.

Bailey said...

I felt the same way about the Pelican Bar not being "standard science fiction" or at least what we would expect that to be. The story really did stay with me, especially since I was reading it while I was laying on the beach. I kept finding myself staring out at the water wondering if somewhere behind me Mama Strong was about to get her cronies to grab me and take me away.