Why is "Mr. Sakrison's Halt" Considered Science Fiction?

Guttersnipe

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Mildred Clingerman wrote this short story. It has appeared in an anthology of sci-fi stories by women, and seems to be considered sci-fi. It involves time travel of a sort that has no scientific explanation and seems magical. It sounds more like a fantasy story to me. What do you think?
 

BAYLOR

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Ive never read of her. But she does sound interesting. :)
 

Dave

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It involves time travel of a sort that has no scientific explanation and seems magical.
Do you have a reference to that scientific journal describing the time travel that is of a sort that has a scientific explanation?

What about Faster than Light travel? Or Matter Transporters? How about creating Dinosaurs from the DNA in their blood from a mosquito trapped in amber?

Hard science fiction can only ever be plausible based on the science 'known' at the time of its writing and it must necessarily contain an element of the fantastic. Time travel is always going to be fantasy, sorry.

Science fiction and fantasy are regularly grouped together as one single 'thing.' Look at the shelves of most bookshops. Or. science fiction awards? Or, this website.

Try to produce a definition that clearly determines what is science fiction and what is fantasy and I'm sure I can produce examples that will straggle the line.
 

Danny McG

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Do you have a reference to that scientific journal describing the time travel that is of a sort that has a scientific explanation?

What about Faster than Light travel? Or Matter Transporters? How about creating Dinosaurs from the DNA in their blood from a mosquito trapped in amber?

Hard science fiction can only ever be plausible based on the science 'known' at the time of its writing and it must necessarily contain an element of the fantastic. Time travel is always going to be fantasy, sorry.

Science fiction and fantasy are regularly grouped together as one single 'thing.' Look at the shelves of most bookshops. Or. science fiction awards? Or, this website.

Try to produce a definition that clearly determines what is science fiction and what is fantasy and I'm sure I can produce examples that will straggle the line.
Someone will probs post now about Star Wars being fantasy, not science fiction.
But not me!
 

hitmouse

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Ahh, the old chestnut. Warms the cockles in the festive season with the easy familiarity of turning the tv on, glass of post-turkey port in hand, to find, on a random channel, a much-viewed episode of Star Trek, preferably The Trouble with Tribbles or the one where the cosmic hippies take over the Enterprise.

At the end of the day, for a story to be sf really comes down to aesthetics and packaging: does the author want to call it sf? Does the editor want to market it as sf? Does it end up on the sf shelves of the bookshop? I like the fact that short stories in this context have more leeway than novels, and that anthologists can play with this.

To echo @Dave's comments, a book with realistic physics, or spaceships on the front cover may be sf, but the history and marketing of the genre is a pretty compelling argument that sf is a broader church than just that.
 
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Star-child

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Time travel, explained or not, is a concept that is sciency. It usually involves an examination of paradox - which is a logic exercise. SF often takes the form of thought experiment. A fantasy story is less likely to take the form of revolving around a single concept in this manner and is more likely to feature it as a minor plot device without paradoxical repercussions.
 

Dave

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Try to produce a definition that clearly determines what is science fiction and what is fantasy and I'm sure I can produce examples that will straggle the line.
A fantasy story is less likely to take the form of revolving around a single concept in this manner and is more likely to feature it as a minor plot device without paradoxical repercussions.
A challenge? I'm not sure that works as a definition of a fantasy. It is just stating what a fantasy doesn't have. I don't think people consider the following to be science fiction (certainly not hard science fiction) but the paradoxical repercussions are central to all the plots:

The Time Travellers Wife (2009) is a book and film that also has a romance/time travel main plot and paradoxical repercussions.
Sliding Doors (1998) is a romantic comedy-drama film that has a romance/parallel universes main plot and paradoxical repercussions. .
Quest for Love (1971) is a film (based on John Wyndham short story) that has a romance/parallel universes main plot and paradoxical repercussions.
 

Finch

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The basic quest to define what is Science Fiction, has been a popular time-waster on Sci-fi web sites for as long as I have been looking at them. I have never read any Mildred Clingerman work . There is a mind web broadcasts on a web site that came up when I gooogled her . I thought the two little stories on it were well written and a joy . The best thing about Science Fiction is it is not constrained by the conventions of everyday life . Maybe we need a new name , open minded fiction or OMF for short.
 

Venusian Broon

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Do you have a reference to that scientific journal describing the time travel that is of a sort that has a scientific explanation?....Time travel is always going to be fantasy, sorry.
I'm being pedantic,

So sorry Dave :) ,

<PEDANTIC MODE ON>

...but I'm definitely sure there has been papers describing possible ways time travel (i.e. going back in time) might be possible. They can be highly speculative regarding the phyiscs or somtimes involve impossible objects that in reality can never be made but they generally do work with the laws of physics we have. But the general concept seems possible (but very difficult) and not fantasy.

Plus we time travel, all of us, constantly. :giggle:;)

Also I don't see what the 'paradoxical repercusions' are in Sliding doors. It's two different timelines. One might suggest that the whole film is implying there is some sort of fate that guides you to some preferred destination...but then it only explored two timelines for our entertainment that made sense alongside each other. What about the many many others? ;)

<PEDANTIC MODE OFF>

Back on topic. Yeah, I'm more than happy to not just have SF just be hard Science Fiction. (In my mind SF stands for Speculative Fiction and has all sorts of subgenres attached to it - the broader our church is the better for the health of the literature and the readers).

Yes there are plenty of fantasy stories that play with time travel, as they clearly work with the tropes of the particular fantasy genre they are written in and the time travel is a mcguffin to allow some sort of plot in them. Yet without knowing what the story is about I'd first throw a story with 'time travel' into the 'SF' pile. (Hell, I'd even include Star Wars, sort of, even although it's Space Opera that is more towards fantasy in the fantasy/Sci-Fi spectrum.)

Just read the story now.

I would call it SF - the time slip/alternative reality reminded me of the physicist David Deutsche description of what a time machine would be like to experience. Yes, no explanation given on how it could happen, and there are some elements that give it a modern fairy tale aspect (Miss Matie growing younger) But the slip is there so that the story can talk about segregation in the US, it's not a mcguffin to move the protagonist into a magical realm for sake of a colourful plot. Hence it's concept-driven and therefore orbiting in my SF genre IMHO.
 

Star-child

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A challenge? I'm not sure that works as a definition of a fantasy. It is just stating what a fantasy doesn't have. I don't think people consider the following to be science fiction (certainly not hard science fiction) but the paradoxical repercussions are central to all the plots:

The Time Travellers Wife (2009) is a book and film that also has a romance/time travel main plot and paradoxical repercussions.
Sliding Doors (1998) is a romantic comedy-drama film that has a romance/parallel universes main plot and paradoxical repercussions. .
Quest for Love (1971) is a film (based on John Wyndham short story) that has a romance/parallel universes main plot and paradoxical repercussions.
Are you saying those films are billed or thought of as fantasy? Is Slaughterhouse 5 also fantasy.?
 

Star-child

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It could be. Isn't it all fantasy really? As others have already said, there are pages and pages of posts already here dedicated to the question of "what is science fiction?"
I thought we were discussing why Sarkinson's Halt was NOT classified as fantasy, not why it must be SF. I don't think any of you examples are fantasy. That doesn't make them automatically SF, but the collapsing multiverse of Sliding Doors certainly feels more like SF than fantasy - if one had to choose only between them.

Fantasy usually has a range of persistent fantastic elements rather than a single anomoly that frames the plot. Same reason Vonnegut and Claire North don't get classed as fantasy
 

Dave

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No, the question was...
It has appeared in an anthology of sci-fi stories by women, and seems to be considered sci-fi.... What do you think?
To which I replied...
Science fiction and fantasy are regularly grouped together as one single 'thing.'
But you wanted to challenge that. Fine, it is a pointless exercise so I'm jumping ship on this now. I've been in too many of these debates over which box to put things in.
 

Star-child

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But you wanted to challenge that. Fine,
I didn't challenge that. Sorry if it sounded like I did.

I was only interested in how some works end up not having enough fatastastic to be seen as fantasy. Because fantasy isn't just the dumping ground for stories that don't meet some sort of SF rigor. If anything, the opposite appears to be true.
 

Dave

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Sorry for going off the deep end, but I honestly just don't see the point of classifying stories at all. The best stories I've ever read have been stories that break genre classifications because they are original, and not copies of anything else. So, I'm not one of the people applying any "SF rigor," if anyone is here.

One final thought from me: I also once heard a TV interview with the late Ray Bradbury, and he said that he had only ever written one Science Fiction story (by which I think he meant Fahrenheit 451) and that all his stories were Fantasy. However, at school I was told that we were reading science fiction, the TV adaptations are called science fiction, and you will find his books in the library filed under science fiction. I'm not going to argue with him.
 

Star-child

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Sorry for going off the deep end, but I honestly just don't see the point of classifying stories at all.
While you might not, a lot of SFF readers find the experience of SF and Fantasy very different, like a savory vs a sweet. The fact that both might be excellent doesn't change the fact that some desire one or the other at times.

The OP sounded disappointed to find what they felt was fantasy in a SF anthology. I assume that's because they have a preference and didn't want ice cream mixed in with their fish and chips. And the question was really about whether the story was best viewed as fantasy and kept out of a SF collection. I suggested that it wasn't fantastic enough to warrant being put in a fantasy anthology.

I agree that there are many works that are best not classified as either, because the classification would be misleading. Sliding Doors might borrow from quantum mechanics, but only to make an original Romantic Comedy. Calling it SFF just confuses the issue. 1984 is probably best classed as political fiction for similar reasons.
 

Venusian Broon

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Sorry for going off the deep end, but I honestly just don't see the point of classifying stories at all. The best stories I've ever read have been stories that break genre classifications because they are original, and not copies of anything else. So, I'm not one of the people applying any "SF rigor," if anyone is here.

One final thought from me: I also once heard a TV interview with the late Ray Bradbury, and he said that he had only ever written one Science Fiction story (by which I think he meant Fahrenheit 451) and that all his stories were Fantasy. However, at school I was told that we were reading science fiction, the TV adaptations are called science fiction, and you will find his books in the library filed under science fiction. I'm not going to argue with him.
Fair enough Dave, you've probably had your fill of such conversations, but classification can sometimes be a worthwhile thing to think about with regards to the philosophy of a 'literary movement' such as for SF or good for a getting a rough idea of a book I've never heard anything about if I'm being recommended it by someone.

So I do think it's worthwhile discussing it.

The story we're thinking about here was included in a book of SF stories and I found it interesting reading it and thinking where it might fall in terms of genre. And why there might be some doubt about it.

As for Bradbury's definition of SF, he's welcome to his view. It's not mine. All fiction is unreal in many ways, so from his viewpoint I could argue that every story ever written is fantasy. But it's fantasy with a small 'f'. Not Fantasy, the genre, which in my mind is something different.
 

Star-child

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A line between the two is whether the action issued from the extrapolation of a single fantastic element (melange, bobbles, time travel) or if there are multiple elements that don't need to drive the story (elves, dragons, wizards) but provide the texture.
 

hitmouse

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A line between the two is whether the action issued from the extrapolation of a single fantastic element (melange, bobbles, time travel) or if there are multiple elements that don't need to drive the story (elves, dragons, wizards) but provide the texture.
I think that is a spurious distinction.
Off the top of my head I can think of: chess, a ring, the holy grail, a talking lion, characters finding out by various means that they are offspring of gods, the eternal hero and the multiverse, a very big castle full of obscure rules.
 
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