How SFnal is Spy Fiction?

The King of Elfland’s Second Cousin has a very insightful post about the connection between science fiction (and urban fantasy for that matter) and classic spy fiction, which draws on Darko Suvin‘s theory of cognitive estrangement, as outlined in Metamorphoses of Science Fiction. Some very interesting points there.

Taking a look at my own efforts in the spy fiction genre, The Other Side of the Curtain definitely describes East Germany as an alien world – probably because most of the descriptions draw on my own experiences visiting East Germany in the 1980s and for me an alien world is pretty much what it was. That’s also the reason why I found the “We are one people” proclamations in the changeover year of 1989/1990 so baffling – because East Germany was one of the most alien places I had ever seen at the time, more alien than the US or Singapore let alone other European countries.

Though in the end, I didn’t inject a whole lot of jargon into The Other Side of the Curtain. For while Stasi jargon like IM (short for informal employee) became fairly commonplace in Germany after 1989, I figured an international audience wouldn’t understand these terms without a lot of clumsy explanation. Indeed, I even have Shoushan explain the term “Stasi” to Smith at one point, because I wasn’t sure how well known it was outside Germany.

The still unpublished (because it requires rewriting and additional research) prequel to The Other Side of the Curtain is set in Beirut. There is a third, very short story (which I still haven’t been able to find, probably because I scribbled it during a dull university lecture and it is lost between my lecture notes) featuring an encounter between Shoushan Kariyan and an elevator operator in New York. Both describe places and phenomena that are strange to me.

The Carrie Ragnarok stories (the only one available so far is Shape No. 8, though there will be a second in an upcoming collection) actually are science fiction in many ways, though you wouldn’t be able to tell it from Shape No. 8. Again, we have plenty of exotic locations (including the exclusive Central Park West penthouse inhabited by an eccentric millionaire) and jargon, though I made up most of the jargon Carrie uses from whole cloth. We also have actual science fiction – Carrie gets to fly into space and meets aliens in the adventures that were never published.

Crossposted to my main blog, where you can also find regular updates about my life as well as my thoughts on books, films, television, etc…

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One Response to How SFnal is Spy Fiction?

  1. Pingback: How SFnal is Spy Fiction? | Cora Buhlert

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