Raymond Chandler and Science Fiction


I’ve always felt the influence Raymond Chandler. Unrelated to this, I’ve been aware for quite some time that SF has its detractors. Eighteen months back, I came across an article linking the two:

WHEN RAYMOND CHANDLER MOCKED SCIENCE FICTION

cover to Unfinished Tales by Carley the Slothmeister

cover by Carley the Slothmeister

SJ Perelman said of the pulps “they have juxtaposed the steely automatic and the frilly panty and found that it pays off”. Chandler wrote for the pulps but gave the readers more than sex and violence. His novels and short stories reshaped the Detective genre. In correspondence dated 14 March 1953 to HH Swanson, he parodies Science Fiction as it was then. Let’s make some time for Raymond Chandler; his SF parody was actually a challenge. How has SF responded?
Science Fiction started off as a potpourri of novelty; its theme: ‘anything else’. Early authors were formulaic ER Burroughs did Tarzan, Barsoom, Pellucidar or Amtor but read one and you’ve pretty much read them all. E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith and Asimov left you gagging for a real character. Asimov’s laws –let’s not forget these were pre-articulated by John W Campbell –turn out to be aspirations; (obvious once you do AI design). The Milford Method named after the place where Judith Merrill, Damon Knight & James Blish lived was a 1950s step in the right direction. Heinlein apart, genre writers struggled to get informed feedback. The New Wave SF movement tried to fix that. Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions flirted with notoriety and Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds then the UK’s leading SF periodical folded. It had become a vanity project.
Are Chandler’s points still valid? I’m always conflicted on matters of SF; although I’m fiercely loyal, too often it’s a let down so I’ll stick: Is it plausible? Is it authentic? These tests have been around a lot longer than the long form fiction narrative we call novels. The evidence from Amazon is promotion works and trash sells.

About Terence Park

Board games, US Comic books, SF Paperbacks, Vinyl records; I've plenty of them all. I write SF (the serious sort). I also do spreadsheets.
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