I do love a challenge… Even if.. or should I say, especially if it comes from a student. It was not a Direct challenge, but the wording within the paper, where it directly addressed me and some things I said in class, I could just let it slide, or I could take it as a challenge. I chose the challenge. After all, only one month left before school is out. My seniors are getting cocky and it is time to knock them back a little.
The Assignment was “Is Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathon Swift considered Science Fiction or Action / Adventure?” Originally, the Action/ Adventure was not part of the theme, but due to extenuating circumstances, oh well… anyway.
I am researching definitions of Sci / Fi Fantasy as well as Action / Adventure. This student used a dictionary to determine my incorrectness of Sci / Fi. I will search and destroy this definition as it was not a LITERARY dictionary.
According to page 1004 in Merriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of Literature Copyright 1995
Science Fiction is “Fiction dealing principally with the impact of actual or imagined science upon society or individuals, or more generally, literary fantasy including a scientific factor as an essential orienting component.
Such literature may consist of a careful and informed extrapolation of scientific facts and principles, or it may range into far-fetched areas flatly contradictory of such facts and principles.”
Fantasy is defined on page 403 as “Imaginative fiction dependent for effect on strangeness of setting (such as other worlds or times) and of characters (such as supernatural or unnatural beings… Science fiction can be seen as a form of fantasy, but the terms are not interchangeable, as science fiction usually is set in the future and is based on some aspect of science or technology while fantasy is set in an imaginary world and features the magic of mythical beings.”
And interesting web page Science Fiction and Fantasy discusses a new trend which is creating a satisfying mixture, which they are calling “science fantasy”. It even includes a Reference Page!
Another interesting web page has definitions as presented by science fiction authors themselves. Definitions of Science Fiction
Next, I decided to do a search for Gulliver’s Travels and Science Fiction. I was surprised at the number of hits that existed! Now, as always, I am not saying what is right or what is wrong. It all boils down to opinion. I am just doing this to, perhaps, open your mind a little. That IS my job, after all.
Well, I found this exciting web page, Science Fiction as a Genre in Adolescent Literature which calls Gulliver’s Travels one of the originators of Science Fiction. (Another site comments how Swift probably didn’t think anyone would take his satire at face value, but some did. Just like Orson Wells, “Invasion From Mars”. Hmm.. Just like I had some similar issues with Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” Some were just SHOCKED at the storyline. Some just didn’t look PAST the story into its meaning. It does happen.) Anyway, on this site, called Science Fiction as a Genre in Adolescent Literature, it discusses some of the things that make good science fiction. As printed on the page, it says “good science fiction will:
1. Make us consider the emotional, psychological and physical effects of futuristic ideas, conflict and change.
2. Encourage us to keep an open mind to consider unlimited possibilities.
3. Provoke questions regarding other forms of life, thereby bringing our own into perspective.
4. Stimulate curiosity and the capacity for invention.
5. Present the reader with moral and ethical dilemmas that to some degree correspond to the real world.”
Of course, there are sites which argue, that Gulliver’s Travels is no more Science Fiction than Hamlet is a History of Denmark. Opinion is what rules the world. Isn’t it a great and wondrous thing? The young man who developed this particular theory which came up during my searches has a web page that can be found at What is Science Fiction? I think he was looking for recognition, so go check out his page, about Science Fiction, and his theories.
On another note, just a fun – interesting site is Ultimate Science Fiction Web Guide
Oh, by the way… Gulliver’s Travels is mentioned over 5 times on those pages. :)