Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Scifaiku One


I was just involved in a facebook convo about disallowing fan fiction, romance, sci-fi, etc. in creative writing classes. I said, "I don't allow fan fiction, but SF and Fantasy and Detective (etc.) are fine as long as they are simultaneously 'literary' . . . I find this actually teaches them a lot about literary fiction per se."

Though this is beside the point. The discussion reminded me about this poem I wrote a while back that I've never been able to get published. So either it's not good (which may well be) or it could be running up against editorial prejudgements about "science fiction" vs. "literary" blah blah.

Moonscape

bright sun, black sky, stars
. . . galaxies glimmer like dust,
this at my feet

craters open out
jagged walls to space, empty
stadiums of stone

snowbanks of gray ash
flung from millions of meteors . . .
eternal winter

one person's shhh . . . shhh
the only sound for miles . . . miles:
my breath in my ears

—Draft by Vince Gotera     [do not copy or quote ... thanks]

These are haiku (traditional, 5-7-5, etc.) and in certain circles science-fiction haiku are called "scifaiku." I'm titling this post "Scifaiku One" because who knows, I might just start a series of scifaiku. Watch for "Scifaiku Two"! Can't wait until "Scifaiku 130." Just kidding. Well, maybe.

I wrote this poem while teaching a Beginning Poetry workshop at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, maybe three years ago. We wrote haiku in class and for homework, and this was my contribution.

Okay, that's all for now. Comment below? I'd love to hear what you think. About this poem or about not allowing genre writing in classes or whatever. Or write a scifaiku in your comment! Ingat.

   
Left: Harrison H. Schmitt in space suit next to a huge boulder (Apollo 17). Right: John W. Young collecting samples from the lunar surface (Apollo 16); if you click on it to see a larger version, you'll see he's basically using a broom and dustpan. Both pictures from NASA, in public domain.

12 comments:

Laurie Kolp said...

Scifaiku... you should go for it, Vince.

I really like this sensuous piece, the vividness and textures

the first and last scifaiku (love the sound of that!) especially.

Laurie Kolp said...

Here's one:

slivers of silver
crash as waves, lithe dancing stars
wished upon the sea

What do you think?

meenarose said...

Perhaps I am not cut out to be a critic but your pieces were not only descriptive but completely stark depicting astronauts and the moon. I am sure an Astronomy Magazine would be thrilled to have this :)

On to the question: I will admit... Aside from High School English in Montreal, Canada, the only other class I had taken was "Effective Communication for Engineers". I took to writing as a "lay" person whose only experience was clocking in thousands of hours reading over the my life span. So as a result, I lack the ultimate definition of what makes something "literary". However, I do feel that the "technique", "style/language", "genre" are three separate pillars of any written piece. I believe that is how poetic forms evolve and new ones emerge by allowing for a more fluid membrane as opposed to rigid boxes.

I wrote the following piece which was inspired by the SciFi TV Show Stargate:

Stargate
By: Meena Rose

Perhaps they built it and
Hid it and made it a national
Secret.

I do not need it; I slip
And slide, my dreamscape
Is my playground.

I have gazed upon the heavens,
Witnessed the passing rituals
Of a once blazing star;

I have been privy to the
Birth of a new galaxy,
Mingled with its peoples;

Sharing what befell our home,
May they have the chance to
Learn from our planet.

We did not.

I actually also wrote two other poems inspired the TV Shows "The Pretender" and "Alias". Would that be considered fan fiction? How does that take away from the writing process? Is it the belief that it inhibits creativity? Or is it that it allows the writer to take matters to the next level because there was a firm base underneath them? Is that not akin to standing on the shoulders of giants?

You can find the others here for reference:
http://meenarose.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/prompted-wednesdays-of-pretenders-chameleons-and-travelers/

Vince Gotera said...

Thanks, Laurie!

Vince Gotera said...

Oops, meant to respond to the poem too. I really like the soundplay in "slivers of silver." Cool! Thanks.

Vince Gotera said...

"I slip / And slide, my dreamscape / Is my playground." I like that phrasing a lot, Meena, especially since one "slides" in "playgrounds" often. Very cool. Good message about what we're doing to our planet.

To answer your questions, I don't think poems inspired by TV shows would be necessarily fan fiction. Let's take something like Harry Potter ... fan fiction, in this case, would be a story which portrays Harry and Hermione and Ron doing what they do at Hogwarts. Now if in your poem you were having a character from "Alias" talking or acting, then that might be fan fiction. I think teachers of creative writing (or at least I) think it's fine for people to write fan fiction, but not in class because the students aren't creating their own world; they're using a pre-created one. Did that make sense?

About "literary" as opposed to "genre" fiction (SF, fantasy, romance, western, detective, etc.) ... literary fiction focuses on character psychology and motivation, as opposed to formulas. The characters behave and act and decide according to their own psychological make-up and background, etc., and not because of some expected plot or setting pattern. I think, however, that this is an overly simplistic way of thinking about things. I think one can write a detective novel (or whatever so-called genre type) and still be literary.

Here's an interesting example. I had a student who was a good writer but insisted on writing a short story based on a video game. So I let him do it. But pretty much it ended being just a shoot-em-up ... monsters threaten, the characters shoot them. Here's what I said to him: how would these particular people react to each other? Is it possible, for example, for the man whose family had been killed by the monsters to fall in love with this bad-ass woman who was making mincemeat out of the monsters? Would it be psychologically true? Or not? I said, why don't you try something like that. If not between those two characters, between others. And not falling in love, necessarily. How would being in such a stressful environment and having to rely on each other so much affect them emotionally? He couldn't do it. He was too invested in the formula of the video game.

Does that help clarify the distinction between literary fiction and genre fiction? Though, again, it's often not that simple. There are lots of genre fiction writers who are writing fiction that's also literary. A good example, in crime fiction, is James W. Hall ... check out his novels.

Does that help?

meenarose said...

Hi Vince,

That does help clear things up a good bit. As an avid video gamer myself, a couple have decided to "write" the history of an online social game which then evolved into mini-flash fiction involving some of the online personas as exaggerated caricatures which they totally reacted to. We had the personas falling in love based on the hints we were seeing on online chat... it was quite the experience :) I do agree that while fun and entertaining, it was definitely lacking in depth. I will check out James W Hall's novels for sure. In the meantime, your explanation seems to have cleared up the distinction for me.

Cheers!
Meena

Laurie Kolp said...

Thanks, Vince.

Vince Gotera said...

Meena ... now THAT is fan fiction. :-)

chromapoesy.com said...

I thought your piece was evocative with exciting diction. For the challenge you've set I rewrote and significantly culled an experimental piece. Loving the Scifaiku so far :).

supermassive black
hole, abyssal afrit haunts
vast denaturing

Cetus devours
cosmological constant
infinite battles

human myth traces,
reads particle horizon
anagogically

life exists within
gracile lines demarcating
poetic splendor

Vince Gotera said...

Man, Anna ... can you work a turn of phrase! "abyssal afrit" "particle horizon" "gracile lines" ... yes, m'am, them's gracile lines.

Vince Gotera said...

Hey, Anna ... here's another sci-fi verse title: Holding Your Eight Hands.

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