ARTS


ARTS
   By virtue of its nature, sf has one foot firmly set in each of C.P.Snow's two cultures, and sf stories occasionally exhibit an exaggerated awareness of that divide. Charles L.HARNESS's notable novella The Rose (1953) takes the reconciliation of an assumed antagonism between art and science as its theme, the author adopting the view that the emotional richness of art is necessary to temper and redeem the cold objectivity of science. Most sf writers argue along similar lines; even when they cannot celebrate the triumph of art they lament its defeat. The decline of theatrical artistry in the face of mechanical expertise is the theme of Walter M.MILLER's HUGO-winning novelette The Darfsteller (1955), and there are similar stories dealing with other arts: sculpture in C.M.KORNBLUTH's With These Hands (1951), fiction in Clifford D.SIMAK's So Bright the Vision (1956), even COMIC-book illustration in Harry HARRISON's Portrait of the Artist (1964). The concern of sf writers with the arts is almost entirely a post-WWII phenomenon; early PULP-MAGAZINE sf writers and writers of scientific romance paid them little heed. Some 19th-century stories about artists may be considered to be marginal sf because of the remarkable nature of the particular enterprises featured therein: Nathaniel HAWTHORNE's Artist of the Beautiful (1844) concerns the making of a wondrous mechanical butterfly, and Robert W.CHAMBERS's The Mask (1895) is about a sculptor who makes statues by chemically turning living things to stone; but these are allegories rather than speculations. Scrupulous attention to the arts is paid by many UTOPIAN novels, although some utopians overtly or covertly accept PLATO's (ironic) claim in The Republic that artists comprise a socially disruptive force and ought to be banished from a perfect society. This thesis is dramatically extrapolated in Damon KNIGHT's The Country of the Kind (1956), where the world's only artist is an antisocial psychotic and is necessarily expelled from social life. Karl Marx's related dictum that in the socialist utopia there would be no painters but only men who paint is similarly dramatized in Robert SILVERBERG's The Man with Talent (1955). Most utopians find the idea of abundant LEISURE without art nonsensical, but they have sometimes been hard-pressed to find material appropriate to fill the gap. The enthusiasm of Edward BELLAMY's Looking Backward, 2000-1887 (1888) for the wonders of mechanically reproduced music reminds us how dramatically our relationship with the arts has been transformed by technology, and the treatment of arts and crafts in such novels as William MORRIS's News from Nowhere (1890) now seems irredeemably quaint, despite being echoed in such more recent works as Robert M.Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974). More ambitious attempts to represent the artistic life of the future are featured in Herman HESSE's Magister Ludi (1943; trans 1949; retrans as The Glass Bead Game 1960), in which the life of society's elite is dominated by the aesthetics of a game, and in Franz WERFEL's ironic Stern der Ungeborenen (1946; trans as Star of the Unborn 1946 US). The aesthetic life and its possible elevation to a universal modus vivendi are, however, mercilessly treated in some utopian satires - notably in Alexandr MOSZKOWSKI's account of the island of Helikonda in Die Inselt der Weisheit (1922; trans as The Isles of Wisdom 1924) and Andre MAUROIS's Voyage aux pays des Articoles (1927; trans as A Voyage to the Island of the Articoles 1928). An early sf novel which deals satirically with the arts is Fritz LEIBER's The Silver Eggheads (1961), in which human literateurs use wordmills and authored fiction is strictly for the ROBOTS. In The Return of William Shakespeare (1929) Hugh KINGSMILL used an sf framework for a commentary on Shakespeare, audaciously crediting his interpretations to the revivified bard himself. Isaac ASIMOV used a similar idea for a brief joke, The Immortal Bard (1954), in which a time-travelling Shakespeare fails a college course in his own works. More earnest stories of scientifically resurrected artists include Ray BRADBURY's Forever and the Earth (1950), which features Thomas Wolfe, and James BLISH's A Work of Art (1956), in which the resurrection of Richard Strauss into the brain of another man is hailed as a work of art in its own right, although Strauss discovers that rebirth has failed to re-ignite his creative powers. TIME-TRAVEL stories featuring the great artists of the past include Manly Wade WELLMAN's Twice in Time (1940; 1957), whose hero becomes Leonardo da Vinci, Barry N.MALZBERG's Chorale (1978), whose hero becomes Beethoven, and Lisa GOLDSTEIN's The Dream Years (1976), which features the pioneers of the Surrealist movement. Sf writers who have a considerable personal interest in one or other of the arts often reflect this in their work. Fritz Leiber's theatrical background is less obvious in his sf than in his fantasy, though it is manifest in No Great Magic (1963) and - obliquely - in THE BIG TIME (1961). Samuel R.DELANY is one sf writer in whose works artists play prominent and significant parts; their aesthetic performances, especially their music, are sufficiently central to shape the meanings of the stories - a method taken to its extreme in DHALGREN (1975). Another is Alexander JABLOKOV, who makes much of the cultural significance of artistry in The Death Artist (1990) and Carve the Sky (1991). Music is the art most commonly featured in sf, as discussed under MUSIC IN SF. Theatre is also widely featured, and much easier to deploy convincingly. Sf novels which use theatrical backgrounds for various different purposes include Doomsday Morning (1957) by C.L.MOORE, John BRUNNER's The Productions of Time (1967) and Showboat World (1975) by Jack Vance, while the hero of Robert A.HEINLEIN's Double Star (1956) is an actor. The single work of art most often featured in sf stories is the Mona Lisa, which receives respectful treatment in Ray Bradbury's The Smile (1952) and disrespectful treatment in Bob SHAW's The Gioconda Caper (1976); but the most extravagant use of a work of pictorial art as an anchor for an sf story is in Ian WATSON's Bosch-inspired The Gardens of Delight (1980). When it comes to inventing new arts, sf writers are understandably tentative. The aesthetics of time-tourism are elegantly developed in C.L.Moore's Vintage Season (1946), but the mask-making art of Jack Vance's The Moon Moth (1961), the holographic sculpture of William ROTSLER's Patron of the Arts (1973; exp 1974) and Ian Watson's The Martian Inca (1977), the music-and-light linkages of John Brunner's THE WHOLE MAN (1958-9; fixup 1964 US; vt Telepathist 1965 UK), the sartorial art of Barrington J.BAYLEY's The Garments of Caean (1976 US), the psycho-sculpture of Robert Silverberg's The Second Trip (1972) and the laser-based artform of J.Neil SCHULMAN's The Rainbow Cadenza (1983) are all fairly modest extrapolations of extant arts. The most commonly depicted class of new artform in modern sf involves the recording of dreams. An early use of this notion was Isaac Asimov's Dreaming is a Private Thing (1955); more recent and much more elaborate explorations of the idea are Hyacinths (1983) by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and The Continent of Lies (1984) by James MORROW. The aesthetic uses of GENETIC-ENGINEERING techniques are featured in several stories by Brian M.STABLEFORD, including Cinderella's Sisters (1989) and Skin Deep (1991). There have been several notable attempts by sf writers to portray the artists' colonies of the future, many of them imitative of J.G.BALLARD's lushly ironic stories of Vermilion Sands (coll 1971 US), which includes a story about the novel art of cloud-sculpting, The Cloud-Sculptors of Coral D (1967). Lee KILLOUGH's Aventine (coll 1982) is the most blatant exercise in Vermilion Sands pastiche; more obliquely influenced items are Michael CONEY's The Girl with a Symphony in her Fingers (fixup 1975; vt The Jaws that Bite, the Claws that Catch) and several stories by Eric BROWN, including The Girl who Died for Art and Lived (1987). Pat MURPHY's The City, Not Long After (1989) is more original and more interesting. Anthologies of sf stories about the arts include New Dreams this Morning (1966) ed James Blish and The Arts and Beyond: Visions of Man's Aesthetic Future (anth 1977) ed Thomas F.MONTELEONE. In Pictures at an Exhibition (anth 1981) ed Ian WATSON writers base their stories on selected works of art.
   See also: GAMES AND SPORTS.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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