ADVANTAGES

3. The projection of new heavens and new hells has been a commonplace in SF. Yet perhaps a majority of them, just because they are so often literally out of this world, are functions of fundamental alteration: not merely the intervention of altered circumstance, which in the type of the externally altered world is a minor mode of the utopian, but a basic recasting of the physical conditions of life and thence of its life forms. And then in most stories this is a simple exoticism, generically tied to the supernatural or magical romance. There is a range from casual to calculated fantasy, which is at the opposite pole from the hypothesised "science" of SF. Yet, perhaps inextricable from this genre, though bearing different emphases, there is a mode which is truly the result of a dimension of modern science: in natural history, with its radical linkages between life-forms and life-space; in scientific anthropology, with its methodological assumption of distinct and alternative cultures. The interrelation between these is often significant. The materialist tendency of the former is often annulled by an idealist projection at the last, mental phase of the speculation; the beast or the vegetable, at the top of its mind, is a human variation. The differential tendency of the latter, by contrast, is often an overriding of material form and condition: an overriding related to idealist anthropology, in which alternatives are in effect wholly voluntary. Yet it is part of the power of SF that it is always potentially a mode of authentic shift: a crisis of exposure which produces a crisis of possibility; a reworking, in imagination, of all forms and conditions.

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