Thursday, October 13, 2011

What If?

SF and Horror

"It did no good to wonder about it.  Nothing at all did any good --- except to live as they must live.  Must always, always live, if Anthony would let them."
- Jerome Bixby, "It's a Good Life"

I am three-quarters of the way through the anthology The Science Fiction Hall of Fame: Volume One and I have been surprised that there are several stories which straddle the boundary of horror and science fiction.  The presence of one in particular, "It's a Good Life" by Jerome Bixby, is surprising because I have read the story before in an anthology of horror stories.  I also have viewed both the television version (adapted by Rod Serling for The Twilight Zone and included by Time Magazine in its top ten episodes of that show) and the film version (adapted by Richard Matheson and directed by Joe Dante for Twilight Zone: The Movie).  Now I find that it is among the best Science Fiction stories as selected by the Science Fiction Writers of America.  

This is just one example of the intersection between science fiction and horror as literary genres.  Peter Nicholls, writing in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, claims that:
"Much sf is anti-science, for reasons historic and perhaps partly intrinsic."
He continues on commenting that "when rationality is in abeyance, terrible things happen."  That is, there is an inborn link between science and monstrosities.  This can be found as early as the era of "Gothic" stories such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Monster, E. T. A. Hoffmann's Dr. Coppelius, Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and others.  

In Silverberg's anthology, in addition to the Bixby story, there are stories by Richard Matheson ("Born of Man and Woman"), Fritz Lieber ("Coming Attraction"), and Judith Merril ("That Only a Mother").  Each of these is horrifying in it's own way.  I found the Matheson story the most horrific, in part because it is told from the point of view of the "monster".  Both the Merril and Lieber stories reference atomic radiation and the fears of that generation seem to permeate these and other stories of the era.  All of these stories are very good if not great short stories no matter what the genre, but they also demonstrate the breadth of imagination found in Science Fiction. 

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