11 December 2012

lab lit?

There's been some hubbub around cyberspace lately about a new genre of fiction called "lab lit", short for laboratory literature. For example, last week Katherine Bouton discussed it in The New York Times: "In Lab Lit, Fiction Meets Science of the Real World". Bouton says Lab lit is not science fiction, and in my opinion it’s not historical fiction about actual scientists.... Bouton also refers to LabLit.com, 'the culture of science in fiction & fact,' and quotes, lab lit "depicts realistic scientists as central characters and portrays fairly realistic scientific practice or concepts, typically taking place in a realistic — as opposed to speculative or future — world."

There's even a wikipedia entry: Lab lit, which states Lab lit is a genre of fiction that centres on realistic portrayals of scientists, and science as a profession.

Let's take a step back. What exactly is science fiction? I interviewed one of the world's foremost experts on this in 2007. James E. Gunn said, Science fiction is the literature of change; science fiction is the literature of the human species; science fiction is a (note not "the") literature of ideas. If I had to choose one, slightly longer, it would be: Science fiction is the literature of the human condition experiencing meaningful change.
So, does lab lit fit into this definition? Yes?

As a speculative fiction editor, the question of a story's genre does come up from time to time. I must admit if a story could all be true, I reject it as not speculative fiction. Of course, truth in science is a moving target. Faster-than-light neutrinos would be science fiction. Higgs bosons would not be science fiction.

So, what do you think? Is lab lit a genre? Is it separate from science fiction? I'm undecided...

1 comment:

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