04 April 2008

Art v. Craft?

In Gary K. Wolfe's Locus column this month, he theorizes that "there's always been an odd tension between craft and art in the SF field." He goes on to explain that "the crafts of SF, fantasy, and horror aren't exactly the same as the craft of the short story, even though the art--the why [the story is written]--may be very similar."

I disagree. Any tension (also an inapt word in this context) between art and craft in SF is no different that the tension between art and craft in any other genre. The craft of any short story, be it speculative fiction or not, is similar. Setting, character development, deft prose, crisp dialogue, plot development, etc. are tools of the craft of writing regardless of your choice of genre. Furthermore, the art isn't "very similar"--it's identical. Writing fiction is an art and its writers are artists. The "why" and "how" of their art, and especially the quality of their product, does not change the fact that it is art.

If you want to write high quality speculative fiction, you'd better be familiar with the genre. If you want to paint well in the abstract expressionist style, you'd better be familiar with the masters. Studying your milieu is not an issue of craft, its an issue of medium. 


ssas said...

I've made a lot of art in my life, and there's ALWAYS an odd tension between art and craft no matter what your medium. Writing is so much like painting it's crazy, that's what it is.

lesleylsmith said...

Dave, your excellent comments here remind me of Robert Sawyer's comment in our Feb 28, 2008 Interview, when I asked him why he dealt with dramatic moral issues in his work and he responded: "No one would ask that question of any genre except science fiction. That's the litany of of issues that make up the moral landscape today..."