The Fallenposters Blog

Because the posters fell down, duh.

Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons?

with 4 comments

I recently finished reading Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes. This was probably one of the saddest novels I’ve read in a long time. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s the story of Charlie Gordon, a mentally retarded man in his thirties who gets a second chance at life with by participating in an experiment that manages to increase his intelligence to an amazing level. His progression from mental retardation to genius is a sad journey as he learns how much abuse he’s taken his entire life. The book was written in the early 1960s and its really depressing to see how mental retardation was handled back then.

I also find it interesting because Flowers For Algernon is a fairly popular book, but not very many people realize that it’s a Sci-Fi (SF) novel. It won the prestigious Nebula Award in 1966. But most people who would be willing to read this novel probably wouldn’t read other stereotypical SF or Fantasy (you know, the kind with dragons, aliens, and other fantastic elements). I just don’t understand why so many people who read literature are so against SF. There are so many good SF writers out there that fall under the radar because they are stigmatized in mainstream and academic culture.

I just wish people would stop being snobs and open themselves up to something different every now and then.


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Written by Eric Spiegel

August 9, 2006 at 6:20 pm

Posted in grab bag

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4 Responses

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  1. First, I’d like to say that I think Flowers for Algernon (in either its original novella or its later novel version) is one of the top ten stories ever written within the science fiction field. But the reason it’s so good ties in with your complaint. Flowers focus is on people and their interactions, both good and bad. Unfortunately, a lot of SF doesn’t do this, getting caught up in all the gee-whizbang things that science develops (or could possibly be developed). Most people can’t see the realtionship between all these gadgets and the impact they have on their daily lives, so the literature doesn’t engage them. This has been a problem for the field ever since it became a recognizably separate genre. Of course, the best writers don’t fall into this trap, with people like Heinlein, Sturgeon, Bradbury, Pangborn, LeGuin and many, many others always keeping their characters as their main focus, with the science present, but as an everyday background given. I’ve got an essay about this over on my web site HyperPat’s Science Fiction that goes into a lot more detail on this subject.

    hyperpat

    August 24, 2006 at 1:27 pm

  2. This is a remarkable book on all levels. I read everything, just about every genre though mostly fiction.
    I wanted to tell a friend about this book; had read it years ago and could not remember its title nor the author. I googled! And wow… here it is … All I asked for was: book science fiction retardaion genius retardation…
    Yes, I knew it was science fiction and how remarkable the writing style is. First person with our seeing the results of the experement by the way the writer wrote, not didactics.
    The denouement… Perhaps not “sad” would be my word… perhaps poignant, even, at least now, prophetic of the unchangeable… but most of all an incredible comment on “the human condition” (forgive triteness).
    You see, I have reached “a certain age,” dang, no, beyond… and these days I cannot remember things I KNOW I know!!!! It hurts. What insights Keyes had… that so much was I impressed by that book when I read it 40 years ago that I would remember it these years later… and its truth.
    Anyone who chances on it today, regardless how young… will find so much to become aware of. And be moved.
    And isn’t identifying with another… really empathizing… the dragon we all fear? The pain of another reveals the pain in ourselves.
    O dear.. your last post was in 2006, and this is 2009. No one will read this I guess.

    Kate

    March 5, 2009 at 4:47 am

  3. Hehe, i did :). Ill check out the book. I think the problem is caused first by a tremendous lack of reading, and then by the sheeplike nature of the majority of ppl. I see it in everything from music to religion to choice of literature…

    astudent

    April 5, 2009 at 9:12 pm

  4. you fucking idiot go fuck you self.

    sff

    April 16, 2010 at 12:22 pm


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