John Clute: In Response
Do demur at the thought that certain titles need less attention because they already have a lot: that seem to surrender too much of the critic’s longitudinal (I quote Letson) function for my sense of things.
To go on to revolution or what: Russell says everything I would have if I’d thought it sooner about Kuhn and the false analogy between normal science and the conversation of SF, both of which are loosely thought to suffer substantially similar paradigm shifts. As Russell says, normal science works with propositional models subject to falsification (which is to say they are models which must be iterated within a testable frame); which does not describe the “riff-trading” (I’d long ago forgotten William Tenn’s formulation, good to see it back again) that generates the ongoing session of a live genre. In SF, a paradigm shift is usually a function of memory rather than discovery: that a dominant writer/work remembers/rebalances the riff, and the session accretes suddenly around the new tune. Which is not to say that there is nothing new under the sun: but that the real jolt of the new is to our memory cache. Which shakes, rattles, rolls, and out pops Dhalgren doing riverrun.
Each iteration of canon is a fossil, a motor humunculus of the whole. More later, if I’m not stopped.