Darko Suvin's "Metamorphoses of Science Fiction"

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The Literary Genre of Science Fiction

In Darko Suvin’s “Metamorphoses of Science Fiction,” Suvin argues that science fiction should be considered its own literary genre. The reason he believes science fiction is distinct from other literary genres is because of its transforming aspects. Suvin describes science fiction as the literature of “cognitive estrangement,” which includes a “novum”. It is his belief that both cognition and estrangement must be both present and interactive in science fiction. Although it can be argued that science fiction is not its own literary genre because of its similarities to myth, fantasy, and folktale, it is significantly different from these genres because of its ability to cause the reader to think in a new way about something that is familiar to him/her. Science fiction should be its own literary genre because of its unique ability to cause readers to re-think everyday assumptions.This is important, because if we were not open to change, we would not be able to advance as a culture. Suvin calls this idea estrangement, which he defines as “something that confronts a set normative system … with a point of view or look implying a new set of norms” (4); meaning something that appears normal, is incorporated with something unknown.  Estrangement, thus, would be the process of separating or distancing ourselves from the real world and allowing our minds to imagine or create something that doesn’t exist or might exist in the future.  It is taking things that are familiar and making them unfamiliar or taking two things that are meant to be together and separating them from each other.  So cognitive estrangement would be the separation or escape from our cognitive thinking or what the reader sees as the real world and allowing his/her mind to imagine and create something that is not of the real world.  Suvin uses the example of the transforming mirror, which causes “a reflection of but also on reality” (10), which means a...
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