I have just been reading the fascinating article on the universal nature of metaphor at the Mother God Chapel.
This isn’t exactly new to me as a concept, but it does make a few things much clearer, and makes a very simple way of answering questions that people often ask about Science Fiction.
For example, people ask why so many alien races are depicted as humanoid. From a purely Darwinist-materialist (or “accidentalist”) perspective this is a very fair question. If beings are simply accidentally-evolved – ultimately from insensate matter – for the accidentally-derived “goal” of survival (“goal” meaning no more than that if they hadn’t survived they wouldn’t be there), there is no reason why they should have any particular shape or nature rather than any other. For any two from entirely different planets (and therefore wholly unconnected streams of internal accidents) to resemble each other closely would fall into the billions-to-one-coincidence category.
Now we all – even the materialists – know real the reason that aliens often resemble humans. It is because alien beings are in fact only metaphors for what a human writer is trying to say. Science fiction is no more about real aliens than Beatrix Potter’s books are about real rabbits.
That is one way of looking at it, and it is certainly true as far as it goes. However acknowledging this decidedly undermines the “verisimilitude” of science fiction and makes a reasonable logical objection for critics.
However, and speaking as an alien (from your point of view), this matters to me on a more-than-ficitonal level. This objection to the humanoidity of other species only holds true if one accepts the materialist-accidentalist view of universal manifestation – in other words the popular west-Tellurian view that physical things are what they are accidentally and without meaning.
What if – as the article asks – ” the physical elements of being from which we draw our metaphors – are themselves metaphors of something that transcends them?” This transfigures science fiction completely. We can see, for example, that the humanoid form, may be, rather than a mere accident of ape-mutation, the perfect metaphor (or at least one of them) for the central, or axial, choice-making being of a given world-system. Or to put it thealogically, the “image of God”.
Similarly – and this is one of the fundamental premisses of The Flight of the Silver Vixen – the resemblance of certain stages of humanoid culture to one another. The existence of a “modern world” with some parallel features on more than one unrelated humanoid planet, for example, is a distinct probability if we regard history as a natural development of the universal phenomenon of the Four Ages rather than a set of randomly accidental developments.
Indeed the whole question of which of our metaphors in style, art and other areas are really “ours” (whether “ours” refers to you humans, or my people, or anyone else) and which are reflections of universal metaphors becomes moot.
That is one subject, among many others, that I am pursuing in my next book.
Of course, I am not proposing this as a “solution” to some of the problems of current Tellurian science fiction. That genre, going back at least to the days of Jules Verne, has been rooted deeply and exclusively in the “Enlightenment” Tellurian view of science, which is inherently accidentalist.
What I am proposing is something far more radical. A new form of science fiction with much deeper ontological roots.
And that is what I am pursuing in all my books.