Seo-Young Chu


On her book Do Metaphors Dream of Literal Sleep? A Science-Fictional Theory of Representation

Cover Interview of June 19, 2011


I hope that this book will foster dialogue between those who read/write/study poetry and those who read/write/study science fiction. 

I hope that this book will encourage readers to approach poems as works of science fiction.  (Why not read Dickinson’s “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain” as a science-fictional narrative?)

I hope that the aforementioned catalogue of instances of lyricism in science fiction will eventually find itself reincarnated as a searchable online database to which numerous contributors could add new entries or update information.  Despite my attempts at inclusiveness, the catalogue right now is painfully incomplete.  Most of the authors cited are Anglophone.  Moreover, certain types of media are underrepresented.  If I could rewrite the introduction, I would add videogames such as Mass Effect, DOOM, BioShock, Halo, and Metroid, not to mention scenes from The X-Files, Doctor Who, Fringe, The Twilight Zone, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, Star Trek:  TNG …The list is never-ending, and an online database would have the capacity not only to contain ever-proliferating entries but also to store audiovisual clips and high-resolution images. 

I hope that this book will promote the use of science fiction as a language for exploring everyday existence.  Since all reality is to some degree elusive, all representation is to some degree science-fictional.  What most call “realism” is actually a low-intensity variety of science fiction, one that requires little energy to accomplish its representational work insofar as its referents (e.g., softballs) are readily susceptible to representation.  What most call “science fiction” is actually a high-intensity variety of realism, one that requires astronomical levels of energy to accomplish its work insofar as its referents (e.g., catastrophic trauma) defy simple representation.  The continuum shared by “realism” and “science fiction” parallels the continuum shared by all referents—from wind-up clocks and nickels to quantum-logic clocks and financial derivatives.  In a world where the referents constituting everyday reality grow increasingly resistant to representation (the global, for instance, is more elusive than the local; Korean American identity is more elusive than Korean identity), science fiction becomes an increasingly suitable language for handling “mundane” reality. 

Do Metaphors Dream of Literal Sleep? is a fragment of a hypothetical mega-book containing an infinite number of chapters corresponding to the infinite sum of referents that compose reality.  I hope that at least a few readers will want to help complete the immensely larger book of which Do Metaphors Dream is but one piece.

© 2011 Seo-Young Chu