Mystery novel, science fiction and mentality
Текст: Sergey Pereslegin | 2013-09-27 | Фото: | 7800


There are a great number of literary genres in the world, but do all of them induce human development? According to the opinion of futurologist, anticipator, writer and analyst Sergey Pereslegin, only two genres – mystery novel and science fiction – are conducive to shaping of our mentality.


For an overview of the appearance of these genres, it is becoming clear that a large number of them emerged absolutely naturally. People wanted to remember their past and it resulted in the appearance of the EPOS genre of book. People wanted to understand the world, that is to say they wanted to add sense to everything that happening around them – and it resulted in the appearance of the myth genre. People were always interested in human relationships, relationships between a man and a woman in the first instance – and it led to the appearance of the novel genre. Lyric poetry originated very early and swiftly. But there are two literature genres, which, when they first appeared, were late in the whole scheme of things, and they do not have a past history.


Uppermost, it is mystery novel genre. Situations, when there is some crime and two suspected of committing it and you have to work out who is guilty this is not relevant for either ancient or medieval cultures. And now when an author creates a mystery novel set in ancient or medieval times (and these books are amazingly engaging), so there is not an antique or medieval artifact in them, but completely the opposite picture. For example, the main thing which is very noticeable in “The Name of the Rose”: was father Wilhelm vehemently insisting that investigation is required, and questions asked trapped the perpetrators, seeing them also punished very promptly. But did you notice that all those caught were really guilty but it is incorrectly to say they caught all of them. But the issues of investigation and searching are much deeper and more profound than what was actually taking place. Noticing throughout the text what Father Wilhelm was doing was a constant requirement, even though his actions may not have been the focal point of a piece of text – it was a continual process.

English writer Wilky Collins asks: “What for did this genre appear?” It’s clear it is entertaining, but there are a lot of entertaining things in the world. What is more, this genre does not have any correlation with reality. Policemen always say: “Guys, we do not work in the same way as is described in books. We have a different working practice”. And the answer to the question raised is simple. Firstly, the mystery novel is a text created by the human mind. For an average-mentality reader, the mystery novel is the best and the simplest way to get the feeling of how this world works and what is going on in it. And the main thing is a possibility to see how a thought is working in a resistance zone, when there are two possible scenarios and they meet, when the encounter is extreme, because the one’s success means, at best, prison, but in most cases – this result for one means the other one’s death. That is, here one can see a thing called extreme mentality.

Secondly, there is not only a stream of conscious thinking, but also an action element in a mystery novel. It is not for nothing Mycroft Holmes always says that mentally, he is more intelligent than Sherlock, but only Sherlock Holmes is a detective. Sherlock Holes is forever on the go, observing, analyzing, defending himself or cornering the villain – it is constant action.

I stated before, and state now, that the basic task of a mystery novel is straightforward. During those times when the scientific and technological mind was being created and focus was centered on this, in schools, an activity center, anywhere, as people needed an explanation of what was going on. The mystery novel’s task is to show how a human thinks and how they draw conclusions on the basis of a minimum of facts using a strongly developed mentality. Even in the basic book about Holme’s “Red on White”, the first part is called “Art of Drawing Conclusions”. And the rest of the book is about the same – how a human draws conclusions.

But then we have to transfer from the mystery novel to the second artificial genre – science fiction.

Generally, everything is artificial in this world. The Greeks would have named it an artifact. A bridge or an airplane, etc. are artifacts; a mystery novel is an artifact, it is a literary genre which includes a predetermined outcome.

Science fiction has many of roots. For example, there are a great deal of "fantastic" details in "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey". But if we look at this more seriously, we can understand that any of these creations do not relate to science fiction. But it is a definite method, using it humankind is endowed with the sense that such an unpleasant event as the Trojan War will not be forgotten and instead related in graphic detail. I do not see anything in Homer’s poems or fairytales that is science fiction for one simple reason. In fantastical writing and entering fantastical details an author knows he is entering these very fantastical details. And what is much more essential is that they know why they are doing it.

Look what is going on when fantastic texts are being created. You take a real world; distort it with a big wrench so that all the rest in this world is no longer important. For example, the Triffids (fictional predatory walking plants from John Wyndham’s novel “Day of the Triffids” – editor’s note) came to the Earth, and almost all the population became blind. And what was happening in the Antarctic at that moment made no odds to the author. Regarding everything that had taken place, all these details and particulars are quite unimportant to him. And then a question appears: “What do mystery novels do?”


To answer this question, let us begin from a distance. Throughout all of history, humankind has worked out two and a half ultimate ontologies. They are the ultimate God ontology, the ultimate nature ontology, and a half – not finished yet ultimate mind ontology. Every ontology puts God, nature and mentality, appropriately, in the center of the world. Anyway, in Europe all three structures initially have a basic document, called the Bible. The problem is that a human faces great problems when accepting these three ultimate ontologies, or even just one of them. And then actions to simplify matters commence. That is, in order to understand the greater complexities of the world we have to simplify them first. We have to build a model and work with this model, and furthermore we have a right to then complicate things, and we may ideally just tone down complexity at the very beginning at the place we started from. But in any process, with every step we learn something new and projecting it in to reality, we use new technologies and consider new possibilities. So, this method, called reduction, is a very powerful way of working with the world.

I state that science-fiction as an idea, as a literary genre, is inherently reductive. We take a complicated world. We then simplify it, adding fantastical details, and work with these details arriving at a definite outcome. In this view, science-fiction appears as a great scientific model. And if a mystery novel simulates science from the point of view of mental ontology, that it how a scientist thinks, so science fiction simulates science from the point of view of nature ontology – how the world is organized, and how scientists work with it, creating their own models.

I’d like to back this up with an amusing situation involving Jules Verne – he is just a creator of books in the fictional science genre, which is now called science-fiction. In terms of this example it is becoming clear, what he has done and why science-fiction has appeared. So, it is the 19th century. The world is widely changing. A huge number of people from the countryside have arrived in cities looking for work. They feel very bad there, and the main thing is they do not understand what they are doing and why. And what did Jules Verne do with the massive European population? He describes people who make ships, railways, make new discoveries, change the world, make progress. And when we start speaking about European consciousness appearing, one should understand it happened not because of the French revolution, but it appeared after the Europeans had red Jules Verne’s novels.

The next step is concluded that in the 1960’s, science fiction represented science. It felt that those times were like literature being divided into science-fiction and something else. Science-fiction meant as much as all the other literary genres. But today it is specific and quite an isolated genre. When I hear questions on the science-fiction crisis, I answer that the reason for it is actually a triple one. It is a crisis in the industrial phase of development and industrialization, it is a crisis of scientific mentality, and a crisis of two states, where science-fiction is the most strongly developed. But there is also one interesting point. Science-fiction, had comfortably and successfully found a place in scientific mentality, and did not attempt to stretch further in the imagination. And it means that a mass of its forecasts which were done concerning other civilizations and cultures will admittedly be wrong, because we do not ascribe people with those mental skills, which they can and should use in this situation. As for me, it is the most important reason of science fiction crisis. Therefore, if we are going to talk about how we can change the feel of science-fiction, the subject matter, we need to explore the mentality connected with it.

I do not want to touch on the crisis of the scientific mentality, but I’ll tell you of a crisis equally significant for each – scientific, scholastic, antique – mentality format. It is the crisis of a book civilization. The problem was detected in a lower grade school – pupils of the first and second years of studying lost the ability to draw conclusions. The British have recently demonstrated that those children who can read well, show very fast and a strong developed connection between audio and visual centers. In the opposite situation, a child who is a poor reader does not show the development of any such connections at all. And today there are more and more people who do not read, and consequently, there is even less of a connection between visual and audio centers.

The reason, in my mind, is clear – it is the appearance of another channel of perception – TV in the beginning and now the Internet as a limit of interactive visual imagery. Today a child does not want to learn by using writing and I understand, of course: only an idiot would write using a pen when you have a keyboard. But working with a pen you use your brain in a specific way, and working with a mouse – in a different one. I exclude conversations of writing’s demise. But it is important to understand where this new way of brain setting leads, and how it is appropriate to teach in new terms of “media civilization”.

I always say the God has a great sense of humor. He tells us: “Okay, guys, you invented TV and the Internet – and surprise! Your children stop studying. But if you investigate, it is getting clear that was a good present. And if you are not prepared to investigate why, then I am sorry.”


Photos: frame from I. Maslennikov’s film “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson” with Vasiliy Livanov starring; frame from Alexander Proyas’s film “I, Robot”.

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