Postmodernist literary criticism, AKA PoMo, gets beaten up on quite a bit, and not without some reason. It is the only discipline I know of in which people speak of Theory (with a capital T) without bothering to give the theory a name. It is notorious for unreadable prose. It is commonly associated with a prim campus leftism, but one of its founding fathers seems to have been uncomfortably comfortable with the Nazis.
Space geeks, of course, have poor standing to complain on that score. But most alarming, from intellectual perspective, there are legitimate grounds to wonder whether the postmodernists know what the hell they are talking about. Certainly no one else does, but a couple of physicists wrote a bogus paper, filled with pure jive, and got it published in a refereed postmodernist academic journal.
So why would I flirt with this particular dark side? Because at the root of postmodernism are some real insights into the slippery nature of texts. They do not always say quite what the author intends. Texts can contradict themselves in subtle ways, or the author's claimed meaning can be contradicted by other facts, the way Sally Hemmings contradicts the Declaration of Independence.
Among the questions raised is who 'owns' a text? Isaac Asimov once attended a lecture on his own work. He disagreed with one of the lecturer's points, and afterwards went up, introduced himself, and said so. Replied the lecturer, "What do you know? You're only the author." The Good Doctor A. had encountered postmodernism, and was not amused. I'll be returning to Asimov below, but what brought all this up was a discussion on SFConsim-l. The question of favorite starships came up, and a poster listed Serenity of 'Firefly' fame.
Is Serenity a starship? I said yes - thereby disagreeing with the show's creator, Joss Whedon. According to the official canon, the Firefly 'verse is a single vast planetary system that manages to have 50-odd habitable worlds. This is pretty shaky astrophysics - though hardly as shaky as FTL. But my argument is not so much about physics as about SF tropes. Serenity travels among habitable extrasolar planets, just like good old Enterprise. When I first watched the show I took for granted that it had the time-honored interstellar setting. No F/X or technobabble was wasted on FTL jumps, but it wasn't needed, and the only hint of a non-interstellar setting was the vague mention of the 'system' in Mal's opening voiceover.
So I have no hesitation in saying that, in terms of SF tropes, Serenity is best interpreted as a starship. If Whedon says otherwise it just shows that he is much better at creating a 'verse than explaining it.
Enter again Isaac Asimov. I have grumped before in this blog about his later Foundation books, which subvert and 'deconstruct' the whole premise of the original Foundation Trilogy - a thoroughly PoMo enterprise in its own right. The Mule a robot? I just don't buy it. My own PoMo response was and is to reject those books as Foundation canon. Donald Kingsbury's Psychohistorical Crisis has a far better claim to be a 'real' Foundation book - I haven't read it yet, but a quick thumb-through was enough to convince me. It engages the issues of determinism that the original trilogy did, and has the same grand sweep. Asimov's later books don't.
On the other hand, the later Foundation books have a much fairer claim to be canonical continuations of Asimov's robot-verse. Not only does R. Daneel Olivaw show up as a major character, the books are all about the implications of the Three Laws of Robotics - ultimately, the nature of ethics. Most of all the frame shift makes them much better books. (Just think of the Foundation-esque setting as a parallel universe.)
If that makes me PoMo, so be it. Isaac Asimov, for multiple reasons, is in no position to complain.