(#6 in My Genre)
At the start of this exploration of science fiction I mentioned that I was a bit tired of people picking on my genre. It’s true that any genre fiction fan will get told how dumb their genre is at some point, but I think sci-fi has an added distinction: People like to claim our stories as their own, on a “well if it’s good then it can’t be science fiction” basis.
1984 is an example of this but while I can almost understand the un-initiated failing to recognise its sci-fi features, the same cannot be said for Brave New World.
And Star Wars which you’d think was as recognisably sci-fi as it can get, frequently gets called fantasy these days because it’s a hero’s journey story with an old wise man, and of course The Force couldn’t have a scientific explanation. (Let’s just ignore the hyper-drives, droids and deathstar.)
The sad thing is that some of those calling Star Wars fantasy, are from within the sci-fi ranks! This is something else I will never quite understand, because these folk insist on such a narrow definition of the genre that they exclude about half the famous works in our back-catalogue.
Mostly these guys think that sci-fi has to be about new tech which is plausible based on current knowledge. Jules Verne would have been screwed!
We are such a small genre in both readership and commercial potential that you kind of think we’d band together. But no.
And why are we such a small genre? Well, I think it’s fair to say that sci-fi was dominated by one sex for too long and by people who worked in the sciences for too long. That’s already changed a lot, but probably not enough to remove the idea that sci-fi stories are never-ending explanations of tech and no ‘heart’.
I disagree with people who say sci-fi lacks emotional journeys, but it’s true it does lack romance most of the time. The aspects of my genre that will never change though, are the sparse writing (often they’re sparse settings), the science focus and the way it reaches – as with most speculative fiction – beyond our experience.
Which is to say that you have to like the science as much as the people, and you have to enjoy imagining worlds very different to our own.
So sci-fi will always be small, and if it weren’t for Hollywood we who write sci-fi would never make any money!! The movies may render most sci-fi into action packed explosion fests, but at least they put my genre in front of a lot of potential fans.
And here endeth the ‘rant’. Even though I get why others don’t feel the same way, I love sci-fi and it will always be my genre.