Is it sci-fi or is it artsy? (rant)
There is a definite negative reaction to the genre of sci-fi in the literary world. The literati hate science fiction and think its something for children and imbeciles. Not only is this a very ignorant and arrogant point of view, its also HIGHLY hypocritical because the artsy literary types use science fiction all the time.
For one thing, let me just say that sci-fi has changed a lot over the past few decade. It has matured and is now pushing boundaries that few other genres push. Take mainstream, literary fiction. It’s stale, boring and no one reads it except other literary snobs. All those awards they give to each other are for books that no one reads and no one will ever remember. Look at Stephan King, someone the literati sneer at and look down their noses at. Guess what? People actually read his books and will be remembered long after he’s dead.
Take the “Warwick prize for writing.” Ever hear of it? No? Because it doesn’t matter. If no one reads it because its tedious and boring, then it doesn’t matter what it says. I’m not saying to dumb things down. Not at all. I’m saying that the self congratulating literati are so high up in their ivory towers that no one really cares what goes on up there.
Okay, now for their blatant hypocrisy. These, unread literati won’t even look at a work of science fiction…yet they read sci-fi all the time. Let’s take “The Road” for example.
I had one fellow try to tell me that “The Road” wasn’t sci-fi because it had deeper meaning…WTF? When asked to clarify, he said “It’s not science fiction because its not about space ships and lasers. It’s about people.” This is a man who has no clue how stories work. I’ve never read a sci-fi book about a space ship or a laser. The books I’ve read have all been about people: characters and plot. Yes, the setting is indeed different and that’s what separates the genre, but it’s still about what any other book is about only they have more creative room to explore and talk about things in a different way. Could the themes and topics in “The Road” have been shown in a none sci-fi way? Sure, but it wouldn’t have had the impact. There’s few things that compare to the whole world dying. So many metaphors for society and the personal that can be taken from that, that simply couldn’t be done to the same degree in any other genre.
Next up we have “The Time Traveler’s Wife.”
You’ll never see it in the science fiction section. Why? He guy travels in time. But because it’s artsy, its put in with the rest of the self congratulating types. “It’s too good to be with THOSE!” They say. Time travel. That’s been a staple of sci-fi for decades. It’s a complex, intriguing story that is only possible with sci-fi or fantasy. There’s a reason those genres exist. Genre is a tool like any other. (It happens to be my favorite tool, but I’ve written in other genres as well.)
Now let’s look at “Melencholia.”
This is a very beautiful film about depression and the end of the world. (Oh! There’s that theme again!) Guess what? You guessed it, it’s sci-fi. It’s highly artsy, unique and drama filled, but behind all that is a planet hurtling towards Earth on a collision course. Sci-fi has been doing that for a rather long time. (When worlds collide, anyone? “Gorath” from Toho Studios?)
Yes, Melancholia shows this in a very different way and that’s why I liked the film but it’s still science fiction no matter how much makeup you put on it.
Science fiction allows the author to explore new themes and ideas that simple literary fiction just can’t do. They think they can, but every time they try they either miss the mark or they write science fiction. What have been the top sellers in books lately? Twilight, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Game of Thrones and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. With the exception of the last one…all science fiction or fantasy, baby. Dan Brown sells a lot of books, but I can’t stand his stuff so he doesn’t count.