On Being a Science Fiction Fan

I’m beginning to slowly realize that the title of this post is not necessarily the same as being a fan of science fiction. If recent comments in the blog-o-sphere are any indication, the two are vastly different. Take the recent hullabaloo with Adam Roberts’ assessment of this year’s Hugo nominations. There seems to be both agreement with his ideas and a growing dissent.

A current Hugo nominee, John Scalzi, has offered his thoughts on the issue as well. Instead of reacting in defense of his novel, he sides with the group that Roberts attacks in the first sentence of his perceived elitist manifesto; the Science Fiction Fandom.

Ultimately, I’d have to say that I agree with Scalzi. It’s perfectly okay to dislike something. However,  I take issue with Roberts trying to convince the world that everyone else must be wrong and that as a group, fandom is grossly stunted in their ability to appreciate fine science fiction and fantasy literature.

Roberts’ argument is moot atleast to me, only because I am of the mind to judge a book by multiple facets. Did it move me? Did it make me laugh? Did it make me cry? Did I want more? For most of the novels up for consideration this year, I’d say yes to most of those questions.

No one ever wins this argument, and I would go as far to say that it is a rather meaningless quibble to be had. Instead, the science fiction community should be discussing ways to better incorporate all forms of appreciation into fandom.  This year’s Hugo nominees more than help with this agenda.

Sure, I guess you could look at the current list of best novels as mediocre if they don’t fit a narrow category . OR you can start recognizing that authors like Doctorow, Scalzi, Gaiman, and Stross are helping to build the fan base from the roots much like Heinlein, Clarke, Harrison, Norton, L’Engle and others did when SF/F became it’s own niche. Those authors, much like the ones on the current ballot offered memorable stories to the demographic every genre should be after; children.

The definition of ‘literary’ is changing to mean something much more encompassing. It’s up to you to either embrace the fuller meaning or rant when your personal ideals are not met.

I ask you, both fans of science fiction and science fiction fandom,  is it a reflection of the current state when a publishing panel at ReaderCon this year suggested that the difference between an event like DragonCon and Worldcon is that the latter has more men in wheelchairs?

Old habits die hard. People cling to the familiar. It’s never been just about what may or may not have literary merit when it comes to storytelling. I don’t think it’s a matter of survival at this point, but in order for the genre to grow, we must embrace all aspects of the writing. Literary, entertaining, amusing, excellent story telling. Some have all, some have most, some are specialized in the effort of grasping different readership. All are successful in one way or another.

Embrace this and the fandom it brings with it, or face the fact one day no one will care, and the youth of today will not be filling those wheel chairs at future cons.

Personally, I’d like to see the grandchildren starting to attend today. How do we do this? By celebrating authors like Gaiman, Stross, Doctorow and Scalzi and not complaining that their works don’t fit narrow ideals.

2 thoughts on “On Being a Science Fiction Fan

  1. I missed the whole hullabaloo until I read your post. Guess I should get back to visiting Scalzi’s blog more often.

    I’m not sure I read Roberts’ piece as being as critical as its been taken by Scalzi and others. He doesn’t say all of the nominees are bad, he says there are candidates that are better. I see what he’s saying, in other words, as more aspirational than condemnatory, but maybe I’m missing something.

    I have to be honest: for various reasons, I don’t think I’ve read any of the current Hugo nominees, though Gaiman’s is on my to-do list. So I can’t say if any of them are great books or not. But I can say that there’s a difference between “good” and “enjoyable,” and that I’ve read plenty of books (and seen plenty of movies and listened to plenty of songs) that I loved despite being able to say they weren’t objectively good. It’s kind of like something a friend recently said about a pulpy movie we were talking about: “It’s not a very good movie, but it’s great,” and I knew what he was talking about. Anyway, the point I was getting around to is that while I don’t know where the Hugo nominees fall, I do have to admit that quite a lot of SF is stuff that’s great but not very good, and I can understand the argument that just because something is much-loved doesn’t mean it should be embraced as “the best.” Indeed, sometimes it really is the opposite: I’ve encountered works that I didn’t necessarily enjoy, but I recognized the creator had done something vital or clever or original and the work represented a legitimate pinacle.

    But I dunno: you’re right that nobody ever wins these debates. And I don’t really have a dog in the fight. So, you know, feel free to ignore me and stuff….

  2. Eric

    I don’t necessarily disagree with you. I think where Scalzi and his legion of fans take issue is that instead of Roberts just making a statement, he chose to blame the SF/F Fandom for the choices.

    I’m guessing that’s why everyone is up in arms. Like I mention in my response, it’s one thing to say you like or don’t like something, but to blame the entire Hugo nominating committee for something is really akin to looking like an elitist bastard. 😉

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