Legitimization of science fiction?

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 19, 2009 -- 11:56 p.m.

Hey! It's still Tuesday. So this post still counts for not missing a day. W00T!

One of these days I'll set up my wireless network and I'll go where no blogger has gone before.

I've been thinking about how many movies are actually science fiction/fantasy in disguise. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," for example, which, though published earlier, rode into production on the coattails of "The Time Traveller's Wife." Science Fiction stories are usually defined by "what-ifs." What if we could travel faster than life? What if a disease wiped everything out and we were forced to return to subsistence farming? What if you could ride a sandworm?

These are the immortal questions that actually shape science fiction. So, in Time Traveller's Wife, you've got: unexplained disease and you've got time travel. So why is it in the general fiction section?

Stephen King's Dark Tower series features a gunslinger fighting robots and wizards and mutants (oh my!) yet it's also in the general fiction section.

Of course the answer to the 'why' isn't really all that academic. Though I'm not in publishing, I bet it was a question of selling better.

I liked Time Traveller's Wife (although I was slightly disappointed at the time--when I read it, no book could live up to that kind of hype, part of the reason I still haven't gotten around to reading Twilight) but I think it fit better in general fiction because it focused less on the science and more on the relationship. It was a love story with an inexplicable twist force-fed with genetics and not remotely plausible but still very interesting. But would the regular science fiction audience enjoy it as much? I don't know.

Whereas Stephen King's fans wouldn't know to look for his books in the science fiction section so the Dark Tower's lumped with the rest of them. And since the only horror lately seems to be paranormal romance, that slips him into general fiction.

But here's a different point--why do critics snub "sci-fi/fantasy" as a genre but seem to accept and even adore general fiction with a sci-fi/fantasy twist. Suddenly, it becomes original. (Perhaps a new genre, called science 'lit'-tion? Much cooler sounding than literary sci-fi in my opinion).

So will s-f/f one day penetrate the mainstream book reviews, one day reaching, ahem, 'critical mass?' I don't know, but books with slight, shifting elements like these could be the camel's nose inside the tent. If the literary establishment doesn't watch out, will the new Lloyd Biggle Jr. and Isaac Asimov be reviewed beside the latest Salman Rushdie?

And ps, ugh on sci-fi channel's new name. Syfy? I get the reasons, but ugh.


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