Same here. I love mixed genres. But chocolate is still chocolate and peanut butter is still peanut butter. Words should have meanings that actually mean something, otherwise we might as well just say "stuff" and "thing" all the time.
But what words mean should be a factor of how they're used. If the majority of the population has used a word in a certain way for a generation or more, it doesn't make sense to cling to some old, hyperliteral, prescriptivist definition for it, because most people don't use it that way. Words aren't antiques to be kept up on a shelf gathering dust, they're living entities, everyday tools for communication. So the "correct" use of a word is the one that is most clearly understood by the most people, even if that usage has changed from its origins or literal definition. Countless words we use today have changed in meaning from how they were originally used, and trying to cling to their original definitions would obscure communication, not promote it.
Of course one shouldn't use nonstandard definitions recklessly, since communication requires clarity. But if a "misuse" has gone on long enough and become widely enough accepted to be the default standard usage, then resisting that change works against clarity, not for it.
You've just explained why people like Stanley Schmidt are right and people like Damon Knight are wrong-- there's a difference between the evolution of terms and mere low standards. It's one thing for something that used to be considered wrong to become accepted because it fills a linguistic need (e.g. "they" as the third person singular of undetermined gender) or because there is no good reason for it to be considered wrong (e.g. splitting infinitives), and it's another thing to just give in to ignorance. Language is about communication, and if a term can mean anything then it means nothing. And it doesn't matter how many people don't understand the definition of irony, Alanis Morrisette is still wrong.
So, the consensus is that we should just say and write "weird shit." This is good marketing practice, because some readers and viewers are temperamentally unsuited to that kind of willing suspension of disbelief, while others are. Sounds like a good idea, we're all creatures of mass commerce.
And, to uphold mass commerce against the vile prescriptivists, we should insist scientists stop obscuring communication by misusing the word "theory," which has long meant "personal opinion." And "materialism" would just mean "greed" (but not "avarice."
) And so forth.
Obviously science fiction criticism isn't of great importance (as opposed to possible interest) but also obviously the refusal to even engage the subject is, well, "obscurantist" is the word that comes to mind. But pardon me for lapsing into the old prescriptivist language. I think the official phrase is "blowing smoke."
The people who like to cite Damon Knight's definition (and those who like Norman Spinrad's, too) are rarely, if ever
intested in troubling to point, much less discuss what they point at, or in discussing marketing (advances, maybe) either. The tacit assumption skiffy stuff's in nothing but stupid stuff fit for the slumming mind only has its complacency to recommend it. No, if you intend to criticize, excuse me, "chew over" SF, taxonomy is essential. It's essential to biology, how is literary criticism superior?
This is exactly it. Mundanes see anything beyond their football games as "weird shit" and science fiction has become the catch-all term for that weird shit. And, as insecurity has grown in genre fandom, the trend has been to go along with those low standards in desperate hope of acceptance. It's like the nerdy kid in junior high school who laughs too loud at the jock's stupid jokes-- it's awkward and embarrassing.
Temis the Vorta wrote:
I like how they're assuming anything but the straight-up soaps are "male."
It boggles my mind that culture is still this chauvinistic. Every day I wake up thinking it's the 21st century, and every day I'm reminded that it's still 1950.