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Old April 30 2012, 10:13 PM   #818
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Re: sf/f TV development news - 2012

Greg Cox wrote: View Post
stj wrote: View Post
Despite the alleged practicality of mixing them all up, the fact is that I personally can no longer keep track of the kinds of "weird shit" I prefer to read, particularly new authors, because they are buried in tired old novels and short story collections rehashing folklore for the millionth time. Even military SF tends to be more original than that!
The fuck you attitude towards SF fans trying to find SF is just about as offensive as any perceived snobbery.

Of course, as everyone well knows, since these discussions keep arising, part of the issue is the idea that SF should try to have some decent speculative science, an issue of standards. The fuck you attitude that it's all just weird shit is offensive, particularly since there's no reason for it beyond resentment at the implication that genuine literacy should include scientific literacy. Well, no one ever read SF for a text book, so no one should feel so intimidated. .

But, you see, you're almost making my case for me. First, you dismiss entire subgenres as "tired" and "rehashing folklore for the millionth time,"...
No I didn't. In my first paragraph I pointed out that it made no sense to lump in horror novels with SF and fantasy. Even in the later paragraph you cite, I first remarked that I personally can no longer track SF titles, especially by new authors, because they're buried amongst the fantasy. Dismissing whole genres when you're shopping is perfectly permissible, not to mention sensible. No one would bat an eye if someone shopping in a used book store was peeved that they couldn't find X or Y because they were buried amongst the romance novels! Clearly, the real objection is the very idea that there is some sort of difference between fantasy and SF.

...then state outright that anyone who doesn't distinguish between different kinds of "weird shit" clearly resents having to know about science or something.
Don't whine, just give a good reason for thinking fantasy and SF should be lumped together. But don't repeat the bullshit about convenience. Really, I can think of one reason for wanting to keep fantasy and SF in separate bins, which is that fantasy doesn't have to make sense and it would be absurd to carp about lapses in logic. And I should think writers should like to have the fantasy label so that foolishness about the absence of rain shadow deserts on the map or preposterous societies where there's no economy or the rules of magic are entirely arbitrary can be dismissed.

(For the record, I majored in Chemistry and think science is vitally important--in real life. In imaginative literature, it's just one flavor of plot device.)
It's one flavor that doesn't mix with everything. You can mix your peanut butter and chocolate but the pretended naturalism of the fantastic element in SF blends with the supernatural or irrational like salt herring and whipped cream.

There is also another major error in this, which is that the speculative element in SF may be more than a plot device. Real science doesn't just contribute to technology (plot devices, so to speak,) but informs our view of our world. SF may use its speculative element to address the real world. A supernatural element removes that option. Why do you insist on congratulating yourself for decreeing that SF cannot do certain things, when we don't even know who gave the power to make these decrees?

And, you know, maybe we just find werewolves and androids equally entertaining, and equally worth writing and reading about. And would like to embrace the entire range of "weird shit" without worrying about keeping everything in neat little categories--or, worse, yet trying to elevate one over the other.
This is a red herring. It's not about the fake populist sneer about elitists setting high-faluting standards. It's certainly not about trying to elevate one over the other. People who like fantasy can find their own reasons to think that their preferred mode can achieve artistic significance. Or not, if they believe that no literature or drama has anything other than entertainment value. And it most certainly is not about "neat" little categories, it's about having any categories at all, even with blurry edges. SF has a huge blurry edge with every thriller set in the near future with some sort of futuristic tech or menace and it's never caused any consternation yet! The pretense otherwise is just a cheap, malicious rhetorical trick.

To me, it's not about "standards." It's about not getting so hung up on whether any given book or show is sf or fantasy or an alternate-history-steampunk-horror-space-opera about extraterrestrial cyborg elves . . . .
If you're writing SF, writing stupid speculative science is bad writing. It's a bad style for the mode. If you're writing fantasy, it's foolish to carp about things that would be bad style in a pseudorealistic mode. It's makes a huge difference how you approach things, not just as a critic, but as a reader. From the writer's perspective, choosing the mode is part of actually trying to communicate to the reader.
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