Science fiction: quality entertainment?

It’s been a lively week for debate in sf-blogland, and I doubt it’s over yet. Let’s see…

Lou Anders kicked things off by defending his right to apply critical analysis to genre film and television as well as books, stating that to distinguish between them is a form of snobbery that he doesn’t subscribe to.

Next, Ian McDonald weighed in with a defence of the part of the sf spectrum that, for want of a better descriptor, I shall refer to as ‘hard/dystopian’, partly in response to Anders, but also to Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s essay at Asimov’s that decried the majority of sf as being rendered unpalatable to the majority of readers due to the influence of the New Wave.

Anders came back after McDonald’s piece, adding more detail and clarification to what was shaping up to be a discussion of ‘quality’ and ‘entertainment’ as functions of sf, and whether or not the two factors had a exclusive binary relationship, i.e., can a piece of work be both – he certainly thinks it can, and makes his case with the passion you’d hope to see from the editor of a young but up-and-coming sf publishing imprint.

Then, of course, John ‘Bacon-Cat’ Scalzi came in from the leftfield, and delivered to the world a classic piece of writing, simultaneously hilarious and brilliantly argued, tearing into the notion of Star Wars being entertainment – if you’ve wanted to read someone putting the righteous smackdown on George Lucas’s scriptwriting and directing, this is the post you’ve been waiting for since you first saw JarJar Binks.

And to round things off (at least so far), Anders comes back a third time to wrap up a lively debate. If you have any passion about science fiction whatsoever, in whatever format you may prefer it, go read these posts. They cover ground that I was fumbling towards with a few of my recent posts, and as usual they make me look the amateur hack that I really am. To crib from Anders for a summary:

“Thinking back on Kristine’s example of how the mainstream is colonizing SF tropes, and my own rebuttal that said books are NOT packaged like Star Wars novels, and all the comments above, are science fiction readerships polarizing between those who like their entertainments lurid and those who are embarrassed by same? To reference my favorite superhero, there really are two Batmen – the Batman of Superfriends and the Batman of Dark Knight. One belongs to one audience, the other to a quite distinct one – and both are equally valid. Does science fiction need a Vertigo line? Really, it should be obvious that genre is a country, not a formula, and that all kinds of people live there.

Why couldn’t I have put it like that? Guess that’s why Anders is a successful editor, and why I’ve still never finished a short story worth sending to anyone. Selah.

While we’re on the subject of stories, though (hah! gotcha), I made some more progress on Ascension today:

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
2,429 / 7,500

I get the feeling that this is going to over-run my randomly-chosen wordcount, but I also get the feeling that I’ll end up trimming out a lot of crap once it’s finished, so I’ll leave the target as it stands. I’m getting a better idea of how I want to get to the end from the beginning now, but I think I’m going to end up meandering a pretty random path the first time. Oh well – that’s what revisions are for, I’m told!

One thought on “Science fiction: quality entertainment?”

  1. While there are sf books that can be described as quality entertainment, there is definitely a ton of them out there that are only good for the entertainment value.
    Literary bubblegum, if you will. They give you something to chew on, but not much sustenance. I like to read them on the 15 minute bus ride to work.

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