Tag Archives: novels

An outsider’s view: is science fiction obsolete?

Well, I said I wanted outsider views of the genre, and by pure serendipity my Technorati tag feeds supplied one this evening. Read this if you write, edit, market or review science fiction novels and stories, because this is how someone who isn’t tuned into the community sees the scene:

“Another area where the bulk of science fiction seems to be significantly off (but not nearly as obvious as networking and computing) is the development of new space and capitalization. Probably partially because of the failure of NASA to do anything significant in space after Apollo, most of the spacy science fiction is left assuming that most of space development and travel is governmental, when things are looking today like private companies and good old entrepreneurship will be what leads the way. Similarly, too much science fiction fails to see the connections between capitalism and democracy and has governments that are either highly anarchical or huge, bureaucratic, and socialist.

All of this is a considerable shame, because science fiction has been used since Jules Verne as a way to discuss the moral quandaries and implications of up and coming technology and the social institutions surrounding us. While science fiction is rarely spot on with it’s predictions, having virtually all of society take a left turn from the predictions science fiction made opens up a deluge of questions that haven’t even been considered, and makes the ones that have seem silly.”

I know, and I expect that most of you know, that there’s plenty of science fiction (some better, some worse, granted) that addresses the issues mentioned there. Why hasn’t this dude found it? How can we make sure people like him do find it?

What to put in your genre novel plot

As a writer of minimal craft and even less native talent, I often wonder what the components of a good story are – and, of course, what the components of a marketable story are. Thanks to Andrew Wheeler, I now know what to put into my first novel-length effort:

“If there’s a book out there that can be honestly sold by a cover of a mostly-naked woman riding a dragon while a spaceship explodes in the background, I’d love to see it. (I bet I could sell a whole lot of them.)”

[Yes, I know, it’s just a bit of humour.]

The perennial cheesy cover art debate

Looks like the good old cover art debate has reared its head again, with Rick Kleffel ranting passionately about the need to abandon ‘slabs with abs’ and ‘Fabio-alike’ cover art, especially in the fantasy genre, and the always lucid Andrew ‘SFBC’ Wheeler deflating the issue with the perspective of a man who works in publishing – those covers get used because those covers sell books.

You want my opinion on this issue? Well, I don’t really have one. Sure, I can appreciate a good piece of cover art, and I can see when one is cliched and out of kilter with the book’s content. But it’s what’s beneath the cover that really interests me, and if the fiction is good enough I don’t give a damn what’s on the front and back. I’ve never understood this idea that people are embarrassed to be seen reading certain books in public – I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, I’m just saying that I can’t imagine it ever happening to me.

That having been said, I spent my teenage years as an RPG geek who read every spin-off novel he could get his hands on, so maybe I self-medicated against chainmail bras and leather nappies with aversion therapy early on. Then again, those who’ve seen what I look like are probably well aware that the last thing anyone sat opposite me on a train is going to notice about me is the book I’m reading at the time! 🙂

The three stigmata of science fiction

I’ll let you decide your own list of three, but I’d submit Trekkies as one of them. Wired has a piece on a phenomenon that will be more than familiar to most readers of this blog – the “oh no, this brilliant piece of literature/cinema isn’t sci-fi; it’s too good for that” reaction, which often comes from the creators of a successful work just as much as their marketing people.

Personally, I’ve started to stop worrying about it in recent months. As a long-standing rock music fan, I’m accustomed to being mocked and denigrated for my cultural choices, and I figure a bit of personal pride in our underdog status is definitely the way to go. Stand up for your bookshelves, brethren! Say it loud – we’re geeks, and proud!

Tobias Buckell seems to agree, though for slightly different reasons. I really like his idea of marketing science fiction to kids as “the stuff your parents, pastors, teachers and straight arrow khaki-wearing friends don’t want you to [read]” – because I’m positive it would work extremely well.

(Thanks to long-standing VCTB habitue Trollop23 for the Wired tip-off.)