What is it about science fiction that attracts some people and alienates others? Why are you made to feel slightly odd if you admit you’re a lover of science fiction. I don’t think it’s just me, is it? (although being odd is something I’ve learnt to live with).
Anyway, this is how I see it. You’re with a group of friends or colleagues (sometimes both) and the conversation gets round to books. You tell them you read science fiction, what’s the reaction? Some look at you with a patronising smile that borders on pity, as if you’ve just announced that you’ve got verrucas. You know, pity, but somehow its you’re own fault. Others may look a little horrified as if you’ve just announced you hate cute, cuddly animals. If you’re lucky one or two give you that guilty look that says they read science fiction too, but don’t want to admit it. Then you can sneak off into a corner, where you can’t corrupt anyone, and talk about it.
OK, I exaggerate a bit, but you know what I mean. Somehow science fiction as a genre doesn’t rate as highly as ‘thrillers’ or ‘crime fiction’, why? Surely all stories are just, that stories? If you mention science fiction to people who don’t read it, they come back with something like ‘What, you mean like Star Wars, or Harry Potter?’ Now, I’ve got nothing against either of those (I’m a big fan of Star Wars). But, it’s as if they somehow regard science fiction as childish.
So is it the fault of writers somehow that we’re not perceived as being as ‘serious’ as other genres? A few writers might get past that, such as the late, great Iain M Banks, but not that many. Or, is it perhaps as readers, we enjoy that feeling of not quite being in the crowd and that when we find other lovers of sci-fi it’s a bit like sharing a guilty secret?
My opinion, dare to be different. As writers continue to explore new worlds and push at the boundaries. As readers seek out the new writers, support their efforts to keep science fiction fresh, entertaining and inspiring.