I write science fiction, I read science fiction and I watch science fiction. That’s not all I do I hasten to add. If you’ve been reading my blog recently you’ll know I’ve been reading a number of detective stories / thrillers and that I’m writing a sort of detective story (OK with a supernatural element to it). I also enjoy good historical fiction. In my mind the divide between this and scifi/fantasy is not so great i.e these are about worlds that can seem totally alien to us. I’ve also watched some great non-scifi movies recently such as: The Eye in the Sky, Bridge of Spies and the Water Diviner. Yes, at the same time I’ve seen the new Star Wars and The Martian and I’ve Childhood’s End recorded (the book being the one that got me hooked on science fiction in the first place). However, in no way do I see myself as a science fiction ‘geek’.
But then you try and talk to most people about science fiction and you get that sympathetic/superior look/reply as if you’ve just admitted you’ve got all the Spice Girl records (I haven’t, not one, honest). Or that you’ve got some unfashionable disease that nice people just don’t have. I try telling them there is some great science fiction that’ll have you sprinting through the pages as well as any thriller. It then gets worse. They don’t exactly say ‘there, there, never mind’, but you can see it in their eyes. The reply is ‘Oh no, it’s not for me, spaceships, robots and things and all that technology bit.’ I say, but the technology you’re using now would have seemed like science fiction twenty years ago, some of it was science fiction twenty years ago!
Or, ‘It’s not like real life is it?’ – no it’s fiction, like all other fiction. That’s why it’s called science fiction.
I even know people who’ve seen the film of The Martian, but won’t contemplate reading the book. Anyway, I’ll contain my rant, you get the picture. And yes, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit (but only a bit). However, I have read in a few places that science fiction is at a low ebb, that sales are down and I wonder why? Is it that the quality is not as good as it used to be? I don’t believe that, not that I haven’t come across some bad examples. However, I have read some great science fiction recently. You only have to look at Alistair Reynolds, Michael R Hicks, Hugh Howey to name but three to know that there are some well written, excellent stories out there.
Yet, somehow it is still stuck with this niche, genre label. From my point of view I find it hard to understand people who are not interested in the future of the human race and the planet even, if they are not into all those spaceships and future technology. It seems to me every week science is pushing back boundaries with new discoveries in medicine, revelations about the solar system or other stars and planets. Also, there are an exciting array of new space exploration projects are being planned. And yet science fiction still seems to suffer from it’s genre tag.
Perhaps, the flip side is that if you are not a scientist (or maybe even if you are) given the current state of the world, the future is an uncertain, scary place. Or, that all this new technology is so far from people’s comprehension that it too becomes a scary scenario. Therefore, subconsciously people want to shy away from thinking about the future.
Anyway, I’ll keep trying to do my bit to turn people to science fiction. Telling them that at the centre of it, in most cases, are people struggling, and often succeeding. That there are excellent stories of hope and endeavour that can fire the imagination. There are stories that can take you to new worlds as well as make you think about what we might be doing to the planet and what the future has in store for the human race. Who could resist all that?
As always comments are welcome.