The SF Ghetto
Posted by Jason on August 8, 2008
I’ve always found there’s an odd schizophrenia in the literary community when it comes to speculative fiction. It’s mocked, derided, and, yes, ghettoized; and yet, our society holds up works which are undeniably part of the genre as some of its most treasured works.
I think I’m cribbing a bit from Orson Scott Card here, but it seems that whenever a “mainstream” writer has a particularly important story to tell, they reach for the speculative fiction toolbox. The same people who look down their noses at the genre section of the bookstore genuinely cherish works like Farenheit 451, 1984, Frankenstein, The Handmaid’s Tale, Brave New World, Slaughterhouse Five, The Chronicles of Narnia… The list could certainly go on. But, they say, those are works by real authors. Huh. Apparently Shakespeare was wrong on that whole rose/name thing.
Or to come at it from another angle, take Star Trek. Sure, not one of the great literary accomplishments of the field, but even so, look at how visionary it was. People laugh at it as kids’ stuff, what with its communicators and tricorders and voice activated computers and happy humans in space, at the same time as they’re talking on their cellphones, using their PDAs and voice dictation software, and chatting with their multicultural friends.
The real world we live in every day is boring, and often depressing. I’m much more interested in exploring what the world could be, for better or for worse.