Thursday, July 14, 2011

Book Club and Science Fiction

Today our book club had its monthly meeting and we reviewed Scott Westerfield's Uglies. The genre for the month was science fiction and the woman who picked the book apologized for it not being science fiction. Since I thought the book was science fiction, I asked her what science fiction meant to her.

She said, "Robot's and spaceships. This was just a distopia." I explained that many science fiction stories are also distopic stories. Robots and space ships is a terribly myopic view of a vast genre. Uglies is a distopia story set in the future with sophisticated cosmetic surgery and medicine, awesome hoverboards, and ultra efficient solar charging technology. Definitely science fiction.

Her comments reminded me of an NPR interview I listened to once about a Canadian author who wrote stories about a distopic future filled with genetically engineered foods. In the interview the author said that she wrote speculative fiction and when the interviewer from NPR said science fiction, she got offended at her work being considered science fiction. Her stories had neither robots or spaceships.

My friend from my work's book club simply was unfamiliar with the genre and was pleasantly surprised to learn that science fiction could include such a broad range of subjects and sub-genres. She liked the book as I did and felt relieved that her selection didn't offend us die-hard sci fi geeks.

The author on NPR, however, felt science fiction was beneath her since she wrote about the human condition and wrote Literature with a capital 'L'. Even though her novels were clearly science fiction, she refused to admit it. I feel sorry for those who have such bigoted views about some flavors of fiction (especially when they're swimming in the genre they purport to hate).

I'm not exactly a horror or crime noir novel kind of guy but I consider them just as valid as my preferred science fiction or fantasy. There is plenty of room in the boat for good writing of any kind. So, can't we all just get along?

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