Yes it Damn Well IS SF/F

If a book has science fiction or fantasy themes or situations, then the book is science fiction or fantasy even if the novel is tagged as “mainstream.” If a book has science fiction or fantasy themes then the book is science fiction or fantasy even if the writer wails, “I never thought of it as science fiction, I don’t like that Twilight Zone stuff at all!” It is still science fiction if the reader who likes the work defensively declaims that the novel may have science fiction elements but it was published as mainstream.
It is also science fiction even if the writer or reader is only using the strictest definition of science fiction which involves a story that revolves around how an imaginary invention impacts society. (People who use this definition annoy me a lot. Especially when a writer who is extrapolating from given information about future applications based on that information and then commenting on it through various lenses. In other words; Atwood, Oryx and Crake damn well is sf. “Literary” sf with an obnoxiously ambiguous ending, but still sf.)

It is also fantasy even when the author slaps a “magical realism” label on it. (Is it just me, or is most “magical realism” mostly playing a head game where the situation might actually be happening or might be happening inside the point of view characters head and therefore not “real?”)

I think that if you have such an incredible issue with writing science fiction that you have to declare that you don’t think of the science fiction piece you wrote AS science fiction that you should consider a) not writing the story in the first place or b) using a different byline so the icky science fiction cooties don’t get all over you. It seems as if you would be killing off parts of your potential fan base if you went around declaiming, “I do not think of what I write as science fiction.” I certainly don’t feel a *strong interest in an author who says something like this, and I’m generally disinclined to read their work. On the other hand, possibly there are (insecure) people who like to say they’re reading “mainstream speculative fiction,” because they are equally afraid of science fiction cooties, in which case maybe stating “I don’t write icky science fiction” is their way of alerting this demographic to their work.

This little rant was inspired by this conversation and this article.


*Okay, I do feel a strong interest, but that strong interest generally involves hoping the book/story gets nominated for a some kind of fantasy or sf award, hoping it wins and then Silly Stringing the writer when/if they show up for the award.

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2 Comments

Filed under Meta, Ramble

2 responses to “Yes it Damn Well IS SF/F

  1. See, I can see 'I didn't think of it as SF/Fantasy when I was writing it' from someone who doesn't know the genre that well — I don't think of the audience* when I'm more worried about getting words on paper. That's for editing. But then accepting that, yes, you wrote a SF/Fantasy story and that's okay. Hell, maybe your book will show those stuffed shirts that genre is just a category for the marketing people, not a metric of quality or 'literary merit'. * All these terms: 'Science Fiction', 'Horror', 'Romance', 'Mystery', 'Adult', 'Young Adult', 'Children's'… they're pretty much sorting to find the audience. I'd argue that, say, in the Urban Fantasy subgenre there's a continuum stretching from Fantasy to Romance, and where the marketing folks put it depends mostly on what side of the bed they got up on that day.

  2. I would not mind it in that case, certainly. It's annoying that it's generally framed in the context of "ewww, cooties!" (That's how I generally hear any authorial protest about what they think they're writing.)

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