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Old 7th Jan 2008, 17:48   #1
Wavid
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Default Why do critics still sneer at sci-fi?

The Guardian asks.

Answer: because it's shit.
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Old 7th Jan 2008, 19:15   #2
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Default Re: Why do critics still sneer at sci-fi?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wavid View Post
The Guardian asks.

Answer: because it's shit.
Well, I don't know about that, but I liked this comment:
Quote:
Literary critics look down on pretty much everything.
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Old 7th Jan 2008, 19:50   #3
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Default Re: Why do critics still sneer at sci-fi?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wavid View Post
The Guardian asks.

Answer: because it's shit.
No, just 90% of it, like everything else:

"90% of everything is shit (except shit, 100% of shit is shit.)"
Sturgeon's Revelation and first corollary.



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Old 7th Jan 2008, 23:44   #4
ions
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Default Re: Why do critics still sneer at sci-fi?

At least 90% is shit anyway.

Books that are Sci-Fi, or Fantasy, in theme but written by authors who manage to offer more are often not grouped with the other Sci-Fi books. Books like Atwood's Oryx and Crake or The Handmaids Tale for example are rarely shelved in Sci-Fi even though she used a lot of Sci-Fi elements in both works. There's a story about Salman Rusdie's publisher declining the Hugo award, or maybe it was another award similar, for Grimus because they were convinced that if it took the award and was grouped with the other Sci-Fi books we'd never hear from Rushdie again. Good books, literary books, that use Sci-Fi as a vehicle are often not grouped with the genre leaving the genre to wallow in its own cruft.

This becomes sticky for some as the distinction between literary work and genre work is not always clear and often turns into an emotional argument defending reading taste and writing as much, more than often, as it is about defining the differences.
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Old 8th Jan 2008, 1:31   #5
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Default Re: Why do critics still sneer at sci-fi?

I for one am totally fed up and fucked off with the snotty nosed attitude to SF (mostly because it is my genre of choice. I'm sure I'd feel the same way about Westerns if I read them - though 99% of westerns ARE are utter shit - mind you, Annie Proulx writes cowboy books but you don't see her next to Zane Grey and G G Gilmore on the shelves do you?)
Yes, a lot of SF is badly written weirdly, punctuated and full of cardboard characters who have to explain what to them would be commonplaces to each other to let us the reader know what was going on and how the world they inhabit works. But you know what? Crude though it sometimes is, it's quite often a lot more fucking interesting, optimistic, fun, and inventive than a lot of the exquisitely written pointless witterings that 'the critics' tell us are 'better'.

'Literary' fiction is genre. Just like all the others.
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Old 8th Jan 2008, 8:10   #6
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Default Re: Why do critics still sneer at sci-fi?

All of which - re ions' comments - is surely grounds to file all fiction under Fiction, irrespective of 'genre', and let them fight it out among themselves. I've long advocated this though I must admit I'm not sure how happy as a browser I'd be if it actually happened.

Quote:
'Literary' fiction is genre. Just like all the others.
I've seen this comment made before - Mark Thwaite at Ready Steady Book speaks critically of what he calls ELF (Establishment Literary Fiction, eg Ian McEwan) - but I'm not sure I agree. Don't traditional genres - crime, sci-fi, horror, romance, historical - usually tell us something about the plot, setting or themes? 'Literary fiction' doesn't. What does Martin Amis have in common with Kazuo Ishiguro, in terms of plot, themes, language or setting? Nothing really, but both would be labelled under Literary Fiction. Isn't it then more an exclusive definition - speaking of what it's not - rather than in inclusive one?

The other aspect is the intention of the author. Does Ian Rankin sit down and think, Right, I'm going to write a crime novel? Does Salman Rushdie think, A little literary fiction today, I think? Or are both authors just writing the best they can about the things they're interested in, and the 'genre' is something that's applied by publishers, booksellers and readers retrospectively?
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Old 8th Jan 2008, 9:39   #7
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Default Re: Why do critics still sneer at sci-fi?

I have to admit my comment at the beginning of this thread was a little tongue in cheek, not least because I haven't read any sci-fi at all - other than an abortive attempt on Consider Phlebas.

I think the problem is one of image, more than anything, isn't it? The stereotype is of spotty teenagers, and maybe the critics don't like to lump themselves in with such things.

One issue, especially in the case of the more complicated sci-fi (is it called "hard" sci-fi?) is that many critics just wouldn't understand it, just as I wouldn't, having an arts and humanities educational background from the moment I could choose to?

That's another thought - are the priorities different for sci-fi authors? Do they value scientific accuracy, or advanced ideas higher than the quality of the writing?
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Old 8th Jan 2008, 9:45   #8
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Default Re: Why do critics still sneer at sci-fi?

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Originally Posted by John Self View Post
Don't traditional genres - crime, sci-fi, horror, romance, historical - usually tell us something about the plot, setting or themes? 'Literary fiction' doesn't.
An inverse way of looking at this (very true) point is that traditional genres not only tell us something re the plot etc. but they are limited or constrained to some degree by some aspects of that genre. Obviously some escape the bounds with skill more brilliantly than others - like Oryx and Crake, for example - but 'literary fiction' has no demands upon it and no genre-type rules to abide by or circumvent.
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Old 8th Jan 2008, 9:58   #9
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Default Re: Why do critics still sneer at sci-fi?

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Originally Posted by Wavid View Post
I think the problem is one of image, more than anything, isn't it? The stereotype is of spotty teenagers, and maybe the critics don't like to lump themselves in with such things.
I don't know about that. We know John Self isn't spotty and that he enjoys a bit of Dick from time to time.
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Old 8th Jan 2008, 9:59   #10
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Default Re: Why do critics still sneer at sci-fi?

I did say stereotype - I didn't mean I thought it was true!
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