I just finished reading "Never Let Me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro. Good book. No problem there.
So then, old thing, what is the annoyance to which the title of this post refers?
The thing is, why is this not classed as science fiction?
Pace Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale). And Cormac McCarthy (The Road). Or Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveller’s Wife – the clue is in the title!). And no doubt others.
Apparently science fiction is not cool enough, or good enough, or serious enough for "real" writers. I am feeling fed up today with the snobbishness implied by this. It isn’t science fiction because it’s about relationships or the human condition or whatever. And science fiction isn’t?
I admit a lot of science fiction and fantasy is pretty poor stuff. But then so is mainstream fiction. The Da Vinci Code, for God’s sake; it’s terrible. I read it, and it made me want to wash my brain clean. I could have done with some time travel device afterwards, to go back and prevent myself from picking it up.
Anyway, it wasn’t my cup of tea. I tried to give it away to a friend who said they fancied reading it, but they insisted on giving it back after. I have now inflicted it on Oxfam, may God have mercy on my soul. If ever there was an argument for the ends justifying the means, selling that book for a good cause is it.
Anyway, back to my main rant of the day.
For me, what makes good science fiction really good is the freedom to explore the human condition fully. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (Bladerunner if you watch films but don’t read books so much) is about what it means to be human. And a good way to do that is to push the boundaries a bit and say "what if…?" in order to find out more about that very thing. If you can’t tell the difference then it may as well be human…so if we treat it differently, is that rational? Or prejudiced? Or something else?
To be honest, I could list endless science fiction books which address the great issues of life, the universe and everything, in order to support my case. But the point is, I don’t want to write an Apology for Science Fiction. I just want some recognition that fiction is fiction, and some of it is more exotic than others, and some of it is better written than others.
All fiction is fantasy in its own way, and it is useful to divide it up into genres to help readers choose styles and contexts they enjoy. But let us not pretend one is more valuable than another in its own right. Let us not fall into the trap of denying the value of writing because it is unfashionable. Rather, let us celebrate good writing and challenge poor writing (admitting this blog is not quality prose – it is merely a conversation, rambling and unstructured because life is too short).
And give Terry Pratchett an award while you are at it!