Here is a subject that gets me all hot under the collar. Yes, I’ve written about this before, but earlier this week, Jetse de Vries posted an entry on his blog (and various others) Should SF Die?
To which my answer would be: do you think people will ever stop writing novels about people travelling to other worlds by means other than magic, or about what happens when people colonise space, or when they encounter other intelligent life, either on Earth or elsewhere? Do you think people will stop writing about getting lost in the cyberworld, or about what happens during/after a nuclear war/environmental disaster, or some other calamity as yet unthought-of? Do you think people will no longer be interested in reading what happens when companies own DNA, and governments start creating people for their own purposes, when mind and body become separated and when human-developed technology puts us before dilemmas that are new and challenging?
Do you believe that? OK, then you do believe SF will die. However, I’d think you’d agree with me in saying that people will never stop writing and reading about these subjects in various forms.
What I can see changing, is the way we label various types of fiction. Not that anyone cares, because the bookshop/publisher category is Science Fiction AND Fantasy and no one gives two hoots about the division between the two. But the writers, and genre buffs….
I’ve heard people compare SF with westerns. No one publishes westerns very much anymore. That said, westerns cover a very narrow concept in a very narrow geographic area and a very narrow period of time. SF is not like westerns AT ALL, at least not the full gamut of it. Think of it – hard SF, cyberpunk, space opera, military SF, first contact stories, Earth-based mystery/crime SF, sociological SF, and lots of subgenres I’m forgetting. Is there any other genre with a scope as wide as all that? But no, say some. Star Wars is really fantasy, and anything that’s Earth-based is mainstream, and the one true SF is the genre of ideas. Well, I’m sorry, but where does that leave Miles Vorkorsigan? Or, gasp, romantic SF? And what is more, who freaking cares?
And this is the bit I really don’t get. In fantasy, there isn’t a similar bitchfight going on about what is fantasy and what isn’t. No writer who writes traditional, long-winded epic fantasy would suggest that urban fantasy, magic realism or fantasy/romance is *not fantasy*.
So go on. If the term Science Fiction is so cringe-worthy, and evokes images of the 1950’s, find another term for it. A genre must keep evolving after all. Just don’t forget that an increasing majority of readers are too young to have read the SF classics, and many enjoy at least one or two of the plethora of SF subgenres, and are not going to stop enjoying it ‘because SF is dying’, however you want to define the genre.