The literature community hates science fiction

13 posts / 0 new
Last post
500_Apples
The literature community hates science fiction

Kim Stanley Robinson has posted an article on New Scientist that I'd like to read but lies behind their subscription wall, decrying the fact scifi never wins a booker prize when it should have won 3 or 4 of the last 10.

There are some interesting responses out there:

http://www.bookninja.com/?p=5991

According to Robinson the ghettoisation of science fiction is a comparatively recent phenomenon. He pointed to a little known letter written by Virginia Woolf to the science fiction writer Olaf Stapledon, after he had sent her a copy of his novel Star Maker. “I don’t suppose that I have understood more than a small part – all the same I have understood enough to be greatly interested, and elated too, since sometimes it seems to me that you are grasping ideas that I have tried to express, much more fumblingly, in fiction,” wrote Woolf. “But you have gone much further and I can’t help envying you – as one does those who reach what one has aimed at.”

http://io9.com/5367078/science-fiction-vs-the-literary-establishment-rou...

One Booker judge, John Mullan, spoke to the Guardian, saying that no publishers submitted SF books for the Booker this year, so the prize couldn't consider any. (With one exception: Margaret Atwood's Year Of The Flood.) And Mullan suggested that science fiction, which had been part of the mainstream when he was younger, had become a "self-enclosed world":

http://futurismic.com/2009/09/17/kim-stanley-robinson-asks-why-science-f...

Personally, I’ve always felt that prizes and public acceptance are overrated, and that science fiction does itself a disservice by chasing after them; Robinson appears to me to be taking a similar stance. I’ve never picked books because they won awards; personal recommendation has always carried far more weight, ever since I was quite young.

And if we truly believe that science fiction has the power and potential to open minds (and change them), isn’t the sincere recommendation of a book from friend to friend the best form of evangelism? To use an analogy with science itself: many of the greatest scientific innovators achieved their leaps of progress in spite of great public opposition and the opprobrium of the establishment; rather than kowtow and beg for crumbs of approval, they just knuckled down and got on with it, fueled by their own defiance, converting their few faithful supporters through their unflappable loyalty to their own ideas.

Tommy_Paine

 

I used to be an avid Sci Fi reader, but I kinda drifted away from the genre, so I've lost touch with the scene. 

I'd dissagree with Robinson (have read this Mars trillogy) on a couple of points. I think sci fi has always been ghetoized, for one.

Another point I dissagree with him on is that I think a science fiction book that has won both a Hugo and Nebula award carries with it a better recomendation than a Booker award.

Booker award.. pffft.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Along similar lines, AFAIK, there is still no Nobel Prize at all in Mathematics. I think it has to do with Alfred Nobel's prejudice against Mathematicians ... one of whom stole his girlfriend or peed in his Corn Flakes or (whatever) ...

This hasn't stopped Mathematicians from making this last century the century in which more Mathematicians have lived than in all recorded history to date.

remind remind's picture

Awards pfft!!!

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Don't be like that. Student aid awards, for example, can help those who have difficulty making ends meet.

Sineed

I'm with Tommy - sci fi has always been on the fringes as genre fiction, though it's got more cred than romance.

remind remind's picture

We were not talking about those awards, though were we?

Until everyone has equal access to education awards remain a classist ego sop.

 

oldgoat

I agree, it's a marginalized genre.  In some creative writing courses (U of T), Science Fiction, and genre writing in general isn't accepted. Some mainstream publishers won't look at it. Probably why they've had to come up with a parallel awards stucture.  The sF writers tend to just hang around with eachother.

 

I would disagree with the quote above that the ghettoization is fairly recent.  Some of the 19th cent giants like Verne maybe were more widely read, but the roots of todays science fiction go back to the likes of John W. Campbell and Hugo Gernsbeck, and their pulps had a very narrow yet dedicated readership.

 

Speaking of early SF, I take this moment to pay homage to the best episode ever written in the entire Star Trek franchise, "Far Beyond The Stars", DS9, season 6.

Tommy_Paine

This hasn't stopped Mathematicians from making this last century the century in which more Mathematicians have lived than in all recorded history to date.

Maybe according to thier math.  I smell a conflict of interest.

 

Unionist

N.Beltov wrote:

This hasn't stopped Mathematicians from making this last century the century in which more Mathematicians have lived than in all recorded history to date.

Proof:

Let P(Y) = the set of all mathematicians who were alive at some point prior to the year Y.

Then, for example, P(1901) would be the set of all mathematicians who were alive at some point prior to 1901 (the first year of the last century).

Let M and N be two (2) randomly chosen members of P(1901). Now let us choose any year in the 20th century at random - say, 1932. During the year 1932, it would have been true to say that mathematicians M and N "have lived". Since M and N were randomly chosen among mathematicians in P(1901), that is, those who had lived before 1901, we can readily conclude that, speaking in the year 1932, all mathematicians in what was then pre-20th century "recorded history" "had lived". Since 1932 was also chosen at random, and since at least some mathematicians were born between 1901 and 1932, it follows immediately that during the 20th century, more mathematicians "have lived" than in all of previous recorded history.

QED.

Just needed to validate your assertion, N.Beltov - sorry for doubting you! And Tommy, you should be ashamed for entertaining such doubts also!!

500_Apples

remind wrote:
We were not talking about those awards, though were we?

Until everyone has equal access to education awards remain a classist ego sop.

Not all award organizations are equal, I really disagree with that.

The point here, I think, is that the Booker award is taken seriously by some, and the fact it ignores some genres dictates the mainstream.

It's the same way no science fiction movie has ever won the academy award for best picture.

I think it has to do with the anglo-saxon cultural meme against the "nerd".

Michelle

Is it true, though, that no one submits sci fi to the Booker Awards?

I was never a big fan of sci fi (I like it, but didn't get into it as a kid - maybe it's a gendered thing, although I know some girls who were into it), but one of my favourite series of books growing up was Madeleine L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time series.  And if I'm not mistaken, the first book in that series won a Newberry Award.  And she won one for another book in another series that I think might be classified as sci fi too (A Ring of Endless Light).

Of course, that could just be the exception that proves the rule.

 

Tommy_Paine

I think it has to do with the anglo-saxon cultural meme against the "nerd".

I think awards and recognition are all about validation. 

I remember back to when, after 24 or so years of working in the Quality Assurance department at work, cut backs saw almost the entire hourly section of the department eliminated.  While we had a few weeks to decide what other jobs to post into (I drew a picture of a guy hanging on to the runner of an alighting hellicopter on the office dry erase)  I was pretty miffed that there was no recognition of a job well done, etc. 

But then, it came to me that I didn't want recognition from a manager that I knew couldn't hold a candle to my experience, work ethic or abilties.  I knew I  had done a good job.  Validation from other quarters wasn't needed, and more to the point, wanted after I thought about it.

Are Academy Awards really any kind of measure?  What do they measure? Who are the measurers?  Same with other awards like the Grammy's or Juno's, which are all about marketing and not validation of musical talent, abilities or contributions.

You know, the tragedy of  Joey Ramone was that he always wanted the validation of having a hit on radio.  Radio rejected the Ramones.  And, if you look at radio and what it has done to music, not having a hit is actually superb validation for a musical career that spanned 30 years.

And, if I wanted to know who is singing about Canada, real Canadian experiences about life today, you bet your hiney that I'm going to watch the Juno's-- to see who they ignore.  Because that's who is on the cutting edge.

Awards are about going mainstream.  And the mainstream isn't where the art is, or the ideas.  It isn't where the spice of life is. 

I think perhaps the only exception to all that is, as I mentioned before, books that have won both the Hugo and Nebula award.  One is voted on by Sci Fi peers, the other, fans.  Past experience with me is that I know I will enjoy such a book.  It means money well spent, time well invested.  

I'm sure "The Stone Angel" won many awards, and there's no doubt that book is a superb work of literature.  

But I didn't enjoy it.