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Revolution of the Science Fiction Authors

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the armed-with-imaginary-death-rays dept.

Sci-Fi 292

An anonymous reader writes "85 science fiction authors including Iain M Banks, Larry Niven, Stephen Hunt, Greg Bear and Michael Moorcock have written an open letter of protest to the BBC complaining of disrespect towards the genre, when, during an entire day of coverage of fiction by the BBC, not a single SF, fantasy or horror book was looked at. Here's the original article that sparked the open letter, along with updates. The British prime minister, David Cameron, when asked to comment, said that he doesn't have a favorite genre, so I guess he's not taking Greg Bear books to bed either!"

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Yeah, Noticed this for years. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35909570)

I have noticed for years that they "respected by the maintstream" book people have never had any respect for SciFi. I keep seeing garbage mainstream books touted over really good SciFi writing.

Fellows just can't get no respect.

Good source for supervillains (2)

linear a (584575) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909668)

Surely the SF community and authors can devise a suitable vengeance!

Re:Good source for supervillains (2)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909828)

We already have Harlan Ellison, the Galactus of the re-inked ribbon set.

Re:Yeah, Noticed this for years. (1)

jdgeorge (18767) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909884)

Looking at the WBN book list [worldbooknight.org] , I saw Northern Lights by Philip Pullman (whose name I didn't notice among the signatories).

I'm not familiar with most of the other books on the list, but out of the 25, there is certainly at least "a single SF, fantasy or horror". Unless... perhaps the ranks of the excluded believe Pullman's book to be factual?

Re:Yeah, Noticed this for years. (1)

jdgeorge (18767) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909948)

Oh, I see.... the complaint is that the BBC didn't talk about these genres on TV, not that they were excluded from the WBN list.

That's terrible. To think that the BBC wasn't focusing their coverage on the genres that already dominate the public's awareness, and therefore don't need the additional boost from appearing on TV.

Re:Yeah, Noticed this for years. (1)

Captain Spam (66120) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910096)

I seem to recall that attitude about sci-fi (or specifically, that attitude as expressed by a specific vanity press) marked the genesis of Atlanta Nights [wikipedia.org] , a book that could only have been produced by an author well-versed in believable storylines, set in conditions that exist today, with believable every-day characters. Perhaps it's time for a sequel?

demographics (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35909574)

If it doesn't interest women , it's not art and should not be spoken of in a TV program on litterature.

Typo or dual meaning (1)

linear a (584575) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909674)

"litterature"

"Litter"ature or "liter"ture?

Re:demographics (2)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909678)

Since the stereotype of the Sci-Fi Boys' Club hasn't been accurate for generations, if ever, that's not really the problem.

To mainstream lit, sci fi is like comic books (5, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909590)

Something for children, adolescents, and overgrown man-children who lack the sophistication to appreciate the subtle beauty of the real world. Never mind that that is simply not true, as the genre includes some of the most beautiful and mature artistic works ever published. People who are into "literature" as opposed to "reading books" tend to be elitist snobs.

Re:To mainstream lit, sci fi is like comic books (1)

SquirrelDeth (1972694) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909656)

Something for children, adolescents, and overgrown man-children who lack the sophistication to appreciate the subtle beauty of the real world.

That is because the real world sucks.

Re:To mainstream lit, sci fi is like comic books (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35909706)

To be honest a lot of utopias in sci-fi ended up sucking a lot too.

Re:To mainstream lit, sci fi is like comic books (3, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909820)

That's because realistic utopias without external threats would hold absolutely no dramatic tension. You could basically write, "And they all lived happily ever after" and be done with it. So utopias in fiction have to be either false utopias, or faced with a credible existential threat.

Re:To mainstream lit, sci fi is like comic books (4, Funny)

FranckMartin (1899408) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910040)

And they were able to make us love the world of Star Trek: A militarist state where money does not exist, but all is planned for the benefit of the people.

Also known as USSR.

Re:To mainstream lit, sci fi is like comic books (2)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910072)

The Federation is a post scarcity society. Any post scarcity society where money still exists would be more of a totalitarian nightmare than a utopia. And nothing about any of the stories implies the Federation is a military state, that just happens to be the only part with any dramatic tension (see above.)

Care to cite some examples? (1)

mekkab (133181) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909696)

like maybe, "His Dark Materials" trilogy?

Re:Care to cite some examples? (1)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909752)

Anything by Iain M. Banks (or plain Iain Banks if you want to read some of his multi award winning non sci-fi stuff). Anything by China Mieville. Greg Egan's "Permutation City" Olaf Stapledon's "Last and First Men" and "Starmaker." Anything by Greg Bear. That's just off the top of my head. Never read "His Dark Materials," heard it was good, though.

Re:Care to cite some examples? (1)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909956)

I would hesitate to say "anything by" about _any_ author, but i'd agree those are all good suggestions. I'd also add Lois McMaster Bujold [wikipedia.org] , James Alan Gardner [wikipedia.org] , Robert J. Sawyer [wikipedia.org] and John Scalzi [wikipedia.org] . If you like space opera and/or cyberpunk, Vernor Vinge [wikipedia.org] . If you like military science fiction then David Weber [wikipedia.org] and "Jack Campbell." [wikipedia.org] If you like alternate history or post-apocalyptic fiction then S.M. Stirling [wikipedia.org] .

And even that's really just scratching the surface, i'm sure others will have a lot more suggestions. There are a _lot_ of good authors out there (amongst a lot more really bad ones of course) and which of those you personally consider to be great will depend a lot on what subjects and writing styles you like.

Re:Care to cite some examples? (1)

c0d3g33k (102699) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910068)

Never read "His Dark Materials," heard it was good, though.

Sadly, you heard wrong. The trilogy could have been brilliant, but didn't quite live up to the promise of the first book. It's a good read, but somewhat of a muddled mess at times, with an unsatisfying ending. Quite disappointing.

Re:Care to cite some examples? (1)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910112)

Well, I heard that also, but I was trying to be nice on the assumption that mekkab wasn't being facetious and actually liked the books.

Re:Care to cite some examples? (1)

mekkab (133181) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910204)

I appreciate your tact! And while I haven't finished the last one I've found them to be an enjoyable romp.

Re:Care to cite some examples? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35909858)

George Orwell's 1984 is easily the most influential and important piece of literature to come out of Britain in the entire 20th century. It's firmly in the "Science Fiction" camp.

Re:Care to cite some examples? (1)

lee1 (219161) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910202)

It's not influential as literature. Orwell's aspirations had more to do with political commentary than art, and it shows. So, it's a good example indeed: genre fiction, by definition, is limited in its artistic aspirations, and need not be taken seriously as literature. I say that as someone who has been entertained by both SF and detective fiction, mainly before my 15th birthday.

Re:Care to cite some examples? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910280)

If art isn't influential in the world around it, it's worthless. Art that only influences other art is masturbation.

Re:To mainstream lit, sci fi is like comic books (2, Insightful)

MrHanky (141717) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909864)

You know what's funny? The fact that you're as condescending towards "mainstream lit" as you yourself imagine it is towards you. Project much?

You mad? (5, Interesting)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909984)

Am I really? How exactly was I condescending to mainstream literature? I did say that people who were into "literature" as opposed to "reading books" tend to be elitist snobs, but that isn't slandering mainstream literature, or even the realm of literary criticism. I was merely pointing out that, if you characterize yourself as enjoying "literature" as opposed to "reading" you may be an elitist snob. Just say it to yourself: "I like reading books." Now say "I enjoy literature." Which sounded snobbier to you?

Psychological projection is the habit of ascribing to others those parts of your own personality that you refuse to accept. I accept that I am opinionated and critical. Therefore, projection is hardly the correct term, Mr. Hanky. Now, are you mad because you characterize yourself as enjoying literature, or is it something more personal?

Re:You mad? (1)

ceswiedler (165311) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910214)

"I was merely pointing out that if you do A instead of B, you may be an elitist snob"

I'll merely point out that you said "tend to be elitist snobs" not "may be elitist snobs". I'll merely add that people who make a negative generalization about another group and then defend it with "I merely said they may be that way" are generally assholes. I don't know you personally so I can't say whether you fall into that group, or just near it.

Re:You mad? (1)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910340)

I stand by my characterization of people who style themselves as lovers of "literature," as opposed to "books," as elitist snobs. Not all of them, of course, but enough to make the characterization accurate. Sorry if that hurts your feelings. Did you major in literature? Because it sounds as though you were personally offended by what I wrote, enough so that you felt compelled to insult me, personally. If so, you have my apologies, and my assurance that YOU are not one of those elitist snobs I was referring to.

Re:You mad? (0, Flamebait)

Raenex (947668) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910338)

You sound like an elitist snob yourself with a persecution complex.

Re:To mainstream lit, sci fi is like comic books (1)

ceswiedler (165311) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909896)

the genre includes some of the most beautiful and mature artistic works ever published

I love science fiction, but this is a statement I just can't get behind.

In fact I think that any book which did deserve that praise wouldn't be part of the science-fiction genre, in the same way that while there is something of a mystery at the heart of Hamlet, but it's not part of the mystery genre. Science-fiction isn't just stories set in futuristic or fantastic settings, it's stories designed to stimulate the thought of futuristic and fantastic locations and how people and civilization would be different in those locations. In the same way, a mystery isn't just a story with a murderer, it's a story designed to reveal the murderer in a way where the reader receives their own clues and can guess at the solution. Genres have their own great writers, but they're just not the same as literature.

It's just as short-sighted to turn your nose up at great literary novel as it is to turn your nose up at a great genre novel. But the two are still very different things.

Re:To mainstream lit, sci fi is like comic books (1)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910016)

I would posit that you simply haven't read much good science fiction. I've compiled a short list down below, maybe start there and then get back to me. And I'm sorry, but there is quite a bit of pretentious trash called "great literature." Literature is part of the art world, where personality and self promotion matter more than real talent.

Re:To mainstream lit, sci fi is like comic books (1)

AfroTrance (984230) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910046)

In fact I think that any book which did deserve that praise wouldn't be part of the science-fiction genre

So if a SF book is beautiful/artistic, it no longer becomes SF? What a stupid way to look at it.

Re:To mainstream lit, sci fi is like comic books (1)

ceswiedler (165311) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910348)

All right, I'll backtrack on that, and say that "any book which did deserve that praise would be literature as well as science-fiction" and thus be subject to the very same snobbery that the OP was deriding. The qualities which make a good genre novel are not the same as those which make a good literary novel, and it's extremely rare to find one with both.

Re:To mainstream lit, sci fi is like comic books (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910156)

You seem to be arguing that a science fiction story that is sufficiently well done ceases to be a science fiction story, which to me is a ridiculous notion. But maybe I'm misunderstanding your point because I don't completely understand what you mean by "literature." Can you explain the difference between that genre and science fiction?

Re:To mainstream lit, sci fi is like comic books (4, Interesting)

Noughmad (1044096) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909920)

No. To what's currently mainstream, SciFi is, like a large majority of good literature, too long, too complicated, and boring.

What is "mainstream" (as in, what I see on display in book stores) are "Become an Einstein in one week while losing 50 pounds and making tons of money", some cooking, and books about orgasms.

Re:To mainstream lit, sci fi is like comic books (1)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910192)

And thus, to quote TFA

... in a world where more and more employers are complaining about school leavers departing education barely usefully literate for their adult lives, UNo w@ I mean, mn?

Re:To mainstream lit, sci fi is like comic books (1)

masterwit (1800118) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909952)

People who are into "literature" as opposed to "reading books" tend to be elitist snobs.

I agree and here are a list of the judges names if we need know who's opinion doesn't matter:

Who Chose the Books?

The books to be given away on World Book Night were selected by a committee of people committed to books, based on recommendations from publishers, booksellers and others.
The Committee

        James Naughtie– Author and radio presenter (Chair)

        Bidisha –Author, journalist and broadcaster

        Nic Bottomley– Owner and Manager of Mr B’s Emporium of Delights

        Margaret Busby– Founder of Alison and Busby, author and broadcaster

        Jamie Byng– MD of Canongate

        Liz Calder– Former Publishing Director of Bloomsbury

        John Carey– Author and critic

        Maria Dickenson– Easons, Dublin

        Tony Durcan – Head Librarian at Newcastle Libraries

        Stephen Fry – Author, actor and broadcaster

        Seni Glaister– The Book People

        Kirsty Gunn– Author and critic

        Steve Jones– Geneticist and author

        Julia Kingsford– Head of Marketing at Foyles

        Sarfraz Manzoor– Author and journalist

        John Mitchinson – Author, former MD of Harvill and Marketing Manager at Waterstone’s

        Amanda Ross– MD of Cactus and founder of the Richard and Judy Book Club

        Rachel Russell– Head of Books at WHSmiths

        Kamila Shamsie– Author

        Hardeep Singh Kohli – Author and broadcaster

        Lemn Sissay – Poet

        Chris Sullivan– Journalist and author and deejay

        Tim Watson– Waterstone’s

        Amy Worth– Head Book Buyer at Amazon

        Alan Yentob– Creative Director at the BBC
source [worldbooknight.org]

Also, link to my post below to avoid repeating, just more links to read [slashdot.org]

cheers

An era of returning morality (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910018)

It's about content, not subtlety.

Like it or not (and I suspect most Slashdotters will fall firmly into the "not" camp), we're living in an age where people are turning back to time-honored traditions and values. Science fiction is littered with themes and concepts that a growing majority of readers find thoroughly objectionable (e.g., evolutionistic biology, geologic and cosmic timescales on the order of billions of years, multiculturalism, man-made climate change, collectivism/communism, etc.)

When you look at things like gas prices, unemployment numbers, the deficit, skyrocketing teen pregnancy / violent crime rates, obscenity during the "family hour" on television, it becomes abundantly obvious that the economic and social policies of a certain political party (which shall remain nameless) have failed. Unfortunately, these same policies are woven into the very fabric of much of what passes for modern sci-fi -- and this is why it is in decline.

This is not to say that all sci-fi is bad; for example, Orson Scott Card holds several correct political opinions and has produced some rather passable work. But at least seventy percent (an estimate) of it is hostile to the sensibilities of the moral community. The reality is that the revolution that started in 2010 is still in its infancy, and sci-fi must adapt to embrace the emerging new morality, or it will become one of its casualties.

Two Word Rebuttal (1)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910082)

Reality Television. Nice troll, though.

Re:An era of returning morality (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910116)

Like it or not (and I suspect most Slashdotters will fall firmly into the "not" camp), we're living in an age where people are turning back to time-honored traditions and values. Science fiction is littered with themes and concepts that a growing majority of readers find thoroughly objectionable (e.g., evolutionistic biology, geologic and cosmic timescales on the order of billions of years, multiculturalism, man-made climate change, collectivism/communism, etc.)

If "we" includes USA, then maybe you have a point, though even then it's grossly exaggerated. The rest of the world certainly doesn't find "evolutionistic biology", or billions-old universe objectionable.

Re:An era of returning morality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910252)

OK, you've had your incorrect little rant. Now bend over and feel the strapon "returning morality" to where you keep your brains, bitch-boy.

Re:To mainstream lit, sci fi is like comic books (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910042)

You forgot to mention that the creativity often found in Sci-Fi produces social, economic, religious, and technological ideas/scenarios that we run into in the real world.

No redeaming value there...

Re:To mainstream lit, sci fi is like comic books (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910294)

I see it like this:
- The past is backwards and full of superstitious retards. So it's inherently primitive as a basis for stories. I only look at the past, to learn no to make the same errors again.
- The present is what I see every day. If I wanted that, I'd go *outside*! It's boring and rarely can offer something new that a documentary can't.
- The future is what smart people look at, because our brains are essentially solely made for predicting the future (through creating generalizations and then theories). And it gives the widest creative freedom instead of limiting stories to the tiny boring world of the average Joe or Knight.

And fantasy is just sci-fi adapted for people that are so dumb that they have to *believe* because they don't have to brainpower to understand and *know*. By replacing science with superstition. (Yes, that means that lots of "sci-fi", like for example "Dune" is actually fantasy.)
I'm not saying that's not OK... if one is dumb. Those have a right to be happy too.

Oh, and how do you recognize that someone actually doesn't know shit about a topic? If he says he's a "$TOPIC critic", a $TOPICphile or calls himself a art expert. (Art is relative, and hence being an expert is as impossible as being the center of the universe.)

Re:To mainstream lit, sci fi is like comic books (5, Insightful)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910298)

Never mind that that is simply not true, as the genre includes some of the most beautiful and mature artistic works ever published.

When the authors win Nobel Prizes (eg. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Doris Lessing), then it's not considered science fiction or fantasy, then it is literature.

They do this because the ethos of the literary critic is grounded in resentment. They resent not having talent themselves, they resent the lack of attention given to their field, and they greatly resent how the scientific rationalist worldview does not consider mere rhetoric as a valid form of argument. They value opinion over evidence, and in that respect they are no different than the talking heads on Fox News. You must flatter them and their ideology before they will accept your fantastic literature as literature.

What they're too stupid to comprehend is that all literature descends from fantasy. Keeping stories plausible is a modern invention. In every culture, the original fiction always involved gods, magic, and feats of heroism.

Re:To mainstream lit, sci fi is like comic books (1)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910382)

Right on the money. It's a cliquish little world, full of self important people who couldn't produce anything of real value. And from some of the replies I have read here, apparently some of them read Slashdot.

Don't Worry (5, Funny)

rlp (11898) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909600)

The BBC can just fire up the TARDIS and go back an fix the problem.

Re:Don't Worry (1)

pro151 (2021702) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909630)

Without a doubt, one of the finest Science Fiction shows ever conceived.

Re:Don't Worry (1)

Vo1t (1079521) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910038)

re-fire reTARDIS!

Re:Don't Worry (1)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910226)

Please pay attention to the causality problem: that which you supposedly fix now will only be delayed 30,000 years; and the currents of time will draw you back to the problem. Only 30,000 years from now the lack of proper literacy will cause the universe to be on the cusp of a multidimensional implosion.

You should pay closer attention the The Doctors lessons.

What books did they cover? (2)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909616)

I keep digging, but TFA has no links at all, and searches for the program's name don't turn much up, either (though the presenter looks super-nerdy cute in her pics and you'd think she'd be into the skiffy...)

Oh, and the summary neglects to point out that the Beeb has already promised to do an episode on Genre Fiction, so the crowd's already breaking up.

Re:What books did they cover? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35909780)

though the presenter looks super-nerdy cute in her pics and you'd think she'd be into the skiffy...

Aw shit, now I have to read TFA...

Re:What books did they cover? (2)

masterwit (1800118) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909874)

Speaking of utter lack of links, because this was completely devoid in the description and the articles themselves, here are some I found relevant from comments below other articles and searching for a couple of minutes:

http://www.sfx.co.uk/2011/04/16/85-authors-protest-at-the-bbc%E2%80%99s-treatment-of-genre-fiction/ [sfx.co.uk]
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/apr/18/genre-authors-protest-bbc [guardian.co.uk]
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-13128769 --- (this is the BBC defense / response) [bbc.co.uk]
http://www.bbc.co.uk/search/news/?q=World%20Book%20Night [bbc.co.uk]

And the answer to your question:
The Books Featured [worldbooknight.org]

(Hell someone had to get a few more links in here eventually)

cheers

Re:What books did they cover? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35909934)

Try

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00zf9bw

this has a summary of the show and talks about the authors covered (Agatha Cristie, Dick Francis, Lee Child, Ian Rankin, Ruth Rendell, Colin Dexter, Anthony Horowitz and Joanne Harris).

Re:What books did they cover? (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910244)

That was the link I found. I don't see any data there.

That is, however, the pic that made my eyebrows pulse.

And, heh, I just clicked the magnify button, and in addition to the decolletage, I got a better look at the book she's reading: _Day of the Triffids_.

Irony is leaking into this universe from the cool one she was born in.

As Newt says ... (4, Interesting)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909628)

... "It won't make any difference." The literary establishment has not only decided that anything but "serious," contemporary*, mainstream fiction isn't Literature, and any protest from authors in other** genres will not only not change their minds, but will in fact solidify their position. They'll see it as further proof of the inherent immaturity of those who write (and, by extension, those who read) "genre fiction," and be further reassured in their smugness.

* Exceptions may be made for historical fiction, as long as the history in question is within the last century or so.

** Literary fiction is a genre of its own, with rules far more rigid than those of SF and fantasy and at least as rigid as those of horror, romance and Westerns, but you'll never get them to admit it.

Re:As Newt says ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35909754)

From the article: "In retrospect, asking the Culture Show to make a TV program called The Books We Really Read was a little like asking Jeremy Clarkson to make a show called The Electric Green Cars we Really Need."

Re:As Newt says ... (2)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909938)

Michael Chabon [wikipedia.org] is a pretty notable exception to this "rule" of yours (though he covers more genres than just SF, he is probably the only author with both a Pulitzer and a Hugo on his shelf); Vonnegut and Bradbury likewise, if less so. Norman Mailer openly wrote fantasy [wikipedia.org] ; Margaret Atwood used to deny it [wikipedia.org] , but a large chunk of her output is SF, pure and simple.

Less obvious examples of "it ain't necessarily so" include Joanna Russ [wikipedia.org] , William Gibson (if you need a link, you need to get out more), and, posthumously, Philip K. Dick (same comment as Gibson), all three of whom have strong followings in literary circles, as well as Samuel R. "Chip" Delany [wikipedia.org] , who had the advantages of being A) black, B) gay, C) a English professor and literary critic, and D) at one point wrote one of the most opaque, difficult literary SF novels [wikipedia.org] ever penned, as well as a few others that gave it a run for its money.

Of course, the reverse is true as well. SF is a snobbish crowd every bit as much as mainstream, and attempts by more mainstream authors to "dabble" in SF are generally scorned in SF circles.

Re:As Newt says ... (1)

kbob88 (951258) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910274)

I'd add Kazuo Ishiguro to the list for "Never Let Me Go", which was very well accepted by the literary establishment, and was somewhat science fiction.

Most lists I've seen of the best books of the last 150 years or so include some science fiction such as Orwell's '1984', Huxley's 'Brave New World', Vonnegut's 'Slaughterhouse Five', and Burgess' 'A Clockwork Orange'.

I think literary establishment acceptance depends on several factors:
-- Writing other 'literary' books that aren't science-fiction
-- Using SF to set or enhance the situation, rather than having it be the focus of the book
-- Serious topics
-- Plain good writing
-- A setting that is closer to present-day. Seems like the farther out in the future the book is set, the less 'literary' it will be considered.

Sure, a mindlessly entertaining SF book is not going to be accepted by the literary establishment, but then again, neither is a mindlessly entertaining present-day book. The bar is probably higher for SF though; it's going to take a more highbrow SF book to break into 'literary' circles than a present-day book.

I do find it interesting to note that about 10-20% of the books that my (non-geek) wife's bookclub reads could be considered SF.

That's because SciFi sucks (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35909636)

The quality of writing in science fiction is worse than in any other genre. Most people pick up something and are so turned off that they never want to read another one. I'm saying probably less than 1% of sci fi novels are worth reading. Of the most famous authors, Heinlein, for example, published around 100 novels. But of those 100, only 1 or 2 were good. And so it is for the rest. You pick one up at the bookstore and chances are, it is garbage. There is no filter for sorting through the drek.

Re:That's because SciFi sucks (2)

guybrush3pwood (1579937) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909756)

The quality of writing in science fiction is worse than in any other genre. Most people pick up something and are so turned off that they never want to read another one. I'm saying probably less than 1% of sci fi novels are worth reading. Of the most famous authors, Heinlein, for example, published around 100 novels. But of those 100, only 1 or 2 were good. And so it is for the rest. You pick one up at the bookstore and chances are, it is garbage. There is no filter for sorting through the drek.

The same short-sighted analysis could be made about any genre.

On the other hand, most of Heinlein's books are good, actually; some are very good - "Time enough for love", for instance. Asimov published who-knows-how-many books, and virtually all of them are excelent. Frank Herbert published the Dune series; if you didn't like those, I'd be inclined to distrust your judgement even further.

But by all means, do continue flamebaiting. It's fun to read.

Re:That's because SciFi sucks (1)

wsxyz (543068) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909790)

Heinlein benefited from writing most of his stuff in an era where his manuscripts were ruthlessly edited for content and length. His later, unedited, stuff is garbage, as are the "uncut" versions of his older stuff.

Re:That's because SciFi sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35909966)

Time enough for love?!@#$! Are you joking? I read several that featured Lazarus Long. There were a few good moments. Anyway, it's been a while, but from what I remember Lazarus Long and Friends all spoke the same. I couldn't tell who was speaking... Never mind, I couldn't get past the rotten dialog. I agree that Dune, the first one, is good. And Asimov, he published around 500 books so. Several are pretty good. I think his quality was much better than the average writer. But still, it is tough for any casual reader to wade through the 99% of garbage scifi novels to find the good ones. That, IMO is why scifi is not very popular.
I think it would help scifi if the BBC would cover it more so that first time sci fi readers would have a chance to find and appreciate the good works that are out there.

Re:That's because SciFi sucks (1)

LionMage (318500) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909978)

Frank Herbert and Heinlein were both proverbial 800 pound gorillas. Both were best when their work was heavily edited. Both later in life got full of themselves and started pumping out works that no editor would dare edit for fear that they'd lose their rock star author.

The first Dune was good, after the first 20 pages or so. It took me about 3 or 4 attempts before I finally got "into" it enough. I wasn't impressed enough to tackle the rest of the series. Just because you happen to think the entire series is great doesn't mean everyone does or even should agree.

Heinlein always struck me as preachy, and his books were a platform for preaching to his audience. Most of Heinlein's followers (and I use that word deliberately) strike me as being very similar to cultists. It could have been Heinlein instead of Hubbard who founded a religion, after all...

As for Asimov... while he's a well-loved author of SF who published over 600 books (Wikipedia claims "over 500," but I have read various estimates from 600 to 800+), it's worth noting a few things. First, Isaac Asimov's best form was the short story, not the novel; the man couldn't do characterization, and it showed in his longer works. Indeed, ideas seem to be the central characters in many of his works. (I have to say, though, The Gods Themselves was a great novel and had OK character development. Not stellar, but not awful either.) Secondly, many of those published works were non-fiction. I don't see this as a detriment, since Asimov is a very entertaining writer with a gift for making complex ideas seem simple. Thirdly, I believe it is because Asimov was so prolific that we have so many examples of his work we can point to as "good science fiction." After all, most of us know he pumped out that many books, but few of us can cite the titles of more than a half dozen to dozen of them.

Re:That's because SciFi sucks (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910010)

Asimov published who-knows-how-many books, and virtually all of them are (sic) excelent.

Not really. Much of his awful stuff has been forgotten. "Norby, the Mixed-up Robot" (and its sequels, including "Norby and the Lost Princes"), "Young Mutants", "Cosmic Knights", "Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids", "Still More Lecherous Limericks", "The Subatomic Monster " and "Why Does Litter Cause Problems?" are, rightfully, forgotten. Asimov wrote over 300 books, of which maybe 30 are still read. 30 good books is a decent record for an author, but "virtually all are excellent" exaggerates his average quality.

Re:That's because SciFi sucks (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909802)

Gene Wolfe is the greatest writer in the English language since Shakespeare, but for his choice of genre he'll largely be ignored.

Re:That's because SciFi sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35909892)

Well, that's perhaps a little superlative, but I'd say he was one of the top ten living writers, in any genre.

Re:That's because SciFi sucks (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35909816)

99% of Sci-Fi is crud because 99% of everything is crud. This includes "Literary Fiction".

I won a couple of subscription to literary magazines once. You'd think they could go a single issue without having a story about someone doing nothing but observing the gritty world around them, or a story about a child with cancer. Nope.

You want to get published in the literary genre? Cancer children. You gotta write about cancer children.

Re:That's because SciFi sucks (2)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909824)

Really? Worse than _any_ other genre? [wikipedia.org] I think you're exaggerating a bit. I think probably only 90% of all science fiction is crap. [wikipedia.org] Which about matches what i find when i take a look at what's on the shelves in other areas of the bookstore as well. Clearly the bit about Heinlein is just you being a troll or a case of your mileage varying. [tvtropes.org] Personally i've found only about seven of Heinlein's thirty-four books [wikipedia.org] to be "crap." That puts him at about a 75% success rate for me.

And the "filter for sorting through the drek" is the exact same thing you use for sorting through all the drek in other genres of literature, all the drek in television, all the drek in film, and all the drek in every other form of entertainment. You can read reviews, you can read synopsis, you can ask your friends, you can sample a little before investing in the full product, and you can put all that together to make an educated guess.

If you honestly think you can pick up _any_ non-science fiction book at random or just turn on the TV to a random channel and expect good odds of finding something of quality then i think you're bound to be severely disappointed.

Re:That's because SciFi sucks (1)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910026)

The quality of writing in science fiction is worse than in any other genre.

Citation needed, but I'm guessing you haven't read much romance, mystery, fantasy, horror, western, or even "literary" fiction if you think that. Nor heard of Sturgeon's Law [wikipedia.org] .

Re:That's because SciFi sucks (1)

LionMage (318500) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910048)

I liked your observation better when Theodore Sturgeon made it: 90% of everything is crap. Of course, you seem to be claiming that the value is more like 99%, but we all know that 95% of all statistics are made up on the fly.

News flash: Most other genre fiction is crap, too. For that matter, most mainstream fiction doesn't pass the test of time and is quickly forgotten, if it ever was considered "literature" in the first place.

As for filters, I would suggest that you start paying attention to book reviews. Analog still does reviews of science fiction novels, for example. Amazon posts both user reviews and reviews by established periodicals. If you need something to inform your selection process, book reviews are a good place to start.

If you don't have reviews to go by, or enough reviews to go by, there's always the reputation of the author himself. (If you happen to not like an author who is otherwise well-regarded, that's fine, but authors tend to work hard to earn a reputation.) And if an author is older, sometimes they fall into the category of authors who improve with age, while others fall prey to the Hemingway syndrome (writing their best work first). Find out which category an author falls into and then consume either their back catalog or their latest works, depending.

writers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35909646)

tl;dr

sci-fi authors more real than bible authors, edits (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35909652)

as real history re-reveals itself, the 'kingdom' is really an upside down pyramid (so far) scheme, as it was written, both in fact, & fiction, including sci-fi, the former fiction.

TV Doesn't Grok Sci-Fi (5, Insightful)

WebManWalking (1225366) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909676)

Condolences to the UK, but the US doesn't fare much better. Decades ago, NBC was in on the ground floor of a multibillion dollar franchise ("Star Trek"). They moved its time slot capriciously, as if trying to lose viewership, and cut its budget mercilessly. In its last season, just about every set was nothing but cheapo paper mache boulders. Then they cancelled it at the height of its popularity. In other words, they underestimated the public's appetite for sci-fi by tens of billions, dollars or pounds, take your pick.

Now we have a cable channel dedicated to sci-fi, and they changed their name to "Syfy". How's that's supposed to be pronounced, "siffie"? They used to produce remakes of Dune that were more faithful to the books, but "Syfy" now only makes end-of-the-world and big-animal movies. They've lost faith in sci-fi too, as much as NBC did.

Both sides of the Atlantic, sad to say.

Re:TV Doesn't Grok Sci-Fi (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909732)

To be fair, they eventually realized that Star Trek was worth a hell of a lot -- IMO none of the later series ever came anywhere close to the first one, but you can't accuse the networks of not supporting them.

Re:TV Doesn't Grok Sci-Fi (1)

NiceGeek (126629) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909872)

"but you can't accuse the networks of not supporting them." - ST:TNG & DS9 were both syndicated, and were not shown on any specific network.

Re:TV Doesn't Grok Sci-Fi (3, Funny)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909786)

I believe "SyFy is pronounced "Shoot Yourself in the Fucking eYes so you don't have to witness this crap."

Re:TV Doesn't Grok Sci-Fi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35909914)

And they cancelled Stargate Universe....

Re:TV Doesn't Grok Sci-Fi (1)

hellkyng (1920978) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909922)

I pretty much only watch SyFy (pretty sure pronounced like syphilis) when I've consumed way to much of my favorite mind altering substance. Watching Sharktopus drunk really tops of a night...

Re:TV Doesn't Grok Sci-Fi (1)

neurophil12 (1054552) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910000)

They've lost faith in sci-fi too, as much as NBC did.

That's probably because Syfy is NBC.

Re:TV Doesn't Grok Sci-Fi (3, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910166)

Of course I remember going into a video store and asked them where Apollo 13 was. I wanted to cry when they told me it was in sci-fi! I had to ask why but all I got was because it was about space! Ever get the feeling that a large percentage of the population really doesn't understand? Of course I also had a discussion very artsy friend of mine about Apollo 13 and how I really thought it should have gotten best picture over Braveheart. She actually told me that Braveheart was a better movie because you knew how Apollo 13 ended before you saw the movie. I had to say "You didn't know the english won?"
Good freaking heavens.

Niven? (0, Troll)

wsxyz (543068) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909686)

What has Larry Niven ever written that deserves to be discussed on a TV show? His best novel ever was _Protector_ and even that isn't exactly prizeworthy.

Re:Niven? (2)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909792)

With Jerry Pournelle, the Mote in God's Eye , it's awesome.

The first Ringworld was ok, even with a few scientific oopses that were made into later plot devices for the other lesser novels.

Re:Niven? (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910054)

It was entertaining, but it had it's flaws.

It's a little religion heavy. I mean, I know god is in the title, but it kinda permeates throughout the entire novel. I got the feeling that "We've tried hundreds of religions" was supposed to be shocking, but it just fell flat with me.

Then there's the whole premise of the Motie's cycle is that they MUST have children to survive. And the resulting overpopulation stresses their resources to a breaking point. Except that Masters and Browns can mate to make sterile breed who is short lived. Since Masters are the only breed that seems to have any sort of willpower, and they can easily circumvent the pregnancy->overpopulation issue, what's the problem?

Re:Niven? (1)

Jammer6502 (1430197) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909826)

Wow, not a known universe fan I guess. It's good to know you don't consider him prizeworthy, plenty of others do though which is why Ringworld got both the Hugo and Nebula that year.

Re:Niven? (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909850)

Wasn't Footfall suppose to be good, which is something I still need to read.

Re:Niven? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35909868)

Hell, how about Lucifer's Hammer or Footfall?

He has dozens of book, co-authored as well as solo that are really enticing wonderful stories!

Re:Niven? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35909880)

Ringworld comes to mind, as well as The Integral Trees. Those two definitely deserve discussion.

Not surprising (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35909726)

Sign of the times. Sci-fi is the genre of the innovater and thinker. The current world order does not encourage either.

Asimov is rolling over in his grave.

I'm moderately surprised that Reynolds, Stephenson, Varley, and Vinge are missing from the list.

Re:Not surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910104)

Will you keep it down, AC? I'm trying to check Facebook on my iPhone knockoff while watching the Office.

Re:Not surprising (1)

improfane (855034) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910318)

At least they did not include Peter F Hamilton. Some of the worst scifi I've read.

Yes, they are revolting... what else is new? (-1, Troll)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909750)

I've met a few SciFi writers... they are indeed revolting.

And over in this corner.... (1)

RevWaldo (1186281) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909856)

Goddamn "BBC America" has been pushing itself as the go-to sci-fi / fantasy station [bbcamerica.com] , including both British shows (Doctor Who, Primeval, Being Human) and decidedly non-British shows (ST:TNG, X-Files).

Doctor Who aside, this is not a good thing.

.

I'm getting sick and tired of.. (1)

cyberfin (1454265) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909916)

... these titles. It's not a revolution. They sent a ranting letter in good ol' British fashion. Period.

They might actually be right about what they say in the letter. But they are very much not revolting. M2C

Been Going On For Years (1)

clawhound (811481) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910004)

I went to school for English literature. I read lots. Amazingly, in all that time, I never read the single most successful modern author, Arthur Conan Doyle. He wrote Sherlock Holmes. Somehow, the most singularly famous character ever written was not worth serious time in a literature class. A second story. The only reason that we read Washington Irving in my American Literature class was because the students kept demanding that the teacher teach it. That is a remarkable story. 200 years after he was a writer, not only were the students still clamoring to read him, he still had no respect from the establishment.

What is SF? (1)

jasnw (1913892) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910140)

I am a long-time SF reader, having cut my teeth on the greats of the 1950s and 1960s. I no longer bother to browse in the SF section of bookstores any more because 99% of the books being sold as SF are pretty much juvenile vampire or Camelot-as-SF books. The only new writers I try out are from the steampunk genre, which has its share of problems as well. If the serious/good SF writers want respect, they need to work with the publishers to clean up the definition of what's SF in the marketplace. As I don't see the publishers, who only care for sales numbers, doing this until a couple of years after Hell freezes over, I'm not optimistic about this problem getting any better.

Re:What is SF? (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910296)

Yeah it does seem that SF these days stands more for Science Fantasy than Science Fiction.

Kurt Vonnegut said it best: (2)

davevr (29843) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910154)

I have been a soreheaded occupant of a file drawer labeled “Science Fiction” ... and I would like out, particularly since so many serious critics regularly mistake the drawer for a urinal.

- Kurt Vonnegut, Wampeters, Foma, and Granfalloons


rip, kurt!

signatories not just scifi (1)

bhcompy (1877290) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910174)

Steven Erikson(Lundin) is the most notable pure fantasy writer on there. Moorcock is probably the most notable fantasy author on the list, but he also does scifi(though his most popular works are fantasy).

If my local library is anything to go by... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910286)

...then Science Fiction isn't a popular genre, it's got one of the smallest shelf spaces. Whereas other genres like crime are several times bigger. Perhaps it's just a case of it being a really niche subject.

We should worry (1)

waltlaw (600062) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910308)

when a dying medium ignores a living one?
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