Literary Snobbery

I’m not really writing Science Fiction right now, but this still ticks me off.

Gary Gibson, over at White Screen of Despair describes a run in he had yesterday with a literature snob. If you’re not into SF at all, you probably haven’t seen one in action, so in a nutshell – they’re the types who equate all Science Fiction with 1950’s black and white films like Mars Needs Women and therefore feel the genre is worthless and beneath contempt. They think that there’s nothing in the world that SF can bring to the table of intelligent thinking.


Let’s see. I’ll pick on John Updike for starters. What kind of thought provoking literature has he produced? Car salesmen having affairs in book after book. He’s never had a kind word to say about SF – until he produced his own SF novel – and even then he was quick to distance it from mainstream SF – “It’s not Science Fiction,” he told Newsweek. “It’s Updikeian Science Fiction” (emphasis Newsweek’s).

Incidentally, his SF project was a post-holocaust novel – a genre that’s a cliche within knowing SF circles. To be taken seriously, this kind of novel needs some kind of fresh, new twist, like David Brin did with The Postman (yes, the one mangled into a bad Kevin Costner movie).

Then there’s Margaret Atwood. Her novel The Handmaid’s Tale was nominated for a Nebula award, the equivalent of the Oscars for Science Fiction (the Nebula is voted on by peers – the Hugos are the equivalent of the People’s Choice awards, being voted on by the fans). She did absolutely nothing to acknowledge the nomination, and needless to say, didn’t show up for the awards.


Frankly, I’d take Brin or Connie Willis or Lois McMaster Bujold or the late, great George Alec Effinger over Updike or John Irving. While they’re worried about extramarital affairs and wrestling bears on unicycles, these SF authors are in the heat of the debate about real issues like genetic engineering, cloning, the rise of Islamic culture. And in years past SF has also debated things like pollution, overpopulation, bioterrorism, and yes, space travel and nuclear war.

Maybe I’m being a snob in reverse. But on the other hand, I get really, really annoyed at people who criticize things they know absolutely nothing about.

Okay. I’m breathing deeply… I am calm… I am calm…



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