Comments: 5
In the sf environment the ability to read fiction with lots of great science is about as rare as the ability to have great sex. :)
Debbie's Spurts 6 years ago
For some. But, authors can be very vague and gloss over science where they are unsure instead of putting in inaccurate science. It's really irritating when they go on at length about some science element they got wrong (or didn't bother researching/consulting) as if accurate knowledge. E.g., the difference between an author having characters board a spaceship that says it has a hyperdrive or will be going through a worm hole without discussing how either works (fine) and if author spends time explaining how either works expanding on what sounds like conclusions or theories from physics and engineering that includes inaccurate science (not fine).
I used to read/watch SF and was also always careful to be scandalized at how little regard the genre got until I realized that ... well ... an awful lot of it does suck. Or at least, an awful lot of it is an awful lot like an awful lot else. The same five characters, the same one plot. There's good stuff out there, but the signal to noise ratio is lower than almost any other genre of entertainment or literature. Vast, vast, vast swathes of the stuff is bug-eyed monsters, buzz-cuts with guns, female eye-candy, and explosions: the power fantasies of 15 year old boys, in other words. Okay okay okay, there's some good stuff -- someone will always point out the celestial Octavia Butler or Ursula Le Guin -- but the fact remains, you need to swim through an ocean of silicone and lasers to get to the good stuff.

And oftentimes, the target SF demographic (who are all too often a lot more like Comic Book Guy than they want to admit) who rushes to lay claim to writers like Butler and Le Guin to legitimize themselves in the eyes of the oppressive lit-critic are the same ones who sneer at the stuff when asked to turn away from their tits-and-explosions for three seconds to read something that doesn't posit a 1950s Ward-and-June sensibility transplanted into The Future. (I'd always heard how "revolutionary" and "incredible" Asimov's books were, as an example, and I was incredibly disappointed to open the things and find out that his stuff was just one more white businessman with a briefcase coming home to a pearl-necklace-wearing housewife who said hi-honey-how-was-your-day. Revolutionary? More stodgy and unimaginative to me, it reeked of the dust of the past even at the time it was written.)

Even the supposedly "mind-blowing" 2001 movie could posit such "incredible" and "imaginative" things as enormous space babies and colonies on the moon but couldn't do any better than false-eyelash-wearing Space Stewardesses when it came to social imagination. Even at the time, that stuff was dusty and stale. And SF is still no better.

Again, sure, you can always flap Butler and Tiptree in people's faces, but they are plainly not in the mainstream and are often only mentioned by the core demographic as a means of telling people who call them out on their dull social imaginations to STFU. The ONLY time your typical white-guy SF geek even acknowledged the existence of a novel like "Kindred" is to shut up someone who asks why all the women in modern SF are housewives, harpies, or underwear models. And I can bet you a steak dinner that that same geek hasn't even read it.

In all honesty though, I don't feel any more generous toward fiction of any kind. It's all the same five characters and the same one plot after a while. That's what nonfiction is for -- for when a reader gets sick of the smoothed-out predictability of fiction and wants to see what happens when stuff's actually not within any given "protagonist's" control.

For me the problem is not the bad science. It's the bad fiction. But the best SF is, in its very different way, as good as the best literary fiction: that is, it enriches our culture and our lives just as deeply, though sometimes by rather different routes...
Debbie's Spurts 6 years ago
In one way, I do think the recent upswing in $$$$$ success of SF/F movies and tv series have hurt it because of the many previously uninterested authors and others who try to jump on the gravy train to write something that sells or could attract a publisher.

I don't expect 100% accuracy or even a great deal of realism to my fiction. But if in SF genre, the science should be vague or reasonably accurate; in police procedural mysteries, the police work should be vague or reasonably accurate; set up a fantasy world, remotely follow the worldbuilding logic you invented; in romances, push-lease give me some reason to understand why these people get involved beyond they have to or there's no book ...
In any genre: DO YOUR RESEARCH. The nature of the research differs, but the necessity of it is the same.