May 25, 2019, 02:17:24 AM

Author Topic: Once again... - sci-fi and genre dismissal  (Read 643 times)

Offline ScarletBea

  • Welcome party and bringer of Cake. 2nd-in-Command of the Writing Contest
  • Powers That Be
  • Big Wee Hag
  • *
  • Posts: 10516
  • Total likes: 6149
  • Gender: Female
  • Geeky Reading Introvert
    • View Profile
    • LibraryThing profile
Once again... - sci-fi and genre dismissal
« on: April 18, 2019, 10:39:53 AM »
I just read this article:
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/apr/18/it-drives-writers-mad-why-are-authors-still-sniffy-about-sci-fi

Quote
Ian McEwan’s latest novel, Machines Like Me, is a fiction about science – specifically, artificial intelligence. It is set in an alternative reality where Alan Turing does not kill himself but invents the internet instead; where JFK is never assassinated and Margaret Thatcher’s premiership ends with the beginning of the Falklands war. The near future of the real world becomes the present of the novel, giving McEwan the space to explore prescient what-ifs: what if a robot could think like a human, or human intelligence could not tell the difference between itself and AI?

Machines Like Me is not, however, science fiction, at least according to its author. “There could be an opening of a mental space for novelists to explore this future,” McEwan said in a recent interview, “not in terms of travelling at 10 times the speed of light in anti-gravity boots, but in actually looking at the human dilemmas.” There is, as many readers noticed, a whiff of genre snobbery here, with McEwan drawing an impermeable boundary between literary fiction and science fiction, and placing himself firmly on the respectable side of the line.

I hate how so many people still think that SF and Fantasy as for children, that they don't make you think, have important/key subjects (the "human dilemmas" that Ian mentions), that they don't make you more tolerant, make you laugh and cry and root for or hate the characters!

It's unbelievable how many people watch "Game of Thrones" but highlight 'they don't like fantasy'.

And I bet that those that say these things haven't read a single SFF book in their lives >:(
At home in the Fantasy Faction forum!

"Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all" - Douglas Adams

Offline NedMarcus

Re: Once again... - sci-fi and genre dismissal
« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2019, 01:25:59 PM »
I was just reading this article. They didn't really mention fantasy, but I suspect many would put it a rung lower than science fiction. It is surprising how strongly this attitude is held—I thought it was disappearing, but obviously not.

Anyway, who wants to be respectable?

Offline Bender

Re: Once again... - sci-fi and genre dismissal
« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2019, 08:13:15 PM »
I'm ambivalent on this. Technically it ain't science fiction if there is no science in it. Reimagining a timeline is just fiction. We don't consider Tom Clancy or Jack Higgins a sci-fi author, right? I don't mind if someone distinguishes books based on it's characteristic. Just like Fantasy has its sub genres (Epic, High, Grimdark etc, Fiction may have (Science, Alternative Timeline, Reimagining Timelines etc)Steampunk is a crossover between Sci-fi and Fantasy, for example.

What angers me is that the distinction happens because SF and Fantasy are considered juvenile. Same happens with Anime which gets classed under cartoons. People love Simpsons, but Anime is for kids. It's bonkers.
Not all those who wander are lost

Offline cupiscent

Re: Once again... - sci-fi and genre dismissal
« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2019, 09:15:51 AM »
Technically it ain't science fiction if there is no science in it. Reimagining a timeline is just fiction.

Yeah, but, from the quote ScarletBea pulled from the article, McEwan's book explores: "what if a robot could think like a human, or human intelligence could not tell the difference between itself and AI?" When Asimov wrote about that sort of thing it was certainly considered sci-fi.

The thing that really annoys me about McEwan's quote in that article is the idea that books with faster-than-light travel and anti-gravity boots don't have anything to say about human dilemmas. I love spec fic precisely because of what the speculative elements bring to the consideration of what it means to be human, and him looking down his nose at the entire genre makes me assume that his speculative robot/AI elements will be rather hackneyed, because he hasn't bothered to familiarise himself with what other people have already done in the field.

Offline Elfy

  • Writing contest regular
  • Powers That Be
  • Big Wee Hag
  • *
  • Posts: 7061
  • Total likes: 712
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
    • Purple Dove House
Re: Once again... - sci-fi and genre dismissal
« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2019, 02:00:54 PM »
Technically it ain't science fiction if there is no science in it. Reimagining a timeline is just fiction.

Yeah, but, from the quote ScarletBea pulled from the article, McEwan's book explores: "what if a robot could think like a human, or human intelligence could not tell the difference between itself and AI?" When Asimov wrote about that sort of thing it was certainly considered sci-fi.

The thing that really annoys me about McEwan's quote in that article is the idea that books with faster-than-light travel and anti-gravity boots don't have anything to say about human dilemmas. I love spec fic precisely because of what the speculative elements bring to the consideration of what it means to be human, and him looking down his nose at the entire genre makes me assume that his speculative robot/AI elements will be rather hackneyed, because he hasn't bothered to familiarise himself with what other people have already done in the field.
Wasn’t that similar to Attwood’s reasoning that The Handmaid’s Tale wasn’t SF because it didn’t have space monsters in it?

Offline Bender

Re: Once again... - sci-fi and genre dismissal
« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2019, 02:32:56 PM »
If it has robots / AI, it certainly is sci-fi. Human element of AI has been done before as you say and it's just plain revisionism to take that away from Sci-fi. But the distinction is quite gray and due to overlaps.

Marketing plays a big part in here. Mainstream thought us that sci-fi and fantasy aren't really literature and it's a step down from reading 'literature'.
Not all those who wander are lost

Offline Skip

Re: Once again... - sci-fi and genre dismissal
« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2019, 04:09:31 PM »
If I let the ignorance of other people bother me, I'd be bothered all the time. If this fellow wants to draw imaginary lines and imaginatively place himself on one side or the other, let him. It gives the interviewer something to talk about.

Not everyone who fusses about this are outside the realm of SF, though. The boundaries were the subject of much earnest conversation among SF authors back in the 1960s and 1970s. Harlan Ellison could be as big a snob as any literary author type. Bigger. Ellison was always bigger.

Meanwhile, despite it all, writers keep writing and readers keep reading.
Visit Altearth