A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION, PART TWO: HISTORY
This is the second of a series of writeups forming an introduction to the literary genre of science fiction. Part One offered a definition of SF, as well as a shamelessly bad SF vignette by way of illustration. This installment will examine the development of the genre, focusing on key periods of growth and noteworthy movements within the field.
THE ROOTS OF SCIENCE FICTION
Tales of adventure in exotic lands have been around as long as the concept of fiction itself, and the ancient tales are full of descriptions of strange races and lost tribes. Many of these tales served science fiction’s avowed purpose of illuminating aspects of the listeners’ society through contrast. Some of these stories even had science fiction settings - Lucian of Samasota wrote of a voyage to the moon, and other writers followed. The main difference between these ancient stories and modern science fiction is that the old stories were all fantasies. They had no scientific aspect, were not based on actual knowledge, and were never meant to be probable. Lucian had no intention of hypothesizing about possible life on the moon. He merely told a fantastic story that was immediately recognized by his audience as completely impossible.
Throughout history, similar works were written with some regularity, and eventually these wonder tales came to adopt a standard format which would set the ground rules for the future SF genre. I would consider Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels” to be one of the first SF ancestors in which the family resemblance is truly clear. This book, written with the intention of satirizing aspects of the real world, gave us a template for the exploration of alien societies. Its third section, with its technological descriptions and its invocation of a superweapon, is especially reminiscent of modern SF. However, as the science was meant only to illustrate the satire, it is not terribly realistic, and the majority of the book is much more an allegorical fantasy than science fiction.
"Frankenstein" is traditionally regarded as the first true SF work. Published in 1818, it was one of the first works of fiction to seriously explore the moral implications of a hypothetical scientific endeavor. "Frankenstein" has become one of the genre’s most enduring symbols, a universal icon of technology gone wrong. However, the book itself goes mostly unread, and in fact it is a somewhat dry read, with some great ideas but a rather limp narrative. As Thomas Disch has pointed out, Shelley tapped into a magnificent theme, but she did not quite do it justice, and to modern readers it is less than gripping.
Whether because of this narrative weakness or the fact that the Industrial Revolution had not yet changed society as it would later in the century, “Frankenstein” did not immediately inspire a genre of science fiction. The real birth of the genre was brought about almost fifty years later by H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. These two writers, with their epic stories of alien invasion, time travel, journeys to the moon and submarine adventures, became the first authors to make most of their money by writing SF. They inspired countless imitators and fired the public imagination - and their books are, for the most part, still quite readable. Of course, science has moved on considerably since "The War of the Worlds" was written, and modern readers will have to pretend that the invaders come from Deneb or the Galactic Core instead of Mars if they want to feel the same chills that contemporary readers enjoyed, but the prose is still as elegant and lively as it was when it was written.
DIMES AND PULPS
The dime novels of the Nineteenth Century and the pulp magazines of the early Twentieth were breeding grounds for science fiction concepts. The most popular form of entertainment in the 19th century, the dimes were especially popular in America and may have been the reason why SF turned into a singularly American genre, after beginning so strongly in England and France. They featured a variety of stories, amongst which were many tales of forgotten tribes and lost lands, as well as stories that used technological plot elements. “Steam Men of the Prairie”, anyone?
Dime novels were never meant to be anything but popular entertainment, and only a very few of them have been reprinted lately. To be honest, the entire genre had almost no lasting literary value except as a stage in the evolution of speculative fiction.
In time, the dimes grew less popular and pulp magazines took their place as outlets for genre fiction and lurid tales, their very name becoming synonymous with outlandish plots and purple prose. The pulps continued the tradition of mixed adventure - horror, fantasy and science elements were blended with the basic adventure story. At this point, a few stars emerged, among them the inimitable Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan and John Carter of Mars. Burroughs’ stories were wildly popular and appeared in many of the pulp magazines, most of which were happy to reprint stories until the market was completely saturated.
Tarzan, in particular, was a runaway success, swinging his way through 22 novels, all of them first appearing in serial form and selling innumerable magazines, becoming the pulps’ most famous icon. However, ERB’s Barsoom series is of more interest to SF readers, being a significant fixture of the science fantasy sub-genre that would evolve into space opera. In these 11 books, heroic Virginian John Carter traveled to Mars via some magical phenomena that Burroughs never bothered to explain. Upon finding himself on Mars, or Barsoom as it is apparently called by the natives, Carter embarked upon a career of swashbuckling adventure replete with exotic technology, almost all of it pure, unbelievable technobabble. Nonetheless, the Barsoom books are the work of a highly imaginative mind and are still highly entertaining. ERB also wrote short series that took place on Venus and the Moon, but these books were never as successful as the Mars books.
At this point, SF was still not marketed independently, but as a stream within the mixed bag of the pulp genre. Gradually, however, science fiction stories became numerous and popular enough to warrant new magazines that specialized in SF. Eventually, Hugo Gernsback, the man for whom the Hugo Awards are named, took it upon himself to produce the first all-SF magazine, singlehandedly creating an independent genre he dubbed “scientifiction”. (He also invented the term “science fiction” when the public refused to use his first label.)
THE GOLDEN AGE
SF's “Golden Age”, which began around 1920 and arguably lasted almost thirty years, is when things really started to take off. It was a period of forward-looking optimism, a time rife with space operas predicting glorious galactic empires built and protected by brave Earthmen. Speculation into the fields of robotics and computers began here, but space was by far the most popular theme, seemingly holding the most promise for the future of mankind.
This optimistic version of the future was largely Hugo Gernsback’s work. In 1926 he founded “Amazing Stories.” The stories he selected for "Amazing" were, first and foremost, stories about science. The protagonists, the conflicts, the settings, atmosphere and style were all secondary issues, and were never allowed to overshadow the science in the stories. Gernsback created the "Scientifiction" magazine market, and by doing so with a singularly gadget-oriented magazine, he started a technophiliac trend that would dominate SF for the next forty years. He also ensured that the new genre would be one of popular escapism like the dime novels and the other pulps, rather than following the philosophical trend begun by Shelley and Wells and continued in various Utopian works. The success of the Amazing Stories formula virtually destroyed any chances SF might have had to become a genre of literary worth in that era.
Modern writers of New Wave SF and slipstream fiction have sometimes blamed Gernsback for everything that was bad about the Golden Age science fiction. While I think Gernsback is clearly responsible for the genre’s adolescent technology fetish, I find it hard to blame him for inspiring the misogyny and jingoism that were so rampant in early SF stories. These weaknesses were inherited from the dime novels and the pulps, and were part of the atmosphere of the times. If they mar even the best SF stories of the period, it is because they marred the world in general at that time. Had Gernsback chosen to fight these trends, the emerging genre might have produced more truly classic works at an early age, but it also might not have achieved such a popular status and might have died in its adolescence. Populism is often a necessary stage in the development of an art form.
The youth of the genre does, unfortunately, leave something of a stain on the works of the period, and many of the stories formerly considered classics of SF are rife with misogyny and jingoism. The majority of SF from this period is almost disgustingly sexist, featuring women who are nothing more than playthings or domestic servants, while most of the men are heroic conquerors of exceptional intelligence. Most of these stories seem intentionally crafted to inspire feelings of pride in the young male geeks who read them, leading to the widespread joke amongst SF writers that the Golden Age of SF is twelve.
I don't mean to imply that the entire genre suffered from these problems. Many of these early works are truly classics, and deserve to be treasured and read over and over. Even some of the most misogynist stories are written with amazing skill. Heinlein's early work is mentioned most often in this regard - Heinlein, for all his infamous misogyny and questionable politics, was a prolific and masterful writer of vibrant, imaginative stories featuring plausible science. Most of his early works are gripping, if you can ignore the fact that almost all of his female characters are basically mobile incubators.
The second major weakness of Golden Age SF, sometimes known as the Superman Syndrome, is equally visible in Heinlein’s work. Heinlein's heroes are flawless supermen who do not doubt themselves, even if the rest of the Solar System does. They do not stumble or falter in their paths, and they rarely make even minor mistakes. The challenges they face are purely technological or military in nature, never psychological or ethical. Introspection is completely out of the question. Heinlein was willing and able to philosophize and discuss ethical issues - he could pontificate for entire chapters about the role of the prostitute in Man's glorious history or the right to bear arms - but never at the expense of his heroes, who never accidentally shoot innocent bystanders and are never the sort of men who would actually need to employ prostitutes.
Heinlein's love for superhuman characters has made him infamous amongst modern readers, but he is hardly the only SF writer guilty of the Superman Syndrome. Indeed, this was typical of the genre during the Golden Age. Almost every story featured invincible supermen, and in all their interstellar explorations, none of them ever dared to penetrate the dark territory of the soul. This was another part of SF’s pulp heritage and Gernsback’s optimistic technology stories, but also had a good deal to do with John W. Campbell’s Golden Rule.
John W. Campbell, Jr. is, without any competition, the science fiction community’s most legendary figure. As editor of "Astounding Science Fiction" during its glory years, Campbell did more to shape the evolution of SF than any other person. Himself an SF writer - amongst other things, he wrote “Who Goes There?”, which Hollywood has successfully adapted not once but twice - he took over “Astounding” in 1937, and immediately began to develop a stable of the very best SF and fantasy writers. Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Fritz Leiber and A.E. Van Vogt all had their first stories printed in Campbell’s “Astounding”, and of those four, Asimov was the only one who did not immediately become part of the Astounding stable. Campbell was, by all accounts, a truly astounding editor with an uncanny sense for choosing stories that would sell magazines, leading his magazine to total domination of the SF market. But he had one especially insidious editorial rule that he never violated: in every encounter between an alien species and a human, the human had to win. Sometimes, the humans were allowed to be the underdogs, but by the end of the story, they would be completely victorious. Failure was not an option. In the long run, this meant that writers who wanted to be printed in SF's most popular magazine could not afford to use heroes with any significant flaws. A byproduct of this rule was the almost complete rejection of introspection, cultural studies, alternative lifestyles and, indeed, most of the realm of the human spirit.
Despite these criticisms, the Golden Age was a time of significant growth for the genre. Some writers, particularly the ones who did not write about aliens but concentrated on human societies, created great bodies of work which is still well worth reading. Some of this work deserves to be included in the honour rolls of great literature alongside Dickens and Shakespeare - Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury spring immediately to mind. The Utopian and dystopian books of the time are also noteworthy. Although they were writing outside of the science fiction movement, George Orwell and Aldous Huxley wrote books that did a fair job of predicting the themes of SF’s New Wave, several decades later.
Even some of the Campbellian fiction is very well-written and imaginative, despite its symptomatic shallowness. A. E. Van Vogt, for example, did brilliant work with these same cardboard heroes and archetypal, sub-human antagonists. But it is worth remembering that the Golden Age was, in all meanings of the word, the adolescence of science fiction.
THE NEW WAVE
Although SF continued to develop throughout the Golden Age, the process was mostly one of slow evolution. The next major shift in tone came around 1966-67, when a radically different stream of SF began to dominate the scene. This new SF denied, to a large extent, the gung-ho space explorer fantasies of the Golden Age, turning inwards to examine the human condition instead. The technological fetishes were all inverted. People were the important thing. Hard science was thrown out the window, to be replaced by sociological experiments and field studies of a humanity besieged by its own future and shaken to its foundations by new ideas.
Within a few years, this "New Wave" took over the awards and the fanzines, and space operas suddenly seemed hopelessly childish and irrelevant. The new writers took a perverse pride in the subversive nature of their work, often proclaiming gleefully that their stories had been rejected by Campbell and the other remaining Golden Age editors.
Once again, the revolution centered around a single editor, in this case Michael Moorcock, author of an enormous body of work featuring multiple avatars of what he called "the Eternal Champion". As editor of the British magazine "New Worlds", Moorcock relentlessly pushed young, cutting-edge writers - including unheard-of numbers of female writers - into the public consciousness. With the acclaimed writer J.G. Ballard - a literary subversive who destroyed the Earth four times in his first four novels - as the hero of the movement and a regular “New Worlds” writer, the New Wave spread quickly from the pages of "New Worlds" to the majority of SF magazines, first in Britain and, shortly afterwards, in America. In the US, Harlan Ellison quickly became the most visible representative of the 'movement', thanks to a number of exquisitely written stories and the "Dangerous Visions" anthologies.
The first "Dangerous Visions" book, published in 1967, was a massive anthology of stories selected and edited by Ellison. It was the first of its kind in many ways. Although 'themed' anthologies had appeared before, DV was the first anthology with subversion as its theme. It was also the first to feature all new stories - previously, anthologies had always contained previously published work. And, of course, it was the first anthology to collect a group of stories by New Wave writers. For many of the writers, DV was the first major exposure. "Dangerous Visions" broke all the SF sales records both in its original hardcover and later as a trilogy of paperbacks, becoming the major literary work of the year and introducing the New Wave movement to the general public.
Of course, as Ellison has taken care to point out, there wasn't really a movement, only a groundswell of young writers, children of the Sixties' cultural revolution, who wanted to explore new territory. The themes they chose were the same themes that could be heard in the new music of that time - ecological awareness, women's liberation, polyculturalism, drug experiments, Eastern religions, and pacifistic co-existence. Amongst these new themes, one of the most significant was a rising chorus of female voices that would soon give the world of SF a startlingly different tone.
FEMINISM IN S.F.
Considering that Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” is commonly called the first true SF novel, it seems strange that women were neglected for so long by the new genre. Even allowing that “Frankenstein” did not directly give birth to SF, but preceded it by 50 years, the absence of female writers and protagonists is still striking. Throughout the pulp era and the Golden Age, there were never more than a handful of women writing SF, and none of them were considered big names in the field. Even these trailblazers did not use female protagonists, and the men of their stories were as macho as any Heinlein superman - often even more so. The women they wrote about were similarly old-fashioned damsels in distress.
Women began to quietly infiltrate the genre in the late Fifties and early Sixties, when a number of them started to appear as co-editors of SF fanzines. It must be remembered that the fanzines were a major force in the field. Although their circulation figures were tiny, they were the birthing ground for almost every new SF author and were watched closely by the professionals. As a result of the growing numbers of women in the field, women began to appear as major characters and gradually evolved into modern, liberated women. Andre Norton’s “Ordeal in Nowhere” has been cited as one of the first books with a truly liberated woman as the protagonist.
It took almost another decade for women to make much of a splash in SF’s highest ranks. This finally happened in 1968, when Anne McCaffrey hit the scene. In 1968, she won the Hugo Award for Best Novella with “Weyr Search” AND the Nebula Best Novella for “Dragonrider”. Both of these stories were later worked into the novel “Dragonflight”, published a year later. By far the best book in McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series, “Dragonflight” quickly became one of SF’s perennial bestsellers and launched an amazing career.
A year later, Ursula K. Le Guin published “The Left Hand of Darkness”, one of the most influential books in the history of SF. Winning the 1969 Best Novel Nebula and the 1970 Hugo, “Darkness” was the first critically and commercially successful novel to explore themes of gender identity. It broke all the rules - not only was it written by a woman, but it was a dense, difficult book with hefty doses of philosophy and debate on the effects of gender politics. “Dragonflight” starred a tough, courageous woman as its protagonist, declaring loud and clear that women could be the equals of those burly space opera men, but “The Left Hand of Darkness” simply shattered the boundaries. For the next five years, Le Guin dominated the awards ceremonies, hauling in Hugos and Nebulas hand over fist and bringing a huge number of women into the SF readership.
SF feminism was taken to yet another new level by Joanna Russ, whose story “When It Changed” and its follow-up novel “The Female Man” stand out as two of the most militantly feminist SF masterpieces. “When it Changed” first appeared in “Again, Dangerous Visions” in 1973 (along with U. K. Le Guin’s similarly wonderful “The Word for World is Forest”). It was a battle cry, probably the first SF story to openly decry the patriarchal oppression of women throughout human history. Similar themes had appeared already in mainstream literature, but “When It Changed” and “The Female Man” made full use of the possibilities inherent in SF.
One more name must be noted in the context of feminist SF - James Tiptree Jr. This was the pseudonym of a certain Alice Sheldon, who proved by using a masculine byline that science fiction could not be evaluated in terms of the writer’s sex. From the very beginning, there was occasional debate about whether the mysterious Tiptree was male or female. The feminist tone of the work caused some fans to suspect a woman behind the nom de guerre, but most people considered Tiptree’s work a singularly male variety. Robert Silverberg is often quoted as saying with complete certainty that Tiptree’s stories could only have been written by a man. This unfortunate quote will probably haunt Silverberg forever, but he wasn’t the only one guilty of making assumptions. Harlan Ellison made a statement almost as forceful in one of the “Again, Dangerous Visions” introductions, proclaiming that “Tiptree is the man to beat this year. Kate Wilhelm is the woman, but Tiptree is the man.” If nothing else, James Tiptree showed just how silly such divisions were, and by the time her identity was finally exposed, the battle had been fought and won. Women were no longer a secondary audience, and nobody seriously considered that there was any difference between male and female SF writers.
Let us hear the legions cry now for the glory of science fiction - “Neuromancer. Neuromancer. Neuromancer!”
Science fiction has rarely been so overwhelmingly dominated by a single work. Unquestionably up there with the very best works of SF, William Gibson’s debut novel made almost as much of an impact as “The War of the Worlds”, bringing SF into millions of households and creating a major shift within the field. This book popularized the new word ‘cyberpunk’, and arguably created a demand for the World Wide Web.
Like most New Wave SF, cyberpunk usually takes place in the near future and takes a rather dark view of technology and progress. In most of these works, the modern system of government has begun to crumble, and governments hold next to no power. The real powers in cyberpunk are vast transnational zaibatsu. Artificial intelligence and virtual reality are major elements. The heroes of cyberpunk are hackers, artists, disenfranchised young people and company ninjas - edge people, who either subvert the system or live on its peripheries. In many of these stories, the real world seems hardly worth living in, and cyberspace offers the only escape from overcrowded, underpaid, hopeless worlds controlled by the pitiless zaibatsu.
All of the fuss over “Neuromancer” has blinded many readers and critics to the fact that cyberpunk fiction has clear roots in New Wave SF. This is probably due to the many mainstream readers who were introduced to SF by this book. Many critics who had always sneered at SF proclaimed “Neuromancer” to be a revolution in style and subject matter, blithely ignoring the many SF works that had led to it. Samuel R. Delany and Philip K. Dick both influenced Gibson, but since many of Gibson’s admirers had never heard of Delany or Dick, their heritage was ignored. Later developments in the genre (such as the fact that William Gibson is not the only cyberpunk writer) have also been mostly ignored by the mainstream, and cyberpunk has fallen out of favour amongst SF fans as well, with no clear replacement in sight.
WHICH WAY NOW?
In the wake of the cyberpunk movement, we find science fiction at a crossroads. From the 1980s onwards, the general public has grown more and more aware of science fiction. Mainstream authors have embraced SF ideas, while traditional SF writers have experimented with new techniques and subgenres. Hollywood has rediscovered SF and turned it into its number one genre. The shelf space dedicated to the “Science Fiction and Fantasy” niche has increased dramatically, and SF&F books regularly top the bestseller lists, if only for a few weeks at a time.
On the shelves today we can see a broad range of SF, covering all the styles discussed above as well as a range of books that don’t fall clearly into any of these movements. Golden Age and pulp works continue to be reprinted every few years - if you can’t find “Slan” on the shelves this year, it will undoubtedly reappear in another year or two. There is no clearly dominant movement in SF right now, although future scholars may argue otherwise with the benefit of hindsight.
On the surface, it seems that SF is doing better than ever. Scratch that surface, and a different picture emerges. Part of the confusion is due to the grouping of SF and fantasy in one super-genre. While SF&F may be selling well as a whole, most of the sales are in fantasy. New fantasy books outnumber SF at least two to one, with almost all fantasy books becoming launch points for trilogies, second trilogies, third trilogies, prequel quintets and other literary monstrosities. Most of the awards, as well, are going to fantasy novels. Of course, fantasy is a perfectly respectable genre in itself, and one that I personally enjoy. But it isn’t science fiction.
For another nail in SF’s coffin, let’s look back at the bookshelves. Cordon off the SF&F section and remove all the fantasy books. Take away the graphic novels and the manga, too. Now look at what’s left.
What you’ve probably got is a row of sparsely populated shelves - maybe five to ten books per shelf, most of them reprints of Heinlein and Niven. And down at the end of the row, you’ve got an entire section full of books with bright logos and lengthy series names, with teeny-tiny bylines printed way down at the bottom of the covers. From the titles of these books, you might be forgiven for thinking you had wandered into the computer games section or the video library. Star Wars, Star Trek, Babylon 5, Battletech, Man-Kzin Wars, Aliens/Predators, Warhammer 40K and Dungeons & Dragons. Doom, Myst, and HALO. Perhaps next year, The Sims. Welcome to the world of franchise universes, the wave of the future.
I’d love to ignore franchise universes. They’ve been around in various forms for almost as long as SF has been around, but only started to become a major phenomenon in the last twenty years. Once upon a time you could find a few Star Wars or Trek books scattered amongst the rest. Nowadays, franchises take up to a third of the total SF/Fantasy shelf space in stores, and a growing number of SF writers are hiring themselves out as Warner Bros. and Lucasarts hacks. Many of today’s most famous speculative fiction writers made their reputations by writing exclusively in other people’s worlds. For better or for worse - I suspect the latter - franchising may be the future of the genre. It seems the global entertainment industry has finally realized how many SF readers there are, and decided to acquire this resource by simply throwing money at it.
Several things alarm me about the franchise trend. The subject matter is a major concern. War has never been one of my favourite topics, and in my opinion war-oriented SF has always been the weakest sort of fiction, sharing the weaknesses of both military fiction and SF. The writing in this sub-genre is usually limpid in all aspects. Characterization is virtually nonexistent (who reads war stories for the characters?), descriptions are flat, the plots are completely standardized, and literary style is usually considered an unwanted intruder. Furthermore, I consider military SF a huge step backwards, towards the Campbellian school of SF, ignoring every development from 1960 onwards. Back to the days when SF was nothing more than adolescent geek entertainment, in other words. Martin Luther King said that war is a poor chisel to carve our tomorrows, and I believe this is as true in literature as in reality.
Then there is the question of artists’ rights, or lack thereof. Franchise writing is work for hire. Instead of getting percentages of sales, the writers get paychecks. They do not retain copyrights, which means the company can do whatever they want with the artists’ creations afterwards. I know at least one horror writer who would love to reprint his well-received debut novel or take its characters for another spin, but he can’t because it was part of a discontinued World of Darkness anthology. He no longer owns the story, or any of its characters and concepts. The publisher no longer has any interest in the story - but they aren’t letting go of it.
The copyright issue hinders both the writers and the stories. The effect on the writers may be considered a minor one (although personally I don’t see it that way), but the effect on the stories is creative suffocation. The plots of these books are dictated by corporate strategy, rather than artistic vision. Major characters are not allowed to die. Subversive content is frowned upon. Drastic plot changes are similarly banned, unless they are part of a committee-approved Crossover Event (always in capitals, thank you). Stylistic experimentation and unusual plot structures are strictly forbidden. Even in the hands of the best writers (it must be noted that some very talented writers have done franchise work), these books become as stale as the thirty-year-old soap operas most readers love to hate.
This leads us to another problem, that of the homogenization of the SF world. These books are bland, dumbed-down, lookalikes with cookie-cutter characters. Consider Star Trek, one of the two most popular franchises. This series, which was once something of a revolution in American television, recycled characters and situations from a range of old space opera and pulp serials. Star Trek’s original crew was an assembly of shallow cultural stereotypes, with a token representative from every minority familiar to American audiences. Except for their trademark exclamations, “ethnic” drinks and taglines (things like “It was a Russian inwention, Sir!” and “Ye canna change the laws o’ physics”), these “people” were non-characters. If it hadn’t been for Spock, himself an extraterrestrial stereotype, the whole crew would have been right at home on the bridge of an American aircraft carrier.
Star Trek deserves a lot of credit for its contribution to televised SF. During its original run, it was one of the best things on television. It was embraced by the New Wave as a harbinger of better times just around the corner (Ellison endorsed the show at almost every chance he got, and Tiptree was a certifiably rabid Trekkie). But the world has moved on. Seeing new Star Trek books on the shelves is almost as intellectually offensive as seeing new books featuring invaders from Mars with green skin and silver spacesuits. This would be inconceivable to most readers, so why are there so many new “Spock’s Children” books out now? Is the future of science fiction a 35-year-old TV show based on 60-year-old stories and 19th Century character archetypes? It will be if the entertainment industry has any say in the matter, and as long as people keep buying these books, the industry giants will continue to publish them. Populism, which I called a necessary stage in the adolescence of an art form, is now killing the mature science fiction genre by stealing its shelf space inch by inch.
I have to admit that my hatred for this insipid, homogenized sub-genre, and my disgust at the fact that many people today actually believe Star Trek and Star Wars are representative of SF in general, are the main reasons I started writing the Beginner’s Guide to Science Fiction. There are far better things out there. I want people to find them, to read them and be inspired by them. SF has had a good run, but I don’t believe it deserves to die just yet.
In the next installment of this series, I will discuss a few of the very best SF authors and books. Rest assured that no Dungeons and Dragons writers will be invited, and Jedi will be shot on sight.