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Sci-Fi Books

Revolution of the Science Fiction Authors 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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Revolution of the Science Fiction Authors

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  • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MrHanky ( 141717 )

      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? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by spun ( 1352 ) <loverevolutionar ... m ['oo.' in gap]> on Friday April 22, 2011 @05:02PM (#35909984) Journal

        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?

        • "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.

          • by spun ( 1352 )

            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

            • I was mostly pointing out that when defending your position you switched the phrase "tend to be" for "may be". I can't really disagree that people who would say "I love literature" tend to be snobbier than people who say "I love books". What I disagree with is the idea that people who love literature would ignore a superbly written sci-fi book out of pure snobbery.

              • by spun ( 1352 )

                I wasn't really talking about people who actually love literature. I was talking about the literary part of the "art world," a rarefied place where self promotion, hucksterism, petty jealousies and ambition rule over talent and technical skill. It's a rather elitist world, the art world. Outsiders are not especially welcome there, (look at the condescending exhibitions of "outsider art." That's what they call it.) and Sci Fi writers are still outsiders to the art world.

        • by geekoid ( 135745 )

          "I Like reading books" sounds like someone just enjoys telling people they read.Usually the follow it up with th size of their library. "I enjoy literature" tells me they enjoy reading for reading sake.

          When you start trying to define literature in a manner that include book you like, then you get into snobbery.

    • 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 o

      • by spun ( 1352 )

        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.

        • I've read pretty much everything by Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, and Niven, so I've certainly read a lot of good hard sci-fi. Of your list, I've only read Mieville, and I'll agree with you that he's a very good writer. I wouldn't be surprised to find him on the 2012 BBC Book Night list. In fact, it's funny that you mention him since he gets a lot of credit with the elitist literary critics you dislike so much.

          “I’m not trying to distance myself from the genre I came out of, but it makes me really ha

          • I've read all of them and honestly I'd say that while all of them were great at stories and creating worlds they weren't amazing as writers.
            They're all fantastic authors but there is a difference.

            Some authors are fantastic writers, they can make any story amazing.
            They can write being a street sweeper or bin man and have the audience hanging on their every word or write about going for lunch and simply make it great fun to read.

            Some authors on the other hand are simply wonderful at creating worlds and playin

      • by Belial6 ( 794905 )

        Genres have their own great writers, but they're just not the same as literature.

        This statement simply makes no sense.

        Sci-fi IS literature. Saying that this or that written story isn't literature is no different than other subject snobs that say this or that OS isn't a "real OS", this or that isn't are "real computer", or this or that isn't "real music". All these statement show a distinct lack of understanding of the subject matter.

    • 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.

      • 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?

    • 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]


    • by 0xdeadbeef ( 28836 ) on Friday April 22, 2011 @05:37PM (#35910298) Homepage Journal

      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.

      • by spun ( 1352 )

        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.

    • by Canazza ( 1428553 ) on Friday April 22, 2011 @06:12PM (#35910620)

      What about the really old-school authors?
      Asimov's End of Eternity and The Gods Themselves are two of my favourite books (although they haven't aged well), and Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is still scarily relevant today as it was when it was written (And is a damn site less anachronistic than Asimov's future predictions) *and* Fahrenheit 451 has some excellent characterisation, is choc full of the allusions and metaphors that lit-lovers seem to gobble up.
      Before he died, Arthur C Clarke did some colabs with Stephen Baxter and Time's Eye is one of my favourite reads of the last decade. At its core it's is an exploration and deconstruction of what people of all ages past expected of the future, and how they react when they actually see it (and not in a goofy 'Bill and Ted' way, this is Arthur C Clarke after all)

      At the very least Fahrenheit 451 should have been mentioned. I still hold that above 1984 as the most portentous prediction in sci-fi, plus, it's got government sanctioned arson and that's always a bonus.

    • If you were to actually read about the whole ordeal, you would understand that the program these people are complaining about (called The Books We Really Read) was about bestsellers, not literary fiction. Think James Patterson, Nora Roberts and company. "Literature", meaning serious fiction that is meant to be artistically challenging, was not a part of the program.

    • by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Friday April 22, 2011 @06:59PM (#35911040)
      That has been made more painfully clear to me recently. My 6 year old son, (now 7) joined a book club a few months before his birthday. When discussing the books that would be on the agenda, our suggestions of age appropriate books like "The Magic Tree House" series were dismissed because the other parents wanted it to be more focused on "good literature". They were suggesting books like Moby Dick. This is for a group of readers between the ages of 6 and 8. What was decided was that each month, "the kids" would take a turn at picking the book for that month. While we are making our son read the books himself, it has become blatantly obvious, that not one single book has been read by even one of the other children. It turns out that all of the other kids parents are at best buying them "books on tape" or renting them the movie adaptations of the books.

      This month they are doing "Tom Sawyer". This is not what would be called an easy read for a teen ager or even many adults. My son is doing it, but with great effort. The other parents are just renting the movies or cartoons. Then patting themselves on the back for exposing their kids to great "liturature". It is sad.
  • Don't Worry (Score:5, Funny)

    by rlp ( 11898 ) on Friday April 22, 2011 @04:20PM (#35909600)

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

    • 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.

  • by blair1q ( 305137 ) on Friday April 22, 2011 @04:21PM (#35909616) Journal

    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.

  • As Newt says ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Friday April 22, 2011 @04:23PM (#35909628) Homepage Journal

    ... "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.

    • by Xtifr ( 1323 )

      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,

      • by kbob88 ( 951258 )

        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

      • F 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.

        Because it's usually lousy SF, clearly written by people who have no knowledge of or respect for the genre. I've lost count of the number of major literary fiction authors I've seen lauded for writing Bold! Daring! Innovative! works of science fiction -- except it's not marketed as science fiction, the authors and publishers will vehemently deny that it's scieince fiction, and if it had been written and marketed as science fiction it would have been old hat fifty years ago. If a Margaret Atwood or a Corma

  • by WebManWalking ( 1225366 ) on Friday April 22, 2011 @04:29PM (#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.
    • 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.

      • "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.

    • by spun ( 1352 ) <loverevolutionar ... m ['oo.' in gap]> on Friday April 22, 2011 @04:41PM (#35909786) Journal

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

    • 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...

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Friday April 22, 2011 @05:22PM (#35910166) Homepage Journal

      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.

      • I'm taking a course in Science, Technology and Society. Apollo 13 was shown at movie night a couple of weeks back. The best part is that one of the Grumman engineers (the gentleman who designed the thruster control stick module) was the instructor and we had a nice, long Q&A afterward.

  • Not surprising (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    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.

  • 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.

    • The biggest problem with the BBCA is that they HAVE plenty of British shows, even Genre show, that are worth airing in place of ST:TNG and the like. Jeckyll, Strange, Ultraviolet, Outcasts, etc, etc. Not to mention all the non-genre programming. Yes, fine - skip the soaps. But what about stuff like Newswatch, 10 O'Clock Live, etc?

      And hey, Primeval is pretty bad, but I like Being Human. And it's scads better than the US version.

  • by davevr ( 29843 ) on Friday April 22, 2011 @05:21PM (#35910154) Homepage

    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!

    • also, "for a writer to be labeled as a science fiction writer, he needs only to notice that technology exists."

  • 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).
  • Science is an embarrasment to the BBC. Their TV coverage is meant to be "inclusive", so they don't like technical terms and abstract thoughts - only tangible, here-and-now stuff. They are so scared of accusations of elitism (as if the "elite" weren't entitled to TV programmes, or views) that they try their hardest to dumb down every aspect of their content.

    Partly it's because they are staffed mainly by arts graduates (who don't like being made to appear ignorant, with concepts they don't understand) , and

  • Hasn't the BBC always hated SciFi? There is no point having tax payer money and zero accountability if you aren't going to create pretentious crap and sad reality tv. The Python days have long since been over. The last Brit sci-fi I remember that was any good was Red Dwarf back in the '80s, and that was Channel 4. The only long-running TV sci-fi was Babylon 5... and that was Channel 4. Pretty much everything since (Star Trek / Stargate / etc) has all been Sky.

    Does anybody watch the BBC any more for anything

You know you've been spending too much time on the computer when your friend misdates a check, and you suggest adding a "++" to fix it.