April 8, 2009

Why Sci-Fi and Fantasy?

Have you ever been looked at cross eyed for being a fan of or a writer who specializes in science fiction or fantasy? I have. High school teachers, college professors, friends, and some family members, upon finding out my aspirations to make a living by the pen and my penchant for the genres, have given me a look that screams, "Why waste your time with that stuff for social rejects when you could write romance, or crime fiction, or suspense, or humor?" even as they plaster on a fake smile and try to come up with something a bit more polite to say.

You know what I have to say to their attitude? Why not write science fiction and fantasy? I've tried my hand at romance, mystery, horror, humor, and suspense. My horror was a bit tame, and my sense of humor is a little to dry for most folks' taste. I'm capable of pulling off romance, mystery, and suspense, but I simply enjoy writing in my preferred genres more. Plus, there's a level of quality my joy in writing the piece brings to the finished product you simply don't find in something less pleasurable to compose.

Well, why does anyone enjoy science fiction or fantasy? Why were the genres developed in the first place?

There's so much to explore, especially with the strides being made in the sciences today. Being a woman naturally drawn to the sciences, exploring the possibilities in tomorrow's technologies is second nature. Also, there is a level of social detachment interjected by placing your story in a completely different culture which frees you up to speak about issues difficult to address without immediately alienating good chunks of your audience.

Yes, there's a level of escapism in the genres. This is why so many academics and writers tend to look down their noses at "genre fiction." They lump it all together in a gigantic bubble gum wrapper and toss it in the bin with everything else they consider entertainment junk food, never noticing the nutrition for the soul held within.

Variety and spice are as essential in maintaining a healthy love of reading as it is in keeping to a healthy diet. Elements such as fantastical species, magic, exotic cultures, and space travel or other advance technologies are the basil, oregano, rosemary, and thyme to the skinless baked chicken and steamed veggies of social commentary held within.


  1. My theory about the reaction is extremism some fans take their fandom too. Mystery/comedy/romance readers are all a quietly invisible market-force while fantasy/sci-fi readers boldly proclaim "I don't care who knows I love it!"

    This confidence (or obliviousness) in self-exposure is not "kosher" in our homogeneous society where blending in and not making waves are virtues.


    Also, they move farther from the core of existence and into (sometimes) lesser-used parts of the brain and imagination.

    That is, murder mysteries appeal to our sense of justice and our urgency for truth, romance seeks to ease or feed the emotional need for something we perceive as love, and humor is so deep in us as individuals most of us have never analized why we laugh at what we laugh at.

    Sci-fi and Fantasy take any or all of these elements, wrap them in a new skin and throw them far away from you.

    The distance can be via, time space or species differences. Star Trek was famous for using that distance to say things that could not have been said if not for that distance.

    (Okay, this is totally going to be it's own post someday...)

    1. I think you're on to something. Geek culture has become a lot more prevalent in the last few years, but the abundance of enthusiasm shown by some can and does still put a lot of people off.

      Then you also have the folks who just don't get what's going on for whatever reason. It takes a certain amount of imagination to really enjoy a story far removed from reality, and sadly there are many who just seem to "outgrow" their imaginations.