science fiction: more than aliens and jumpsuits.

| Monday, July 12, 2010
Today's Tune: I'll Still Be a Geek After Nobody Thinks It's Chic (The Nerd Anthem)

A while back, the Sci Fi Channel changed its name to SyFy. I'm pretty sure when I started seeing the commercials advertising the name change was coming, my eyebrows went into my hairline. It didn't take long for me to figure out what they were doing.

Science Fiction is for nerds, see. Antisocial weenies with zits and glasses who play Dungeons and Dragons and lust after Seven of Nine. The theory was that the network wasn't receiving more viewers because people saw "Sci Fi" and were thinking, "Ew, geek TV. I hate Star Trek and alien movies." So they had to "coolify" Sci Fi's image by giving it a sleek new name to lure in all the SF haters. And yes, they so much as admitted this was true.

This attitude annoys me to no end, but what annoys me more is that it's not entirely untrue. People have preconceived and misplaced notions about Science Fiction. That it always involves space travel and/or aliens, for example. It's full of boring technobabble. Only people who eat physics for breakfast could enjoy such entertainment. IT'S DORKY.

And I'm here, of course, to tell you... UM, NO.

Here's a little factoid for SF haters... you don't hate SF. Maybe you don't like space operas or Doctor Who. But you don't hate SF. If you enjoy Star Wars... The Fifth Element... The Matrix... Weird Science... The Maze Runner... Leviathan... Boneshaker... Back to the Future... Ender's Game... Watchmen... A Brave New World... Firefly... Serenity... LOST... A Wrinkle in Time... The Golden Compass... Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles...

I have news for you. YOU. LIKE. SCIENCE. FICTION.

And if you maybe sort of know of this one author who wrote a book with the tagline "Science Fiction for people who don't like Science Fiction?" Tricked, because YES YOU DO. Oh, and the fact that the vampires in said author's other universe are attempted to be explained by biology rather than myth? SCIENCE. FICTION.

Yes, I said it. If you like Twilight, YOU ARE A SCI FI NERD HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Sort of.

See, this is how insidious the aversion to SF has become. Even authors who are ACTIVELY WRITING LOOSELY BASED SCIENCE FICTION will not admit that they like it, or that they write it. How sad is that? I mean, genuinely, Ms. Meyer kind of hurt my feelings when she put out The Host with the caveat that SF was good enough to write on a lark, but not good enough to enjoy more widely.

But this is the thing: SF is a huge genre, and the only requirement is that the elements of a SF story are plausible within the natural or postulated realm of science. Outside that, the possibilities are endless. There's action, drama, spies, romance, hilarity, humanity, and really cool gadgets. James Bond? Also kind of Science-Fictiony, guys. Q doesn't magic those gizmos into existence.

There are hybrid genres, such as Science Fantasy, which is what Madeline L'Engle's series are often classified as. Unicorns who can travel via folds in the fabric of time and space? YOU BETCHA.

Why am I blabblering on about SF, anyway? Well, I write it. Almost any writing sample you're going to read on this blog is drenched in it. I feel obligated to break down the barriers that surround SF, and to remind everyone that it's not inaccessible. It's not all "hard" science. It's not nerdy. Not like being a nerd is bad ANYWAY, but I digress.

All I ever ask is for people to open their minds a little. Forget your biases. I promise you, there is a science-y novel out there for you somewhere. And hey, if you give it a chance and find you still think SF is totally boring, no harm no foul. I only want you to try. You don't have to go for the SF section of the bookstore and pick up the craziest looking space opera or anything.

Try some steampunk. Or FEED by M.T. Andersen. Something that piques your interest and makes you want to read.

Then read it.


{ fairyhedgehog } at: July 12, 2010 at 8:13 AM said...

I've loved science fiction since I was a kid so I've had plenty of time to get past the stigma (I was born in 1954)! Science fiction wasn't for girls, for a start (but then not much that was interesting was for girls).

I love it all. The dorky, nerdy, geeky stuff, and the mainstream stuff. It would be nice if more authors would admit that's what they're writing. Margaret Atwood, I'm looking at you!

{ JustineDell } at: July 12, 2010 at 8:17 AM said...

Hahaha...this made me laugh. I do like SciFi after all!! ;-)


{ Sarah N Fisk } at: July 12, 2010 at 8:48 AM said...

I recently wrote an article very similar to this.

Don't forget Terminator, Heroes, and Transformers!

{ Nicole Murray } at: July 12, 2010 at 9:06 AM said...


Read my most recent blog. We are so on the same page. And I rolled my eyes too when Sci Fi became SyFy. It just felt cheapened to me.

Cool post from a fellow SF nerd and chick.

{ maybe genius } at: July 12, 2010 at 10:23 AM said...

@ fairy - Oh yes, the old "women can't understand/enjoy science!" bit. If they say so, right? ;)

@ Justine - I'm telling you, Twilight is totally (kind of) based in science, lol!

@ Sarah - Oh, of course! And X-Men, which has a premise similar to Heroes, now that I think about it :)

@ Nicole - VIVA LA SCI FI! I'll have to swing over and check it out. I'm always glad to meet fellow "outed" SF nerds.

{ jjdebenedictis } at: July 12, 2010 at 11:23 AM said...

Not to mention Margaret Atwood, whose illustrious career as a literary writer was launched by The Handmaid's Tale--which is TOTALLY science fiction. Futuristic dystopia, hello?

The sad thing is, she would never have been taken seriously if she hadn't strenuously denied the book was science fiction. She was smart to do that (dishonest, but smart.)

{ fairyhedgehog } at: July 12, 2010 at 12:49 PM said...

jj, I'd have thought Atwood was established enough to admit to writing sci fi!

Another one is Kazuo Ishiguro with "Never Let You Go". (And 1984 was sci fi but they let us read it for A level!)

{ fairyhedgehog } at: July 12, 2010 at 12:50 PM said...

Oops, I mean "Never Let Me Go".

{ j.leigh.bailey } at: July 12, 2010 at 1:25 PM said...

I admit that I'm a dork, but hey, geek is chic, right? Sadly, however, my entertainment choices are not the only indicator. I would say that at least I never played D&D, but then I'd also have to admit that the only reason I didn't is because I didn't know anyone who did, so I wasn't exposed to it. But looking back, I'd totally do D&D, too. I have to say, though, that I'm pretty sure the change to SyFy is disappointing.

{ maybe genius } at: July 12, 2010 at 1:33 PM said...

@ jj - I know, right? I *hate* that. As if SF can't be philosophical, or literary, or important.

@ j. leigh - Nothing wrong with geekdom. And really, I think everyone is a "geek" in their own way. Some just won't admit it :)

{ Tui } at: July 12, 2010 at 3:09 PM said...

I mean, genuinely, Ms. Meyer kind of hurt my feelings when she put out The Host with the caveat that SF was good enough to write on a lark, but not good enough to enjoy more widely.

I find it... I don't know, ironic? Hilarious? That this comes from the author of a paranormal romance series, probably the only genre more maligned and ghettoised than science fiction. (Actually, fantasy would also fit the bill. Just try to watch people bend out of the way explaining why Audrey Niffeneger is writing literary fiction, not fantasy and SF!)

The Time-Traveler's Wife is another science fantasy book that people forget is science fantasy.

{ jason evans } at: July 12, 2010 at 3:19 PM said...

The haters are just jealous. ;)

Yep, everyone is a fan of SF to a point.

I was pretty affected by Dune when I read it at 15. It introduced me to the dark world of politics and subterfuge.

{ Theresa Milstein } at: July 12, 2010 at 3:50 PM said...

There's a lot of overlap with fantasy/sci fi. When I was younger, I rarely read sci fi, but I find myself reading it more and more. I think the genre has changed a lot.

I still don't think those... books... you mention are sci fi.

{ maybe genius } at: July 12, 2010 at 5:14 PM said...

@ Tui - Oh yes, Time-Traveler's Wife, absolutely. The whole concept that SF can't be literary grates on me.

@ jason - Haters be hatin' ;)

@ Theresa - Haha. I was really being facetious, since I know the Twilight Saga isn't *really* science fiction. I just think it's silly when an author uses some sort of science (The vampires go through this biological change that renders their skin hard as diamond! Vampires are created via venom poisoning!), but they say (or their publicists say, maybe) that they're not into SF.

{ aspiring_x } at: July 12, 2010 at 7:42 PM said...

You. Are. My. Hero (ine).

{ KarenG } at: July 13, 2010 at 3:32 PM said...

So is this why they're calling it speculative fiction now? Because they want to be seen as cool and not nerdy? And why is syfy cooler than sci fi?

{ Damyanti } at: July 15, 2010 at 5:28 AM said...

A friend introduced me to "Revelation Space" by Alastair Reynolds today, with an excerpt, and I loved it. I am not a hard core sci-fi fan, but I like reading one from time to time.

I think closing your mind to any particular type of reading limits you.

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