The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

3 January 2007

Why everybody else's taste sucks

There are few things in life as much fun as the curt dismissal of an entire genre:

Science fiction isn't all Star Trek and spaceships but it is almost completely devoid of stylists, writers whose mastery of poetic language lends their works an enduring quality. It is really not that daring to suggest that the typical sci fi devotee is a socially awkward white male who prizes laborious detail of setting over literary quality. Hence the dominance of writers like Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert and William Gibson, in whose entire output one will find not a single stirring passage or notable use of metaphor. And yet their fans must number in the millions.

It is indeed not that daring, but that's as far as I'll go with it. I have to admire, though, the sheer pluck of someone who can read the complete oeuvre of three fairly prolific writers while presumably being bored throughout the entire exercise. (I couldn't take that much of Herbert myself.)

Of course, there's always the chance that our critic is more interested in demonstrating how superior he is to those SF partisans, inasmuch as he's read The Vicar of Wakefield, but that couldn't be it, could it?

And God forbid women should read this stuff:

My suspicions about any woman who announced a love of science fiction would be, in order:
  1. Dumpy looking
  2. Socially maladept
  3. Resigned to grabbing the low hanging fruit of mating material

Encountering a truly good looking woman who enthuses about this male-oriented dreary genre trash would certainly cause me to raise an eyebrow.

Is that the problem? It's "male-oriented"? Horrors! Bring on the romances!

(Via Kathy Shaidle, who presumably had her reasons.)

Posted at 6:22 AM to Almost Yogurt

If commercials are any indicator I'd have to say that the audience for the Star Trek shows has matured from the nerd/geek to the sexually promiscuous that are at risk of catching HIV and Herpes. Spike has put Voyager back on the air. Two episodes and I'm almost convinced to consult with my doctor. Geeze.

Posted by: Joe at 8:27 AM on 3 January 2007

"Dumpy looking, Socially maladept, and Resigned to grabbing the low hanging fruit of mating material" definitely do not describe my wife. You should see her sci-fi book collection, it's larger than Choctaw Library's sci-fi area.

Posted by: Dan B at 10:31 AM on 3 January 2007

"Low hanging fruit," eh? On my bedside table I have Nabokov's Pale Fire, Proust's Rememberance of Things Past, and Anne McCaffrey's Pale Dragon... all of which I'm taking turns reading depending on what mood I'm in at night.

Low-hanging fruit? Hardly.

Posted by: Venomous Kate at 12:50 PM on 3 January 2007

He's right about Asimov. Asimov's strength was pop science. Or "popularized science" may be a better way of putting it.

The writer here is wrong about the demographics-I bet it splits more 60/40 male/female than the 90/10 he hints at.

But even if he's right about the numbers, I wouldn't assume that females interested in SF must be lacking in some way. Do we assume women who watch sports are ugly or butch? Or both?

Now, if they PLAY softball, all bets are off.

Posted by: John Salmon at 4:04 PM on 3 January 2007

This Udolpho gent also wants us all back in suits and ties. He sounds as if he's slowly getting psyched up to move to India. 1890s India under the British, that is.

Posted by: Francis W. Porretto at 4:31 PM on 3 January 2007

Hmm. Maybe if my sci-fi-loving wife ever succeeded in convincing me to wear a kilt, the low-hanging fruit" part might apply. And that would make her one for three.

Posted by: McGehee at 4:50 PM on 3 January 2007

"This Udolpho gent also wants us all back in suits and ties. He sounds as if he's slowly getting psyched up to move to India. 1890s India under the British, that is."

You say that like it's a bad thing. Actually, though, I wouldn't want to move to 1890s India -- no a/c.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at 7:20 PM on 3 January 2007

Perusing the stacks at a local used bookstore the other day, I was disheartened to find that fully 1/3 of the SciFi was Star Trek novels. Pure dreck, in my opinion. Painting all science fiction with the Star Trek brush is as unfair as it is ignorant.

The fact that Mr. Udolpho hasn't read any excellent literary sci-fi tells me he is poorly read, not that he is somehow better than sci-fi fans.

I assume he has never read _A Canticle for Liebowitz,_ and of course nothing by Borges would ever be considred SciFi because it's "literary." _The Handmaiden's Tale_ wouldn't qualify as SciFi either, I assume. Whether they are mainstream scifi or not, all of these are clearly speculative fiction, the genre of that encompasses SciFi and Fantasy. And they're all "literature," whatever that means. They could all be serialized in Asimov's or published by Tor or other the great scifi houses today.

Yes, I read Borges in Spanish. Yes, I have a degree in English. And yes, I love SciFi.

Posted by: Dan at 1:06 AM on 4 January 2007

And if you can make a case for those, you can make a case for Gravity's Rainbow, but God (or Captain Blicero) forbid that anyone should shelve Pynchon with the SF/Fantasy stuff.

Posted by: CGHill at 7:24 AM on 4 January 2007

Pynchon's too dense for me. I couldn't even plow through Vineland. I got halfway through Gravity's Rainbow a couple of times.

Posted by: Dan at 5:50 PM on 4 January 2007

I went and read a bit of that Udolpho character's writing. That guy has some serious issues and should seek medical help immediately.

As for SF, I've been hooked on it since teen years. Yes, I have my likes and dislikes, like everyone else. But whether it is SF, murder mysteries, romance, or early Russian Czarist documentaries, there are good and bad authors, good and not-so good sub-genres. What good could it possibly serve to bash those who have slightly different, or even drastically different preferences. Doing so would not make me more of a man or person than I am. In fact, I believe that it would diminish me if I had to stoop to such slimy tactics simply because I did not have enough substance of my own to feel secure without attacking others.

Posted by: Winston at 7:38 AM on 7 January 2007