Science Fiction Needs to Come Out of the Ghetto!

I had the pleasure of zooming on a few items and the combined BSFA and SFF virtual convention yesterday. Like any such variety of events, some were better than others. But two things stuck out for me.

The first was the seemingly unanimous condemnation of The Guardian’s article on Cli Fi that was published yesterday. (you can read it here) This is not a new wave of Cli Fi as the article claims. In fact there have been loads of comments pointing out loads of science fiction fictions on climate change that have been written since the middle of the last century. The list of such novels seems endless. The point being made here is that the author of the article chose to ignore all the science fiction that is cli fi.

The second thing that stuck out was one of the guests of honour made a point that science fiction is the poor relation of other genres. Tade Thompson has now been elected Vice President of the BSFA. When asked what he would be doing in his role, he indicated that he wants to bring science fiction out into the light to be alongside other genres. I wish him every success in his endeavour.

Both these things point to science fiction still being in the ghetto, the genre everyone does not want to admit to publicly reading. Well that’s not quite true. People will admit to reading science fiction if they don’t think their listeners or readers will laugh at them for reading such a genre. I’ve had quite a few people say they’re interested in reading it and wish there were more good novels out there.

Hm. I suspect they’re shy of being caught reading the novel unless it is a widely acknowledged masterpiece.

But I hear you say, if science fiction is a ghetto genre, how can it produce masterpieces? Or do I hear you say, if it doesn’t produce masterpieces, how can the genre get out of the ghetto? A truly vicious circle. In the meantime, the literary cli-fi novels coming from big names outside of the genre are making the profits. Science fiction is once again being starved of the income, both authors and publishers alike.

I personally haven’t really touched cli fi, except in a short story, Ripple Effect, published in Jupiter Issue 37, Pasithee in 2012. It’s more about the politics behind climate change rather than the impact and consequences of climate change.

And herein is the lesson – climate change will not be solved until there is a global political will to solve it. If only the politicians had listened to the science fiction authors sooner!

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