Monday, August 23, 2004

"Media" SciFi: An old pet peeve showed up again last night while I was reading Gardner Dozios's introduction to his most recent Year's Best Science Fiction anthology, which my brother got me for my birthday.

On the one hand, he was arguing against the "SF is dying" crowd by pointing out how good a lot of the numbers are for SF publishing houses and how many books are being published compared with thirty years ago. On the other hand he was openly contemptuous of most "media" science fiction, the movies and TV shows that give a lot of people their first taste of science fiction and lead them, hungry for more, into trying out the books and the magazines, and driving those numbers up.

Star Wars, the single movie probably most responsible for making people begin to claim appreciation for SF who otherwise wouldn't have, is the biggest target of contempt. Didn't the first one come out just under thirty years ago?

Of course, media tie-in books remain beneath contempt, the unmentionable sin.

Is there such a phrase as "mocking the hand that feeds you?"

It's also funny because Dozios, in this same intro, points out how Michael Chabon, in his anthology Thrilling Wonder Tales, is pretending to be rediscovering genre fiction, while so many people (including Dozios himself) have been hanging out in that territory the entire time. Dozios's attitude about being disregarded so flippantly is ironic, given how quickly he's willing to disregard films that reach a much broader audience than the books or magazines manage to.

They don't do this in other genres. They mystery fans don't poo-poo mystery movies. The romance fans don't whine about "those simple-minded, factory produced Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan popcorn films." Why do the sci-fi folks gotta be all snobbish about it?

I think the answer is this--a huge part of the Sci-Fi literary establishment still wants mainstream literary types to take them seriously. They see the SciFi movies as standing in the way of this. They hope that by repeatedly and publicly disassociating themselves from the movies and TV shows, they can eventually convince the mainstream literary establishment they're different, and should be examined differently.

Mystery and romance reader's don't have the same problem because they've already accepted the fact that they're not accepted as literary, and they're willing to enjoy themselves anyway.

But the SciFi folks still think that's a party they want to get into. So they do what anyone would do who thought an embarrassing sibling was keeping them from getting into the "right" circles--they publicly and loudly ridicule him every chance they get.

So what did you think of the guy in high school who made fun of his somewhat goofy brother in order to impress the snobs?

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