Dabbling in Science Fiction Fandom

sf convention

Photo credit – Knoxville News – Science Fiction convention – place and date unknown

In recent comments on the File 770 SF/F news blog criticizing veteran SF writer Robert Silverberg over comments he made about author NK Jemisin’s Hugo Award acceptance speech last summer, one of the things mentioned is that Silverberg hasn’t read any SF stories written in the past ten years, like that’s a bad thing.

In comments I made on twitter last summer criticizing the objectivity of the Hugo Awards, one person accused me of not being “a fan,” as if being a fan were some sort of exalted and coveted position.

But as I continued to gather information about the Hugos and how one is nominated for an award, I realized that although the pool of voters each year is relatively small (I’d estimate anywhere between a few hundred and a few thousand), probably all of them are avid SF/F readers and viewers who consume tons and tons of the latest available works. I guess that’s what my critic meant when she said I wasn’t a fan.

But wait a minute. How much SF/F do I read?

First of all, I don’t exclusively read science fiction. I have other tastes, such as mysteries, and even the occasional biography. Also, I read a non-trival amount of material written by indie authors, so they’re not in the mainstream and they are highly unlikely to receive any awards (I’m not even sure if the rules allow indie published SF to be nominated for a Hugo).

Anyway, I got curious and decided to find out, so I created a new page on this blog called Book and Film Reviews. I wrote a fair number of reviews in 2016, none in 2017, and picked them back up again this year (and 2018 is just about done).

I found a total of 30 reviews that I’ve written over the past two years or so, mainly of books and films, though I did review one television series and one graphic novel.

Of those 30, 21 of them were some printed work, a novel, anthology, or short story. Of those, 17 were in the realm of SciFi. Finally, of the SF material, 15 were published in the past ten years (I did read “The Man in the High Tower,” but it was published in 1962, and I also read Atwood’s “A Handmaid’s Tale,” but it was published in 1985, so I guess those don’t count). Now I probably read more books and stories in the past two years, but those were the ones I reviewed on this blog (and on Amazon), so those were the ones I could quantify.

Currently, I’m reading a book a friend at work lent me called The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder which was published in 2010, so it also “counts.”

However, I think it’s in my best interest to read as much recent SF/F as possible to get some sort of idea as to what seems to be popular. Since the aforementioned NK Jemisin’s Hugo Award winning novel The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth Book 1) is available through my local public library system, I think I’ll make it next on my list. I’m also interested in comparing my favorite award winning SF novels from my youth to those modern award winners. It’s going to be interesting.

I belong to a closed Science Fiction group on Facebook, and with all this in mind, I posed the following question:

Last night, I re-watched the 1966 two-part Star Trek episode The Menagerie, the only episode to win a Hugo award. I think it really was magnificent storytelling, but then, I’m pretty old school. It made me wonder if, over the long decades, the nature of “award-winning” science fiction stories have changed based on evolving social consciousness and requirements. Saying that, I further wonder if I’d be as impressed with modern Hugo award winners. Anyone out there have a perspective on this?

Yes, last night, I was in the mood for a good, old-fashioned space opera and this one filled the bill nicely, but it does bring up the question of whether or not my taste in SF is too “old school.” Maybe that’s one of the reasons none of my submitted stories have been selected for publication so far. Maybe they read like they were written in the 1960s or 70s.

Actually, I don’t think that’s a major concern, largely because of the feedback I received in the fiction writing class I took last month. However in considering my consumption of SciFi, perhaps my taste in stories is like my taste in music, which is to say, frozen a few decades in the past.

Well, there’s only one way to find out.

11 thoughts on “Dabbling in Science Fiction Fandom

  1. There are some folks whose taste in music is “frozen” more than two centuries into the past, for a genre of music produced within a limited geographic area and set of western cultures. That is not a bad thing, because this “classical” music demonstrates a wide range of complexities and fundamental musical elements and techniques which illustrate the development of music from fairly primitive simple techniques to advanced complex ones. Indeed, variations of those same techniques produce virtually all subsequent music, though techniques developed in some other cultures has also influenced and been incorporated into subsequent musical development.

    If similar analysis is applied to the development of the storytelling genre of science fiction, one cannot dismiss new stories that reflect the classical styling; and one may compare new stories against the classical standard in order to analyze and evaluate them. The fundamental questions remain, such as: what if some previously-unimagined circumstances occur? How will existing humans adjust to new circumstances or events? What if the humans themselves become different? Do they remain human or become something else? What does it mean to be human? What are the likely consequences of a given change? How may some potential change that is deemed threatening or destructive be resisted, combatted, or avoided? Will new circumstances alter human behavior, or will humans continue to behave as their prior history has demonstrated, even within a different framework or under different conditions? What if the new circumstances include different kinds of intelligent non-terrestrial species? What about encounters with non-intelligent species and their environments? How much latitude dare humans exert when their explorations affect other species and environments, either helpfully or destructively? Note that means for accessing changed or different environments and species have included space travel, time travel, and cross-dimensional or sidereal travel. Sometimes these means are used to consider encounters with alternative developments within the human species, sometimes effected by disease or other mutagenic influences.

    Now science fiction storytelling can be simply thoughtful or curious, or it can be polemic and preachy. It can be moralistic or anti-moralistic. It can suggest what might happen or what the author thinks ought to happen or ought not to happen. It can challenge its readers to evaluate expectations or prejudices, in others or in themselves. It is, of course, subject to the rules which govern any propositional communication or expression. It can be judged as right or wrong, wise or foolish, perceptive or shortsighted, convincing or unpersuasive, or any combination or shading of these qualities. Its readers will evaluate whether it is interesting or boring, well-told or disjointed, disordered, or confusing, effective or ineffective, affective or emotionless, and whether or how well it may correspond with currently-accepted cultural values and tastes. Where, in any of these considerations, is the determination of whether it is “good” or “bad”? Perhaps time will tell.

    Liked by 1 person

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