galactic brain: Unfortunately though, at times even science fiction authors themselves can turn on their own kind: “Science fiction is rockets, chemicals and talking squids in outer space,” mocked Margaret Atwood (The Guardian, 28 January 2009), one of her many attempts to convince people that she is not a science fiction author, even though one of her most famous novels, A Handmaid’s Tale, is exactly that. By John Howell
'In an article in the New York Times (4 October, 2009) publicising her new novel The Year of the Flood, Atwood declared that her dystopian novels are not science fiction. The article described The Year of the Flood as a novel set in “a violent future society created by a man-made plague” with “genetically-engineered humans and animals amid a ruined environment”, which sounds a lot like science fiction to me.
'Of course, this establishment snobbery and naivety are not confined to the literary world. In the world of films and television, judges are equally unforgiving regarding anything tainted with the label science fiction. There has never been a major science fiction film to win the best picture at the Academy Awards for example, and with television, too, excellent writing or productions are not science fiction, but something else entirely. David Langford, in his science fiction newsletter Ansible, has a regular section titled “As Others See Us”, which is always worth a look as it paints a clear picture of the naive, limited views publishers and the press have of science fiction. He recently reported that Torchwood director Euro Lyn, claimed that the third series Torchwood: Children of Earth, “reaches out beyond the sci-fi genre. It’s a human story of epic proportions.” Of course, epic human stories would never be a part of science fiction, would they?
'Philip K. Dick is a notable exception in an otherwise long history of science fiction abuse by publishers, the press and sometimes even science fiction writers themselves. Is science fiction destined to remain drowning in the gutter, unappreciated by the so called “judges” and “arbiters” of great literature? Will science fiction authors ever escape the publication ghetto? If not, if the works of science fiction authors remain unrewarded and unloved by the literati, I’ll happily remain in the gutter with SF readers and writers alike. The gutter is obviously the place to be.'