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March 09, 2004
Stunningly Original Criticisms of Science-Fictionby Ron Hogan
Fresh off the thrill of seeing Jack Vance namechecked in the New York Review of Books, I ran across (with a nudge from A&L Daily) an article in Spiked slamming science-fiction fans, in which Sandy Starr, "something of an anorak/geek/nerd myself," says it's great that the genre is moving into the mainstream, but could we please do something about the nerds?
Of course, there are many pastimes that people pursue obsessively, and it may seem a little unfair to stick the boot into sci-fi geeks rather than car fanatics, opera buffs or stamp collectors. But of all the hobbies and interests out there, being preoccupied with the details of otherworldly settings and characters, at the expense of being engaged with the world you actually inhabit, does bespeak a certain retreat from society into the safety of one's imagination.
From there, it starts devolving into that old standby, "the Internet will turn us all into asocial recluses," before mutating into a truly odd claim about cultural stagnation leading society to treat sci-fi and epic fantasy with messianic fervor, which is deemed a problem because these genres "cannot satisfy the human urge to find meaning in life and to aspire to a better world." The solution, as she sees it, is to put science fiction "back in its proper place--that is, as a satisfying diversion, rather than as life's raison d'être." Of course, the same could be said about romance fiction, or just about any sort of fiction, but picking on nerds allows you to distance yourself from them even as you roll around in their favorite texts. It's the next best thing for those who can't work up the energy to maintain ironic detachment about their geeky sci-fi fetishes, I suppose.
And over at Patrick Neilsen Hayden's Electrolite, the readers are ripping apart what sounds like a particularly stupid Salon review of The Confessions of Max Tivoli, which is apparently not science-fiction because it's too good, or that sort of thing. (I don't link to Salon pieces except on those rare occasions that I've bothered to read them, which I usually don't because I don't have time for the ads, and what I've seen when I have taken the time hasn't, lately, encouraged me to take more, or to subscribe.)
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