Friday, August 14, 2015

Quickies: Book Recommendations Founded On The Presumption Of Authority

     Once in a while, persons who fancy themselves as experts in some fictional genre will make or contribute to a list like this one. On the one hand, such lists help to establish that science fiction, a longtime favorite reading genre of mine, has attained “legitimacy.” On the other, it gives cultural pygmies another venue in which to assume a mantle of authority and pontificate at us.

     Of the ten books on this list, only four qualify as science fiction. Five of the others make use of one or two SF motifs the author finds useful for differentiating his book from the competition. One is an outright fantasy, without any of the traits of SF. Worse, only three of them are at all entertaining, the others being self-consciously “literature,” intolerably ponderous, or examples of “message writing.”

     On a related point: The cited list puts me in mind of a high school English class that featured three “science fiction” novels: Orwell’s 1984, Huxley’s Brave New World, and Golding’s Lord of the Flies. I argued fiercely against the classification of 1984 and Lord of the Flies as SF – yes, I was an opinionated little bastard even then – and largely won my point. It’s somewhat disturbing that the surge in popularity of the SF genre should have so many writers hungry for recognition and revenue claiming to be practitioners. Plus ca change, I suppose.

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