It Doesn't Have To Be Right…

… it just has to sound plausible

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Having my mind melded

Sf Signal asked a bunch of people for their picks of the top five genre books, films and television of 2009. I was one of those people, and you can see my response here.

I’ll be doing my usual best of the year here on this blog as well, of course, but it won’t be limited to science fiction, fantasy or horror. And I’ll admit now that at least two of the books in my top five are mainstream (as are many of the honourable mentions). Likewise with the films. And, rather than television, I’ll be doing my best albums of the year.

My best of the year post should appear in a couple of weeks – I don’t think I’ll do it early because I still have a few books lined up for which I have high hopes…


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Science Fiction is the literature of the future

And by that I don’t mean that science fiction is stories set in the future.

At this moment in time, in purely commercial terms, taking the genre as a whole, fantasy is outselling science fiction. Mark Charan Newton gives some reasons why on his blog here.

But that means what, exactly? That sf is at risk? that it’s dying? that if this terrible state of affairs keeps up, there’ll be no more science fiction?

Of course not.

These days, I suspect it’s wrong to even call sf a genre. It’s more of a culture set. Its styles and tropes, anything which might readily identify it, have been picked up by other genres, have been spun out to create yet other genres, have become in many respects a significant part of our cultural landscape.

(This doesn’t mean I buy into the “we live in a science fiction world, so people don’t want to read it” argument. The 1950s – atomic bombs! – and 1960s – the Apollo programme! – were pretty much science fiction worlds, and the genre was going strong then.)

As I said, science fiction has spread out into a number of diverse cultures – some it has infected, some it has generated fully-formed from its own brow. Cyberpunk, steampunk, military sf, for example. It has invaded popular film and television and computer games.

So sf is no longer a monolithic genre or culture. Add up everything that can be called “science fiction” and I think you’ll find it outsells fantasy. It’s not just literature anymore. Neither, of course, is fantasy – just look at the success of The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter films. But fantasy is not yet as pervasive as sf in the western cultural landscape.

(Yes, some forms of fantasy play a significant role in western culture; but not the form usually identified as fantasy literature – unlike that which is usually identified as science fiction literature.)

So yes, science fiction is the literature of the future because it is not just literature. It is a culture, it is pervasive. It is populating, and may soon dominate, our cultural landscape. Science fiction is not just the literature of the future, it is the future.


Top 10 Displacement Activities

Ten things you find yourself doing when you should be working on a short story or novel:

1. browsing the Internet
2. reading
3. watching telly
4. playing a computer game
5. alphabetising your book-shelves
6. re-tagging your MP3 collection
7. daydreaming about the short story or novel you’re going to write
8. thinking up a top ten list of something
9. housework
10. writing blog posts about displacement activities…

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It seems my last post on Beacon Books caused to think It Doesn’t Have To Be Right is a spam blog. So they locked it and I had to ask for a review. Otherwise they would delete it. So perhaps sex and science fiction don’t mix all that well, after all.



I’ve just heard that Spandau Ballet are reforming, and I have to wonder if there is a side-effect of the credit crunch no one has considered….

All those terrible bands and celebrities of the last twenty-five years we’d happily thought had retired have also been hit by the credit crunch. So they’re relaunching their careers to bolster their dwindling incomes.

So yes, things are going to get worse. Much worse.

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Signs of the Times

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, newspapers used “monster” people – i.e., make some poor sod out to be a combination of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and Gary Glitter. It didn’t matter if they deserved such treatment. It sold newspapers.

It seems the 21st century spin on this is to take some nobody who bludgeoned their way into the public eye, and pretend they’re Princess Diana come again. It doesn’t matter if they deserve such treatment. It sells newspapers.

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Here’s An Interesting Idea…

When mismanagement by the chief executive officer of a public limited company results in that company losing billions of Pounds Sterling, how about not rewarding him* for his years of service?

Fire him. Don’t give him his benefits. And since he’s quite clearly incompetent, don’t give him a consultancy clause. Other companies should steer clear of him too, unless they want their company to make a massive loss.

I’m boggled that we might need to make laws to ensure this. Surely it’s common sense? Oh wait. Early in his career, a public auditor suggested Robert Maxwell should never be put in charge of a public limited company again. No one listened. And look what happened. So maybe we do need laws then.

Welcome to the 21st Century, where we need laws to protect us from terrorists… and the rich.

(* or her, of course)