“Oh, so you write too? What do you write?”
“Science-fiction and fantasy, mostly.”
“Ah. You should try some real writing.”
The above is an actual conversation I had with a visiting professor today. I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. I suppose I could have been snarky and comment that ‘Professor’ is sometimes a synonym for ‘Pompous Ass’ or quoted one sci-fi author who once said, “Don’t annoy science fiction writers. These are people who destroy entire planets before lunch. Think of what they’ll do to you.”
But I didn’t. Instead I solved his problem and sent him on his way, came back to my desk, and did some thinking.
This is not the first time I’ve heard this statement. The Print on Demand press PublishAmerica once said ‘the quality bar for sci-fi and fantasy is a lot lower than for all other fiction … They have no clue about what it is to write real-life stories, and how to find them a home.” Given that PublishAmerica once accepted Atlanta Nights, easily the worst written book of all time (dude – one chapter was written entirely by a random word generator program), I’m don’t know how much weight to give to their opinion. Do a Google search, you’ll find quite a bit more.
I’m not quite sure what causes people to have this sentiment. Maybe they just don’t like sci-fi/fantasy. That’s fine. I’m not a fan of romance but you won’t see me saying that it’s not ‘real writing’. It is real. Formulaic, maybe, but it’s still writing and given that that genre is devoured, I’d say people like it.
Perhaps these people feel that every book must fit into the shelf at a coffee shop or an art house or force you to pause and take a sip of your latte while having a grand revelation about life, the universe, and everything (spoiler – it’s 42).
Who knows? Here’s my belief :
One – Not all writing has to be grand and glorious and lead you down a path to an epiphany. Sometimes it just has to be entertaining. That’s the sort of stuff that I write and the stuff I enjoy reading. I live every day in reality; I’m not terribly keen on spending my free time in it.
This is not to say that Sci-Fi and Fantasy doesn’t make you think. Hell no. There are hundreds, thousands of short stories and novels that do that. The really good authors can do both, blending the lesson with the entertainment. Some day I hope to be included among their ranks.
Two – Fantasy (and by some definition, Science Fiction) is essential to human existence. Don’t believe me? Look at ancient cultures. How much of their folklore revolves around mystical events or other-worldly beings? How about fictitious creatures? Crack open the Bible. Believer or not, you will find some fantastic elements within that tome.
In every case, the fantasy that exists is because our ancestors needed something to be explained so that they could make sense of it and continue on living. It’s human nature. And who knows? Somewhere down the road, we might find out the answer. The impossible might become reality.
Three – Well … I don’t have a three. So I’m going to leave you with something my friend Kurt passed my way :
“Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
– G.K. Chesterton, Writer (1874 – 1936)