Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

The Dissing of SF

by Rob - January 29th, 2008.
Filed under: Uncategorized.

I get awfully tired of the dissing of science fiction. In the last hour, I had to deal with it not once but twice. First, a major publisher doing a nonfiction book followed up in email on a bound galley they’d sent me; they want me to blurb the book. I gave them the blurb, but I added this to my commentary:

Let me gently say that I found your existing back-cover text offensive. Someone at your company wrote:

“The stuff of science fiction? Not so. These are actually the reasonable predictions of scientists attempting to forecast a few decades into the future …”

Which implies that what we science-fiction writers do are UNreasonable predictions — indeed, wild-ass guesses — and that “the stuff of science fiction” is a synonym for far-out fantasy. It isn’t — and given that you’re publishing a book by a science-fiction writer, and soliciting blurbs from science-fiction writers, I hope you’ll re-think this ill-advised cover copy.

The careers of serious science-fiction writers such as myself have been all about “reasonable predictions,” and to suggest otherwise is to insult not only your own author but the core readership for this book, by implying they’ve been foolish to listen to what science fiction has to say. If you mean to say, “The stuff of fantasy,” then say that; don’t be unfair to science fiction and its practitioners.

Then a Canadian magazine, which is sponsoring a $110-per-ticket public debate I’d agreed to be part of, sent me their draft ad copy for the event, identifying me as “world-renowned futurist Robert J. Sawyer.” My response:

It’s silly to bill me only as a futurist. I am by far better known as a science-fiction writer. Either say:

“world-renowned science-fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer”

or, if you want to use the word “futurist,” use it in addition to “science-fiction writer”:

“world-renowned science-fiction writer and futurist Robert J. Sawyer”

I’m adamant about this, I’m afraid. I simply refuse to try to pass as someone who should be associated with your magazine by hiding what I do for a living. I am a science-fiction writer, and you either think there’s value in having one such on your panel, in which case I’m happy to participate, or you don’t, in which case I’ll politely bow out.

I can understand people dissing SF out of ignorance, but why people would diss it at the same time they’re coming to an SF writer for a favour is utterly beyond me.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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