Posts Tagged ‘SF/F’

Science and Awe, and F Displacing SF

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

I read an interesting article recently in the National Post discussing how fantasy, over the last few decades, is displacing science fiction. As a fantasy writer with a PhD in research science, I’ve thought a lot over the years about this very subject.

I’ve heard the displacement of SF attributed in part to the landing of the Viking 2 lander on Mars in 1976. Before that landing, SF featuring aliens or creatures living on Mars was still reasonably plausible. But after the Viking lander sent back those pictures of the actual surface of the planet, those scenarios were obviously inaccurate. So SF had to abandon them and stick with scientifically plausible ones.

The period of that landing also included several other major things in F/SF. Fantasy exploded in the U.S. in the early 70s, fueled by the paperback release of The Lord of the Rings, and publishers met the booming demand for similar epic F with lots of new trilogies. Classic fantasy, like Conan and Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser, was rediscovered. The World Fantasy Awards were founded, giving fantasy some artistic legitimacy.

I think one of the things this new fantasy captured well was the sense of awe and wonder that draws so many readers to F/SF. After the Viking probe drained most of the speculative wonder from the surface of Mars, SF lost some of its potential for that awe in Mars as a fictional setting. I think that same pattern has repeated many times since after more recent and more specialized scientific discoveries.

Some SF, as the Post article points out, has kept using fantastical elements that modern scientists consider impossible, such as FTL drive and time travel. But fantasy still outsells SF as the choice of most speculative fiction readers. Perhaps they like fantasy’s familiarity, with its common pre-tech or paranormal urban settings. Perhaps they don’t like scientific details as entertainment (I’ve taught enough college chemistry courses to know first-hand that many people just don’t enjoy hard science). Or perhaps it’s fantasy’s unfettered awe, limited only by the writer’s (and the reader’s) imagination, heedless of scientific plausibility.

I know the reasons that I, even with a PhD in biophsyical chemistry, prefer to write and read fantasy. For one, given my background I spot the scientific misconceptions in lots of SF. More important for me is the feeling of awe. I want great characters and an engaging plot, but I also read fiction to be transported to an amazing other place. In SF, the limits of trying to stay scientifically plausible restrict things so much that it drains the awe for me.

As a response, will there continue to be more SF containing “fantasy” elements of implausible science, like time travel? Or if our society had more and better science education (a worthy but unlikely effort), would more readers enjoy SF? Or does it not matter what subgenre type of spec-fic readers are enjoying? Like George R. R. Martin says, it’s all “weird stuff.” If it still has some awe, it’s fine with me.

Reading from “Ebb”

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

Two weeks ago, I read from my short story “Ebb” at the TNEO 2009 Flash Fiction Slam at the Barnes & Noble in Manchester, NH. That story, in the summer issue of Space and Time, has gotten some great reviews. TNEO is a week-long workshop for alumni of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, which includes me and my Homeless Moon cohorts and many other great young writers.

Another Odyssey alum, Abby Goldsmith, took some nice photos. Here’s one of me reading from “Ebb”:

Scott H. Andrews reading

More Great Comments on “Ebb”

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Another very positive review of my short story “Ebb” that’s in Space and Time #107, this time on the SF/F review site Tangent Online. Reviewer Steve Fahnestalk calls “Ebb” a “wonderful story, wonderfully told.” Visit their site to read his full review.

As I noted in a previous post about the equally glowing review of “Ebb” on last May, “Ebb” had a long and difficult path to publication. I’m delighted to see that my vision for that story, that world, and that character is resonating with so many people.

Happily Swamped

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

So much stuff going on lately that I haven’t had any time to come up with a neat blog topic.

I’m wrapping up the podcast for Beneath Ceaseless Skies #20 that comes out this Thursday, which is a story by Richard Parks, and I need to start work on the next one. Issue #20 has two exciting young writers, Caroline M. Yoachim and James Lecky, and Issue #21 in mid-July will have a great novelette by award-winning author Holly Phillips.

Next week I’m headed to ReaderCon, where I will plug BCS and hopefully host a reading of authors from the magazine, including C.C. Finlay, S.C. Butler, Margaret Ronald, Saladin Ahmed, and Kris Dikeman. Also at the con, my writer cohorts from the Homeless Moon and I will also be premiering our second chapbook of all-original short fiction, this time based around lands from Alberto Manguel’s Dictionary of Imaginary Places.

Then I’ve got to critique thirty manuscripts and finish writing a lecture, both for the annual Odyssey alumni workshop. All while reading a month’s worth of slush!