Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How to read Science Fiction and Fantasy

Jo Walton has a tremendous essay at TOR.Com about how to read Science Fiction and Fantasy. Its an amazing peice of writing that looks at how we read. I love Scifi and its easy to see how my love of that genera has effected the way I read as a whole.

Here is a snippet:
"Samuel Delany suggested that rather than try to define science fiction it’s more interesting to describe it, and of describing it more interesting to draw a broad circle around what everyone agrees is SF than to quibble about the edge conditions. (Though arguing over the borders of science fiction and fantasy is a neverending and fun exercise.) He then went on to say that one of the ways of approaching SF is to look at the way people read it—that those of us who read it have built up a set of skills for reading SF which let us enjoy it, where people who don’t have this approach to reading are left confused.

If you’re reading this, the odds are overwhelming that you have that SF reading skillset.

(As I’m using it here, “science fiction” means “science fiction” and “SF” means “the broad genre of science fiction and fantasy.”)

We’ve all probably had the experience of reading a great SF novel and lending it to a friend—a literate friend who adores A.S. Byatt and E.M. Forster. Sometimes our friend will turn their nose up at the cover, and we’ll say no, really, this is good, you’ll like it. Sometimes our friend does like it, but often we’ll find our friend returning the book with a puzzled grimace, having tried to read it but “just not been able to get into it.” That friend has approached science fiction without the necessary toolkit and has bounced off. It’s not that they’re stupid. It’s not that they can’t read sentences. It’s just that part of the fun of science fiction happens in your head, and their head isn’t having fun, it’s finding it hard work to keep up."

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