To Name A Few

Sep 27, 17:32 by IROSF
A thread to discuss Rose Fox' essay.

The article can be found here.
Nov 2, 14:39 by Joe Prisco
This article doesn't seem to have tripped the 'discuss' lever for many readers ;-) The comparison with sexuality may have 'queered' the discussion for some, but there's no questioning that the need to label & categorize very much determines how we think of ourselves and what we therefore permit for ourselves -- and often others.

It's an all-too-human perversity that those who praise fantasy & sci-fi for its limitless possibilities can then turn around and place boundaries upon their beloved genre[s], defining its limitlessness by what is excluded. Even the supposedly futuristic sci-fi genre can travel back in time, blurring into historical fiction.

I appreciate Ms Fox's article for focusing on the 'tribal' aspect of our labelmaking: we name so that we may say what we wish to attach to ourselves, and what we wish to avoid. After all, what originally defined "science fiction" but that which appeared in magazines that called themselves science fiction magazines, and what was it but that which was read (and written) by its fans?

Since then, the fans have changed (several times), but the community has prevailed. We still think of fantasy or sf in terms of the authors we associate with the genre -- even when they rarely write for the genre (Harlan Ellison comes readaily to mind).

This shows the tribal nature of the label, and thus the powerful comparison to labels of sexual identity. There was no such thing as being gay or lesbian until modern times -- not because sexual interests were previously simpler, but because there were no self-identified 'tribes' organized under these labels. Now (like sf & fantasy) there are, and it is very much about which group you wish to drink with at the bar. Like sci-fi, they are currently less socially outcast than they were fifty years ago (fantasy seems to have had an easier time of it, but that's a different essay).

This all very heartening to those seeking new identity, and desiring to join these 'alternate' tribes, though the mainstream is necessarily resistant -- until they smell the money ;-)
Nov 18, 00:03 by Abby Goldsmith
I'm writing a series that's tough to label. At first I wanted to call it Fantasy, because it's got heroes, magic, and a quest. Then I was told that it must be Science Fiction, because it has space travel, aliens, and advanced technology. Other people told me that it couldn't be SF, because it focuses more on the characters than the science ideas; they said it has to be Space Opera. Still others claimed that it's a blend called Science Fantasy.

You know what? I don't like any of the above labels. They all have certain stereotypes associated with them. When people think of Fantasy with magic, they think of mages wearing capes who cast spells. My story isn't like that. When people think of SF with space travel, they picture a military or naval-tyle star fleet. Again, my story isn't like that. I don't want people dismissing my books because they have preconceived ideas about the genre.

This is why I want to invent a new label for a tiny industry that's already glutted with labels. Techno-Fantasy. What do you think of that? I figure we can squeeze Tad Williams Otherland series in there, and maybe Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash and The Diamond Age.

I think those label associations are the reason why Margaret Atwood refuses to be known as a science fiction writer, although her books involve bioengineering gone awry and crazy future scenarios.

And they're the reason why some avid readers avoid Stephen King, because they think he only writes blood-and-guts horror.
   

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