I still count myself as new to the ways of Science Fiction. More experience with regards to Fantasy, though not by much. I strive a bit these days to expand my horizons with regard to the genres.
Still, I’ve come to the conclusion that I will never become a true SF/F fan in many eyes.
Mainly it’s because I’m too laid-back about my literature tastes. Oh, I can analyze, and I do enjoy the process of analysis to a worrying extent, but I read much more for raw enjoyment; I’m not that much into the genre-specific elements. I enjoy SF/F’s speculative features, and I enjoy, say, the low fantasy world of Song of Ice and Fire, the quirky suburban fantasy world of Harry Potter, the sensible far-future world of Old Man’s War and sequels, the asplody fiery don’t-look-at-the-science-too-hard world of New Trek….
But when I think about it, those elements are secondary. They’re stage and scenery and sometimes pretty CGI effects, which is not to say that they don’t matter, but to say that they are simply a cigar. Themes and ideas and so on… these are all good and well, and that sort of thing is a large slice of any genre—including “mainstream”—pie, but is a particularly huge slice for SF and F. But I don’t care about it.
That doesn’t mean I like everything that’s considered way too popular for its own good—I dislike Twilight, for instance. It just means I care more for character work, for nigh-complete immersion, and, it has to be said, for a plot that moves faster than I can turn the pages. I like traditional SF visionaries like Iain Banks on the strength of his character trickery and plotting sadism, and his speculative stuff—which is of extremely high quality—is, well, like a nice side dish. Or not so nice, at times.
I’m the kind of fan who is often regarded as a danger to higher literary tastes by more experienced fans.
I’m the kind of fan responsible for nominating the current Hugo Best Novel short list.
Indeed, I’d read almost all of them a couple months before the nomination process even started, and I don’t even wander very far in my grazing. And, if I can be considered a fan at all, my friends at work are also all like this. We are, I suppose, Card-Carrying Fans rather than the real deal.
We don’t vote in the Hugos, or at least we didn’t until recently. It’s one thing to joke and pal around over the Badass Star Trek, or start a betting pool on who’s gonna die in the next installment of Song of Ice and Fire. But perhaps it’s another thing to try to vote on quality when we don’t know what quality, technically, is, unless it’s “stuff we like.”
But we don’t all stick to the more mainstream taste. We just don’t know all the ins and outs of tracking down new stuff, and we aren’t dedicated enough to find the time to do so. Oh, we’ll pick up odd authors we like when we can find free copies of stuff. Recommendations are all, well, nice and well. But give us a free first volume of a series. Give us a free short story or novella or novelette. Let us watch stuff on Hulu. We’ll figure out what we like, and then ruthlessly spend hard-earned money on getting the rest of it, including the expensive commemorative copies and the sculpted collectible bookends.
Well, ever since folks like Cheryl Morgan said, “You don’t have to have read everything, that’s why getting more and more people to vote is important,” and ever since folks like John Scalzi started providing the voter packet of free books to registered voters….
Nowadays, we feel quite comfortable saying to those upset fans morally outraged about the selections for Best Novel: “Suck it.” If it’s a popular vote award, then damn straight we’re going to vote.
And if you want us to change our opinions, give us free stuff and make it easy to find. The best part, indeed, about free stuff is that we can mass-recommend it to our even more laid-back friends who mostly stop at Harry Potter and The DaVinci Code. When we really love authors, even really odd ones out of the pile who may never make it to the final tables at the Hugos, we want to share that love, like any true fan.
Even though if you don’t think we are.