This is a post I recently sent to a science fiction mailing list. A post I fully expect to be skewered for, but it was too much to stay silent about.
Also titled: The Science Fiction Barbarians at the Gate
I’ve been staying silent on some of the recent conversations. Oh dear. Why do I get the feeling that I will be a horribly hated author in this group?
Because I like a ‘sense of wonder’ and I’m not about to let things like “make all aliens inexplicably alien so they are “realistic’ ” or “completely nonhuman” get in the way of a good story (Um, there should be SOME way for the reader to connect, and typically that reader is human. Ergo, some human connection needs to be made). Because I’m not going to limit the technology and possibilities to only the things thought of as possible today. Because I want to explore, either through reading or writing, the more positive possibilities out there and not constantly the dark underbelly of existence.
I love adventure. I love a “Sense of Wonder”, which to me means a sense of fun along with all the other definitions. I love good characters that are the focus of the story, watching the impact on their lives with extraordinary circumstances, technology, or alien contact. I love having fun with other worlds, environments, and aliens. I love to write and read entertaining accessible prose.
In otherwords, give me a story. A good story. A story where I CARE what happens to the characters and don’t want them all dead just to get it all over with.
I freely admit I write soft science fiction because so much of hard science fiction bores me, and I do not find it entertaining. I read to be entertained. I don’t think this is something to be ashamed of.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch in articles such as here and here talks about many of the feelings I have towards science fiction, but articulates them much better. (I also like some of what Beth Meacham has to say towards the bottom of the page here.)
I won’t repeat what she said other than two very important paragraphs in the last link:
But I’m a barbarian. Of the 1,417 original books published in sf last years, I read ten of them. Six of those books were short story collections. Two of them I wrote. The other two were novels by people whose sf I’d read before and liked. Of the remaining 1,407 books, I probably handled 750 of them and replaced them on the shelf. Honestly, most of the 750 novels I put back looked like work.
I read fiction for entertainment, relaxation, and enjoyment. If I want to work, I read the history, literary essays, biography, science, and legal books that grace my shelves.
She refers to people who want science fiction that is entertaining and enjoyable without having to ‘work’ at reading it as “the Barbarians at the Gate.”
I’m writing the kind of science fiction I haven’t been able to find in years because apparently the traditional publishing buyers of SF have dictated on behalf of the readers that the readership has moved on. Only, they are wrong. Not all of us have moved on. The traditional publishers of SF left me in the dust with only old classics to read and the occasional new book that slipped through.
By the way, the publishing game has changed. Read up on it, it’s really interesting. Traditional publishing doesn’t always make good BUSINESS SENSE anymore. And I’m approaching this like a business person who is taking charge of their writing career, not a helpless ‘artist’ that doesn’t have a lick of business sense and has to be taken care of. That means writing a good book, having it edited and proofed, the whole bit. And heck, if I have to do all or most of the marketing anyway, I want a lot more than the typical 6-15% royalties (depending on hardcover or mass paperback).
Am I going to be an indie-publisher? You bet. Because there are other readers out there like me that have been forgotten. Sure, it might be a small niche and it might be hard to find them at first, but it will be a niche I will greatly enjoy providing reading material for. And who knows, I might find a bigger readership than expected.
I also don’t need traditional publishers ‘validating’ the kinds of stories they have ignored for years. Their form of ‘validation’ has proved useless to me as a science fiction reader. Not having the traditional type of validation doesn’t make me any less of an author than one who does.
So, does the above mean I’m about to be skewered? Probably, but there are other readers like me who understand this is “fiction.” As in, stories to entertain and enjoy. I talk to them all the time. We’re tired of being attacked for liking what we like, which is escapism entertainment. Of not being provided for when we want to spend the money on entertaining good reads.
So, I’ll go shut up now and continue writing. Writing with a “Sense of Wonder” and consider myself what Kristine calls “The Barbarians at the Gate.”