Last week the New York Times book section led off with a review of a book whose title I’m not about to name, for reasons that will become obvious. The book in question was a “science fiction” novel by a “mainstream” author and was highly praised. The reviewer opens by stating that just as the Apollo missions showed the beauty of our planet, in the same fashion a “comparable journey takes place in the best works of science fiction – an imaginative visit to speculative realms that returns the reader more forcibly to the sad and beautiful facts of human existence.” So far, so good.
But then, even as the reviewer admits, the author breaks no new ground with his tale of a missionary’s trip and experiences on an alien world [with no reference to The Sparrow or A Case of Conscience, I might add], but praises him as “a master of the weird” and, after summarizing the plot of the novel, concludes by comparing the author to Hilary Mantel [whom he declares has made the historical novel “newly respectable”] and saying he hopes the author “can do something similar for speculative writing.” The author is, of course, an international seller with several movies based on his books.
All of this gave me the almost insane desire to borrow weapons – as many as I could – from Larry Correia and go on my own monster hunt against the so-called mainstream literati, such as the reviewer, who clearly feels that no existing F&SF writer, no matter how good, can possibly do what this author, as an outsider, may be able to do. The sad part is that the reviewer just might be right, not because there is not a great deal of highly literate and well-written F&SF, but because there seems to be a view among literary reviewers that such literature does not exist.
In the case of such “mainstream” reviewers, I just can’t forgive ignorance and/or total disregard of an entire long-standing genre, particularly when that ignorance has existed so long and so willfully. Praising a novel that clearly examines issues and tropes that have been examined in detail in F&SF for years, if not longer, often brilliantly, as if no one has ever done it before, in the hopes that a talented outsider can bring more readers and “enlighten” them to the fact that within &SF exist a great many brilliant works of literature, seems to me to reveal that the so-called mainstream literati continue to exhibit either ignorance beyond ignorance, or ignorance compounded by arrogance.
And for those reasons, I’m not about to give ink or mention to either the reviewer or the author,