Let’s Try Again… or… "You" Are Not Everyone

Although there have only been a comparative handful of comments here about my earlier statements on “true believers,” I’ve discovered that the negative comments elsewhere abound. I’ve been accused of being everything from a “big dope” to insensitive and not understanding just how enlightened and far-seeing and intelligent Christian, Mormon, Muslim, atheist, etc., F&SF readers are everywhere. I don’t dispute their enlightenment and intelligence. I never have.

Virtually every one of those individuals who has contested what I wrote has begun by explaining their individual background to illustrate how what I said does not apply to them. Once again, I agree… wholeheartedly. It doesn’t. As noted in my previous post, I never said that what I wrote applied to every single individual. In fact, I took pains to point out that it didn’t.

One of the better qualities of human beings is that we like to identify with others; that is one of the reasons why society is in fact possible. Unfortunately, this favorable quality has a downside, and that downside is that we also tend to assume that everyone is like us. In general, we like to belong, whether in rooting for a sports team or attending F&SF conventions. HOWEVER… readers are a minority in USA society today, and fantasy and science fiction readers more so than that. F&SF readers are not like “everyone else,” although they do share certain traits and beliefs, to a greater or lesser degree, with other readers of speculative fiction.

First, let’s take a quick look at “everyone else.” A recent article in The New Yorker noted that polls taken since 1945 consistently show that:

More than 50% of all American cannot name a single branch of our government or name their own Congressman.

More than 2/3 do not know the issue behind Roe v. Wade or the role of the FDA.

More than three quarters do not know the length of a Senate term.

More than 40% cannot name either of their senators.

In addition, a report issued by the U.S. Department of Education in 2005 noted that 69% of all college graduates lacked sufficient literacy to read and fully understand a standard newspaper editorial. Moreover, 59% of all advanced degree recipients in 2005 also lacked that ability. Obviously, this deficiency does not apply to those reading this blog, but then, and it’s no secret that readers of science fiction and fantasy tend to be more intelligent than the general population. But is everyone else like F&SF readers?

Roughly 16% of all Americans have an IQ below 85, and that means close to 50 million Americans who cannot effectively read or understand the content of most science fiction and fantasy. Likewise, roughly 16% of all Americans have IQs above 115, and the majority of serious readers fall within this group. Now… if the proportion of fiction titles published in the F&SF genres compared to all fiction is roughly proportional to the reading population [and while that is an assumption, it isn’t exactly unreasonable, except that it may overstate the number of readers, because I’ve observed that most F&SF readers are voracious in their reading] there are potentially 3-6 million “regular” F&SF readers in the USA.

So… please don’t tell me that you’re typical, or that “everyone else” is like you. Or that I am bigoted and close-minded because I’m suggesting that there are millions of people who don’t and can’t think like you do, because, like it or not, you are not like most people.