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I don't feel bad for mainly liking genre fiction

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  • I don't feel bad for mainly liking genre fiction

    I mainly like classic sci fi, horror, fantasy and detective novels and I've heard from some various people in my life who believed that reading such was an escapism for people who had no social life and didn't care about the real world. I've been feeling down about people having that attitude lately. I feel theres an idea that people should be mocked and that ..people with higher emotional intelligence or something are out there living real life, having parties, relationships, friendships, human contact, and reading books about it, people who are interested in people, whereas us nerds are just opting out of life and.. hiding in a fantasy land.

    I guess one thing it makes me feel bad is that I am a bit socially phobic and I'm not someone who finds human contact easy a lot of the time so it's true for me in some ways. However, I am interested in real people and the real world, I do care about politics and my friends and real life, as obviously do most of us here.

    And I admit, sometimes I think that a film or novel about real life would make me feel bad, and I shy away from it. Like a film about the 90s nightclub scene would just rub it in how I didn't really take part in it. Or a novel about friendships and relationships between a group of people would rub it in that I don't really enjoy being in friendship groups...I don't enjoy or understand the subtleties of human interaction, and those novels seem all about making clever observations about relationships and friendships, to be enjoyed by people with a lot of social experience who can relate.

    Another thing is I like to read about real life in non fiction, say if I wanted to know about 1980s UK socialists I'd read a biography rather than a novel. I prefer my fiction sci fi/fantasy. Novels commenting on real society often seem false anyway, like a stereotype yuppie having to get on with a stereotype eco-warrior when their kids marry or something.

    A good friend of mine like novelists like Jonathan Franzen etc, and I looked at them and I felt that.these novels can only be enjoyed by a certain type of person who is interested in people and enjoys looking at people and their relationships. And I didn't choose to not be born that type of person. There are different types of people, some people are athletic and like books about sport, some people are technical and like Michael Crichton, some people are social and like popular novels. But some people talk as if nerds have chosen to be antisocial.

    I get a lot of real life strength and inspiration from my favourite fantasy novels. And I have lived a varied life with friends and family from lots of different cultures. some of the cool people speak for such a small culture anyway, the urban intellectual in the nightclub/party scene.

    I dunno. I'm sorry this turned into such a long rant, I only meant it to be a normal post. I liked lots of classic fiction including Hemmingway, Mark Twain, Joseph Conrad, Italo Calvino, Asian stuff. I'm not sure I articulated what I wanted to get off my chest, but it's typed now. (also, I am slightly autistic.)

  • #2
    Go for it mate: nice and real.

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    • #3
      I encountered 2 categories of people who I have seen claiming that "genre fiction" is escapism :

      1- Intellectual persons who enjoy fiction for reasons other than the story that is been told, although I do not agree with this, I find it reasonable specially from academia.

      2- People who obviously think it is smart to say that genre fiction is escapism but what they often read is either self help, whatever the newspapers say to be "smart' and their only objective is to look intelligent. I neither understand this or cannot accept it. A subcategory includes those that make the very same criticisms but read no books at all and I do know many on this category and I find very funny to mock them when they try to make me feel dumb for enjoying a variety of genres they find childish or lacking "realism".
      "From time to time I demonstrate the inconceivable, or mock the innocent, or give truth to liars, or shred the poses of virtue.(...) Now I am silent; this is my mood." From Sundrun's Garden, Jack Vance.
      "As the Greeks have created the Olympus based upon their own image and resemblance, we have created Gotham City and Metropolis and all these galaxies so similar to the corporate world, manipulative, ruthless and well paid, that conceived them." Braulio Tavares.

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      • #4
        How about my favourite novel by Our Leader Mike, Dancers at the end of Time. The people live in a pleasure paradise, but their resources are running out and their life lacks meaning. Not escapism to me but all too real.

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        • #5
          The writer refers to specifically to SF television rather than books, but you may find this article from Friday's Guardian of interest:
          Growing up with science fiction
          Science fiction on TV was often dark and disturbing – yet was somehow acceptable for children to watch. Ahead of a BFI season, Michael Newton revisits favourites of his childhood, from UFO to The Tomorrow People

          As a child my images of a fulfilled and complete grownup man consisted of Richard Briers in The Good Life, Horace Rumpole (of the Bailey) and Doctor Who. These days, what strikes me as curious is that Surbiton, the law courts and the Tardis all seemed equally fantastic and equally plausible locales. Adulthood, I assumed, was as likely to offer you alien planets as rhubarb wine at suburban dinner parties. I had no doubt, however, as to which was the more attractive option. From the age of four to the age of 16, I was suffused with science fiction.


          Hal, the thinking computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Photograph: The Ronald Grant Archive


          Aged nine, I begged my father to take me to the Classic, a flea pit with delusions of grandeur, for an afternoon screening of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. For me it was a semi-mystical experience, aided by the fact that I was never altogether sure what was going on.

          Were Blake's 7 and Gerry Anderson's UFO children's TV? Not really, but children certainly saw them. My mum and dad frowned on James Bond and post-1968 Carry On, but were quite happy to let me watch SF, perhaps as something intrinsically childlike, a fantasy realm where nothing hit home. SF was the way I first encountered "adult literature", though the books concerned are often dismissed as childish.

          Neither I nor my parents saw much difference between my reading the home-counties dystopias of John Wyndham and my experiencing the psychedelic excesses of Michael Moorcock or Philip K Dick. Then, fresh from encountering Jane Austen and Dostoevsky, Hitchcock and Merchant Ivory, my interest in intergalactic rocket ships waned (though I always continued to love Doctor Who). Or rather, as it turned out, hibernated.

          My long-since renewed interest in the films and programmes I watched then involves, of course, a reminiscent longing, a nostalgia for childhood entangled in that era's passion for the future. Though I now see how "grownup", how thoughtful, such works were, there remains the sense that there are strong ties between youth and SF. The future is a zone that children and adolescents inhabit more happily than most adults. The contemporary technologies that now disturb me, and especially the promised scientific possibilities that alarm me, would all have been eagerly embraced by my younger self.

          As part of their spectacular autumn SF season, as well as screenings of ET and episodes of Doctor Who, the BFI are screening and releasing DVDs of some of the best of the 1960s and 1970s shows: the atmospheric series The Changes; The Boy from Space; a clutch of Children's Film Foundation works; and the excellent TV version of Alan Garner's fantasy, perhaps for children, Red Shift. Returning to those works, I perceive more clearly that the future it let me cheerfully inhabit was in fact a zone of grim unease. SF introduced me to fear. Horror played after bedtime, a late-night form; SF was Saturday morning and tea-time TV.

          Yet the Autons in Doctor Who, and one episode of UFO ("The Sound of Silence") in which a creepily murderous alien stalks the English countryside, horrified me like nothing else I had encountered. I blithely accepted the futures that such events took place in, the totalitarian dystopias, the post-apocalyptic collapsed societies. Children, it seems, fear differently than adults. As a young child, atomic destruction was a speculative matter, simply the loudest possible bang. I recall myself in a bookshop, aged about 11, leafing through a volume on nuclear war, John Cox's Overkill. "How could you read that?" a woman asked me, "I don't even want to think about it." Today my sympathies are with her.


          'A fulfilled and complete grownup' … the Doctor, played by Jon Pertwee, and some Daleks. Photograph: BBC/PA

          From the 1950s onwards, children grew up in an SF world. They played at Daleks or, in arcades in the 80s, Galaxian and Space Invaders; the 60s moon shots played on TV; alien robots advertised instant mashed potato. Outer space rang in pop music's inner ear, from Joe Meek's "Telstar" (played by the Tornados, and, reputedly, the then research-chemist Margaret Thatcher's favourite song) to the Carpenters gently bizarre "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" (originally by Klaatu, a band named after the benevolent alien of The Day the Earth Stood Still). This was a brightly lit, optimistic kind of pop. Elsewhere pop stars, from Sun Ra to Brian Eno, circa "Virginia Plain", either claimed to be an extraterrestrial or looked like one. David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust capitalised on the weirdness of that alien figure, the rock star; watching him perform "Starman" on Top of the Pops it was easy to believe that he was something other than a member of the human species, and beguiling to feel that he was something decidedly preferable.

          Later there was that ephemeral youth style, futurism, the forward-looking synth-pop cousin to New Romanticism; one could yearn for the 21st century as much as for 1920s Berlin. Both were bewitchingly Teutonic, dreamed up by Kraftwerk and Fritz Lang. The B-side of the Human League's single "Boys and Girls" was called "Tom Baker"; the band anyway had always sounded a bit like the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop. For one 15-year-old, everything seemed to be fitting together. People wore shirts that buttoned down one side, sported makeup and angular haircuts; the aim was to distance yourself from the high street by looking as though you belonged in a lost episode of Blake's 7.

          SF for children could simply mean SF with a child in it. In The Tomorrow People (1973-79), children embody the next evolutionary move, the homo superior (with sideways connections to Bowie's "Oh! You Pretty Things"). These youngsters are the heroes of the show, a proud rebuttal of society's unease about new generations, the intrusion of newness into the old order.


          TV show Space 1999. Photograph: Rex Features/ITV

          In this way, the young are just one more embodiment of strangeness in a genre dedicated to the strange. An atmosphere of dislocation pervades many of the best 60s and 70s programmes. Watching Gerry Anderson's Space 1999, which was scheduled as children's TV, it's surprising to discover that the mood is nearly always ominous (even when the enemy consists of floods of washing-up foam). The characters seem at odds with the spaces they inhabit. And as for Blake's 7, I am amazed that I once enjoyed its brilliantly bleak vision as comfort TV; the shadow of the Nazis falls over the show.

          That should not surprise us. SF is a mode of fantasy we bring into play when a technological change or an historical event exceeds our capacity to comprehend it. There's something of SF about Cortés and his men advancing through Aztec Mexico (the archetype for all later invasion narratives and tales of space colonists), about the Black Death (the model for all our fears of plague), about the Somme, and, above all, about Treblinka, the Gulag, Nagasaki. In our future is our past.


          A still from Ivan's Childhood, set during the Second World War. Photograph: Ronald Grant Archive


          Tarkovsky's greatest SF film is not Solaris or Stalker, but Ivan's Childhood, a wartime tale with the eerie, flare-lit landscape of the Russian battlefield. Though humans created it, this is not a world that makes room for the human. William Gibson's intriguing epigram – "The future is already here: it's just not very evenly distributed" – implies a view of the future that imagines it through our relation to technology. Yet that's not quite what SF wants to tell us. At its most serious, it is where a sense of wonder grinds into a sense of despair. Even in children's versions of the genre, dystopia, hopelessness and a cosmic remorse are operating.

          Yet, more promisingly, it is a striking feature of children's SF (and film and TV for children in general) that it is so open to granting sympathy to characters that in a purely adult work would estrange the viewer. The theme tune of The Boy from Space mildly croons: "Out there in space, Shall we find friends? Is there a place Where the Universe ends?" Regarding the first of those questions, much of SF for children is certain of its answer. Children uncomplicatedly show themselves ready to identify with two-hearted alien time-travellers, pointy-eared Vulcan science officers, snout-nosed Clangers, Ninja Turtles, Transformers, small dust-bin-shaped robots, pepper-pot Daleks, or even, in the case of the Children's Film Foundation film The Glitterball (1977) an alien who is essentially a ball bearing. Adults can momentarily share such identifications – watching ET, Martin Amis apparently wept – but the fact remains that children are more willing to find the human element in the alien, and to look out beyond the limits of humanness. Even UFO could at moments find compassion for the aliens it more usually destroys.

          This openness to others extends to a willingness to imagine other kinds of world. In the BBC's The Changes (1975), everyone – driven by a kind of mass-hysteria – turns against their machines. The early scenes in which children and adults behave like vandals, enthusiastically smashing up their TV sets, cars and mod cons, may remind us that punk rock was only a year or two away. It's both an appalling and appealing example of 70s "aggro". The nation falls back to a pre-industrial past, to organic farming and home-brew, but also witch-hunts and robber barons. On one level, the series exposes the racism, selfishness and mob cruelty of modern Britain. In this world, separated from her parents, wanders schoolgirl Nicky Gore, a sensible, no-nonsense, very English heroine. The Changes is curious about the ways in which some things – technology, strangers – come to be delineated as evil. It should be grim and dispiriting, yet this TV world of a world without TV is glorious fun. It's the end of the world, and the viewer feels fine.


          The Changes. Photograph: BFI

          Covertly, The Changes also concerns itself with another kind of change, from childhood to being an adolescent, a more-or-less self-reliant person, distinct from family. A lot of people once grew up with and, in part, through such SF programmes. One thing that later made it easy for me to feel the attraction of "green" politics in adulthood was having absorbed so many ecologically tinged SF stories in childhood and adolescence (from Jon Pertwee battling the "Green Death" to The Survivors). As well as providing a couple of generations with imaginative vision, such stories also offered a moral vision; the Doctor and the crew of Moonbase Alpha were figures consciously striving for the good.

          Time often shifts in those old stories; strangers arrive from the future; the mind journeys back to the past. Have these visions of the future dated? Set in 1981, UFO (1970) pictures a mysterious future, while its sexual politics linger in the era of Alfie. After a diet of Hunger Games and Divergent, children and teenagers now might find some things about these shows alien or embarrassing. Yet there's not so very much to make allowances for, and once they're gripped by the stories, they can still discover a significant and thought-provoking pleasure, as well as a means to gaze into our uncertain future.

          • The Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonderseason is at the BFI, London SE1, and around the UK from 20 October. bfi.org.uk. The Changes, The Boy from Space, Red Shift, Outer Space: Three Cosmic Tales from the Children's Film Foundation are all out on DVD from the BFI.
          _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
          _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
          _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
          _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

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          • #6
            I think that the idea that 'literary' fiction is inherently superior to 'genre' fiction is merely a psuedo-intellectual nonsense professed by an insular literary community unconcerned with enjoying reading and more overly concerned with the illusion of creating 'art'. I find genre fiction can be often in many ways more enjoyable and intelligent than leading 'literary' works.

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            • #7
              Sci-fi and fantasy are not for everyone.

              I personally love having my mind blown by new ways of perceiving the multiverse and my relation to it. Sometimes a good book on cutting edge cosmology or quantam theory does it for me. Other times it can be some religious/mystical/occult writings. Often philosophy and psychology are what I need. One source that never fails is Sci-fi/fantasy. Honestly, I believe that the genre has done more for my understanding of people and reality than any other.

              People who give you flak about your own preferences are generally people who don't see the difference in opinion and fact (not that there is much difference in most circumstances).

              Those who cannot see the merits of the imagination are usually people who have little imagination or vision to begin with.
              I('d) tell you all, we are young at the end of this cycle, and there may be no rest even when we are done.- Devin Townsend

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