Throne Up

Fan­tasy is still get­ting an un­fair press, says David Lang­ford

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Opinion -

What the pa­pers say: “If you haven’t seen any of Game Of Thrones so far, you might be won­der­ing if it’s worth plough­ing through 40 hours of fan­tasy hokum to get you up to speed. It cer­tainly looks, at first glance, like a load of old non­sense com­pris­ing bare breasts, fight­ing, dragons and not much else.” ( Tele­graph) Very fa­mil­iar – but it’s the teaser for a rave re­view.

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung also loves Game Of Thrones, but wants it kept sep­a­rate from that greasy Tolkien stuff. GoT, they say ( in Ger­man), is “of­ten er­ro­neously re­garded as fan­tasy, although there are nei­ther magic rings here nor a fan­tas­ti­cal tri­umph of good over evil.”

Mean­while, US TV host Joe Scar­bor­ough ex­plains GoT with­out the prej­u­dice in­stilled by watch­ing it: “I think there are, like, gnomes, and elves, and hob­bits, and peo­ple with spikes com­ing out of the sides of their faces.” ( MSNBC)

Yes, genre fic­tion still gets a bad press. When a Guardian hack wants to sneer at PUA ( pick- up artist) cul­ture, it’s in­stant guilt by as­so­ci­a­tion: “They’re sci- fi sad­dos; they’re World Of War­craft weirdos.”

The Weekly Stan­dard tack­les unashamed SF hack Jules Verne: “And, of course, for those who still feel obliged to read some­thing semire­spectable but pre­fer not to trou­ble them­selves with heavy lift­ing, there is science fic­tion…”

A more up­mar­ket pun­dit ad­mits SF may be like­able but gives it the thumbs- down for not be­ing love­able: “I’m not sug­gest­ing that one can’t fully en­joy James Crum­ley, James Lee Burke, Robert Hein­lein, Philip K Dick, and Or­son Scott Card, but I’m not sure one can love them in the way that one loves Shake­speare, Keats, Chekhov, and Joyce. One can be a fan of Agatha Christie, but one can’t re­ally be a fan of Ge­orge Eliot.” ( Chron­i­cle Of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion) I re­mem­ber Ki­pling wrote a whole story about Jane Austen fandom…

This re­view of Michael Faber’s SF novel The Book Of Strange New Things ex­plains its main sav­ing grace: “While the bulk of the book takes place on another planet – a vividly drawn en­vi­ron­ment with green wa­ter, no moon and fre­quent, spi­ralling rain­storms – it doesn’t read like science fic­tion, or like any genre.’ ( NY Times) What a re­lief.

Even Godzilla is no longer pop­corn- fed fun: “Ap­pre­ci­a­tion of a movie like this re­quires an al­most mor­bid de­gree of con­nois­seur­ship, which may, in prac­tice, be hard to dis­tin­guish from bored ac­qui­es­cence.” ( NY Times)

Genre- watch­ers en­joyed the up­roar when literary au­thor Kazuo Ishig­uro pub­lished his f * nt* sy novel The Buried Gi­ant, and wor­ried in public about the ghastly stigma: “Will read­ers fol­low me into this? Will they un­der­stand what I’m try­ing to do? Are they go­ing to say this is fan­tasy?” ( NY Times) Ursula K Le Guin de­liv­ered a smart tick­ing- off: “Well, yes, they prob­a­bly will. Why not? It ap­pears that the au­thor takes the word for an in­sult.” ( Bookview­cafe. com). No, no, Ishig­uro re­torted: Le Guin is “en­ti­tled to like my book or not like my book, but as far as I am con­cerned, she’s got the wrong per­son. I am on the side of the pix­ies and the dragons.” ( Guardian)

Main­stream pixie David Mitchell chimed in: “‘ Fan­tasy plus literary fic­tion can achieve things that frank blank re­al­ism can’t,’ said Mr Mitchell, who added that he hoped The Buried Gi­ant would help to ‘ de- stig­ma­tize’ fan­tasy. ‘ Bending the laws of what we call re­al­ity in a novel doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily lead to elves say­ing “Make haste! These woods will be swarm­ing with orcs by night­fall.”’” ( NY Times) As bad as that genre hack Shake­speare whose fairies spout stuff like: “Ill met by moon­light, proud Ti­ta­nia.”

It’s in­stant guilt by as­so­ci­a­tion: “They’re sci- fi sad­dos”

David Lang­ford has long stud­ied the En­emy.

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