where writ­ers and opin­ions col­lide Author Bran­don San­der­son ap­plauds fan­tasy for the masses

SFX - - Opinion -

I’ve been think­ing lately about Se­jong the Great, king of Korea in the 1400s, and his re­la­tion­ship to sci­ence fic­tion fan­dom. Se­jong is cred­ited with cre­at­ing the han­gul writ­ing sys­tem, the Korean al­pha­bet. Be­fore that, peo­ple in Korea re­lied on Chi­nese, which was dif­fi­cult to learn – par­tic­u­larly for com­mon­ers.

Han­gul is now con­sid­ered a great lin­guis­tic tri­umph that has made Korea one of the most lit­er­ate so­ci­eties on the planet. You can learn han­gul in about an hour, and it op­tion­ally in­ter­faces with Chi­nese char­ac­ters in a frame­work of han­gul char­ac­ters for gram­mar.

But when Se­jong pre­sented han­gul to his court, they claimed it was a waste of time. Knowl­edge of Chi­nese was re­quired to take the Con­fu­cian place­ment tests for gov­ern­ment ser­vice, and those who passed were re­spected and pow­er­ful. Han­gul put read­ing within the grasp of com­mon peo­ple – which just wouldn’t do.

To­day, I worry about how we treat peo­ple who be­come fans of sci­ence fic­tion through the “wrong” meth­ods. It’s hip to hate

Twi­light or Eragon – what­ever pop­u­lar fic­tion is in­tro­duc­ing young peo­ple to read­ing th­ese days – never mind how im­por­tant and life-chang­ing th­ese works have been to many. I’ve even found my­self put off by those who came to Tolkien or comic book char­ac­ters be­cause of films – while I loved them way back when.

This elitism is akin to how those Con­fu­cian schol­ars re­sisted the ad­vance of han­gul. Why look down on fic­tion or films that peo­ple love? Shouldn’t we be happy and ex­cited that so many peo­ple are dis­cov­er­ing what we have loved for so long?

I spent years in academia be­ing judged harshly for lov­ing fan­tasy books, and for dar­ing to write “that crap”. I hate to see this in our com­mu­nity. You don’t have to like every­thing that comes out, and you can cer­tainly crit­i­cise books as works of lit­er­a­ture – but can’t we turn our at­ten­tion away from sham­ing the fans, and to­ward some­thing more pro­duc­tive?

I mean, we have im­por­tant things to talk about. We haven’t even come to a con­sen­sus on which Star Trek cap­tain is the best! (Hint: it’s Sisko.)

Bran­don San­der­son’s lat­est book, Fire­fight: A Reck­on­ers Novel, is pub­lished on 12 Novem­ber.

Kids the world over have been in­spired by the boy wizard.

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