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