There’s too much science fiction! Good! argues Tom Hunter
The world of science fiction today is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mindbogglingly big it is, and the chances are the bits of SF I love the most right now are going to be things you’ve never even heard of.
We’re creating and consuming more SF&F cultural material than ever before, and it only takes a quick flick through this magazine to know that our chances of ever keeping up are doomed to beautiful failure. How lucky we are! And yet there’s a growing problem in the midst of this abundance. For instance the recent debacle surrounding the hijacking of the Hugo Awards was caused by a small contingent of writers and their fans protesting that their particular favourite works were being overlooked.
If you tried really, really hard to ignore all the ugliness that sprang from that and boiled it down to just that simple argument you might fool yourself into thinking they had a point, but hold on! None of my favourite works were nominated for a Hugo this year either. Or you know, much ever.
In the UK alone there’s a couple of hundred new books of genre interest published every year. A truly dedicated reader might read upwards of 50 books a year (I did a survey) but even then only a portion will be from the current year.
It is, of course, hugely probable that all of our personal favourite stuff will never win any awards. Heck, I’ve been running the UK’s main science fiction book prize for the best part of a decade and my favourites still don’t win. Am I in a secret conspiracy against myself? I think not. Are the books that do win utterly awesome? You bet. Do judges sneak through my bookshelves at night swapping out my favourites for theirs? If only it were that easy.
The truth is your favourite SF and mine are likely not the same, but this realisation shouldn’t be the spark for another flame war. As the limits of our science fiction culture continue to grow, we all owe it to ourselves to grow up along with it. There’s simply too much good stuff out there in the universe for us to do otherwise.
Tom Hunter is the director of the Arthur C Clarke Award for SF literature. www.clarkeaward.com
Hitchhikers: just one corner of a huge universe.