There’s too much science fic­tion! Good! ar­gues Tom Hunter

SFX - - Opinion -

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.

Hitch­hik­ers: just one cor­ner of a huge uni­verse.

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