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Worlds Without End Blog

Science Fiction Book & Magazine News – 5/16/16 Posted at 2:28 PM by James Wallace Harris



Two science fiction books grabbed my attention in the last couple of days while reading News360 and FlipBoard:

Too Like the Lightning – Ada Palmer

Central Station – Lavie Tidhar

Hundreds of science fiction books are published each year, but only a few jump out like this.

One of the odd side-effects of reading my news off of curated news apps is being directed to publications I’ve never heard of before. Take this piece from Intellectual Takeout, “Science Fiction: Why So Many Intellectuals Despise It.” This essay seems out of time, like maybe the 1950s. It defends science fiction, by reminding us of the prejudice against it. But do modern intellectuals still feel SF is worthless? But then I also saw this, “Harry Potter Causes Brain Damage, Says English Headmaster Who Is Clearly Voldemort In Disguise.”

I am reminded of an article I read decades ago that claimed librarians in the 1950s banned the Oz books by L. Frank Baum because they felt young readers picked up unrealistic attitudes towards life by reading them. I know I read the Oz books when I was a kid, and I’ve always had unrealistic attitudes toward life. Could these people be right? Then I read, “’There is just no such thing as God’: A physicist searches for meaning in the natural world,” a review of Sean Carroll’s new book, The Big Picture: On the Origin of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself. Are all of these folks just saying that lovers of science fiction, fantasy and religion are ignoring reality? There could be some truth in that. I know I do. But I am trying to break that habit.

Another critical examination of our genre came via The Guardian, a paper I like very much. “Sci-fi media coverage dominated by men, survey shows.” The article is based on the VIDA: Women in Literary Arts’s 2015 VIDA count. This is a gigantic demographic effort that examines race and ethnicity, sexual identity and ability in the top tier of periodical publications. Within the science fiction field they reviewed 18 publications and counted the number of books reviewed, and then did identity statistics on the authors of books reviewed and the reviewers to show how many were written by women, non-binary people and people of color.

This is an excellent article to read, but I’m not sure how they are going to solve their problem. I’m an old white male, writing about science fiction, which is their problem. My demographic traits are too common. I would assume Dave would be happy to find more writers for Worlds Without End that weren’t white and male. I used to work in computers, and we were always trying to get more female programmers. For a few years the number of women going into computer science grew, but then it dropped off. There should be more diversity everywhere, and I think everywhere is getting more diverse, but to administratively create it is difficult.

By the way, I recommend reading that article to see what are the top publications reviewing science fiction. If you aren’t a white guy, go write for them. I feel bad folks of my gender and color hog all the jobs, but I’m not sure what to do about it. I do try to read and review books by people not like me. I hope that helps.


daxxh   |   16 May 2016 @ 22:07

I wanted to be an astronaut when I was a kid. I watched the first landing on the moon when I was 5. It was only natural that I would read about space. I read anything I could get my hands on – fiction and nonfiction. I watched Star Trek, got a telescope and learned all the constellations and where all the planets were at any given time. I was going to be a scientist when I grew up so I could be an astronaut. (I did grow up to be a scientist! And applied for many years to be an astronaut. Sadly, my eyes prevented me from being considered, but NASA said keep applying anyway.) Of course I would read science fiction!

When I was in high school, my 9th grade English teacher said we could read any fiction book for a book report. We had to have it approved by her. I was getting ready to start Dhalgren by Samuel Delaney, so I figured I would do that one for the book report. She said no. She insisted that science fiction wasn’t fiction. Apparently, there is fiction, nonfiction and science fiction. And she said that anyone of my intelligence shouldn’t be reading such garbage. (Those were her actual words.) She made me pick a book from a list of classics. I was angry that I didn’t get to actually pick what I wanted to read. But, I laughed when I read the list and picked 1984 by George Orwell. She was not happy, but she couldn’t say no. I read Dhalgren anyway, and decided that it would not have been a very good choice for a book report for a 9th grade girl.

The librarians at the public library in town wouldn’t buy science fiction. They were all older women and they held science fiction in the same category as devil worship books. I had to buy a lot of books when I was a kid because of that.

I know very few women who read science fiction. The ones that do read more of other types of fiction and more fantasy than science fiction. I don’t know why. I have noticed that the people that I know who tend to read science fiction are people in technical fields and are mostly white men. Perhaps that’s because most of the people in the technical field (read this as my coworkers) are white men.

Charlie Hanlon   |   18 May 2016 @ 10:21

James, will this be a regular series, I do like the format of this article.

jwharris28   |   18 May 2016 @ 10:25

I’m still experimenting. It’s a burden to try to keep up with all the news. And it’s time consuming to be in the business creating lists of interesting links. I’m leaning towards writing essays about a few pieces every few days. Reacting to the ones that stand out the most.

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