I've given two talks in three weeks on the "state of science fiction," one at the aforementioned Campbell Conference and one in New York this past Tuesday at a private luncheon hosted by a new literary agency, South Seas Solutions. This, coupled with the fact that I'm working up my thoughts for what I hope will be a witty, erudite, and thoughtful introduction to Fast Forward 1: Future Fiction from the Cutting Edge, means I've been thinking a lot about current trends and directions.
One thing that I've said repeatedly over the last few weeks is that all these denials of SF in the media, these Judas Iscariot's of cinema who proclaim "yes my film is about robots and cyborgs and big space battles and genetically engineered moon cows, but it's actually a drama about people and relationships and the hazards of dairy products" are actually a last gasp of a dying perspective. In this introduction to The Year's Best Science Fiction: 23rd Annual Collection, Gardner Dozois notes that 8 of the top highest grossing films of 2005 were genre-themed, 13 of the top 20. Which means that at its broadest spectrum, the public has no problem with science fiction. TV Guide will certainly tell you that a popular SF show on the cover moves serious copies. And the San Diego Comic Con just had a record attendance of 140,000 people. It's almost as though we are becoming a society of SF&F fans all worried what the other guy thinks and apologizing to each other for our tastes when the other guy is a fan too.
I've been thinking for some time now that this knee-jerk reaction to being labeled "sci-fi" was on the way out and that we would start to see some mainstream re-embracing of the category. Now, USA Today has just given me the first positive proof of this. Look at this list of Hollywood types who aren't denying that what they do is SF, in an article in a major paper that doesn't use the word "geek" or "nerd."
And look at this quote from Lost producer JJ Abrams, who says that science fiction "is an extrapolated version of the present. If you're at war, or you find out the government is spying on you, or if you feel your civil rights are being abrogated, it can provoke you as a writer. Science fiction is never about paradise found. It stems from trouble in our own world. The best kind of storytelling is when writers turn a mirror on ourselves, and that mirror shows us a lot of conflict."
Most interesting, the article equates the fiction of HG Wells & Ray Bradbury with Star Trek, while being clear that by "science fiction" what isn't meant is "science-fiction-cum-fantasy" work like Star Wars. Obviously, this is just one journalist's opinion, and Hollywood can turn on a dime when the almighty dollar decrees differently, but for today I am most gratified.