First, let’s start off by saying that Cheri is being magnanimous in the introduction of this two parter. (For Pt. 1 and Why Sci-Fi/Fantasy is Hard, click here.) Since her first forays into the genre, she, in her voracious reading ways, has since surpassed me in every aspect of SFF including classics and everything she ‘claimed’ was hard to get into.
It started with an innocent little argument. Cheri stated with gusto and importance that, “Sci-fi is hard to get into.” I replied, in my quick way, with a Socratic question to break down her argument.
“Why?” asked I.
And then she thought. And then we decided to do a series of posts about it. So I am here to explain the reasons why Sci-fi and Fantasy are the best things ever and are better than any other genre. Something that I am extremely passionate about.
- Reading SFF is EASY because there is an oversimplification and over explaining of things.
Ah, the hated exposition is, for once, praised for exactly what it is: an infodump.
At the beginning of many a classic and even modern day science fiction and fantasy, the author rushes to explain exactly why you, the reader, should care or be familiar with the situation that is presenting itself. That ten-page ode to the gods of sun and time and the ants is there to give you some sort of bearing in the new world with knowledge or experiences readers can be familiar with. If they are presenting something wholly unfamiliar, then authors take the time to explain exactly what is different about this. Everything you need to become familiar with will be told to you — and multiple times too — so you don’t need to worry about the struggle of orienting yourself to an alien world or strange technology. You can simply follow along the journey into a different world.
I went to a SFF writer’s workshop earlier this year, and nearly everyone’s SFF’s beginnings were criticized for being too vague about the world. We were told, that when the world is different from ours, you have to carefully guide readers towards understanding how your world works so you can then tell the story. Clues must be given in a subtle way that leads to a general understanding of what the new world is like. This must be done quickly and relevantly.
When readers encounter a new world, they expect a sort of implicit internal consistency that they trust the author to uphold. That is why authors are discouraged from making leaps of logic that are not understandable to readers in SFF. Worlds and systems that are chaotic and act without a certain level of predictability make little or no sense to readers typically cause them to lose interest in the story, to lose trust in the author’s ability (or purpose), and to put the book down.
- Because it is an escape.
Sometimes readers are tired of the real world and the same old problems and stories and trials and tribulations that can happen in the present/past on this warm blue marble in the universe. Sometimes we need stories of adventures that are beyond our ken and simple conflicts like good vs. evil. Or sometimes we need something complicated like the real world, but without the heavy and very real implications that they can have. Sometimes you just have to open your eyes and read a story about a world you could never imagine on your own and escape.
Issues that are present in the real world can be addressed in a fashion and approached in a different way by readers when presented in a different world. It doesn’t have to be, for example, Asians v. other Asians, but rather Protos v. Zerg (Starcraft reference). Without bringing in specific histories and personal biases that might already exist, by introducing new environments and, in this case, races, problems/issues/conflicts can be addressed in a more distanced way.
- Because you can see ideas and philosophies flourish in a sterile (or manipulated) environment.
This one is a bit hard to explain, but I see it as: the love of possibilities and exploration.
I love SFF because it takes an idea, philosophy, and/or technology and develops it into a world which exists around it. You want a story about an undying evil lord whose soul is tied to a ring and then have the most unassuming person find it? You’ve got yourself a SFF. You want a story about technological singularity that involves lobsters who develop a collective consciousness and can communicate with people? You’ve got a SFF. You want to create a world obsessed with a virtual world and an epic hunt for hidden treasures based on video games? You’ve got a SFF.
In all of those stories, an idea is taken and built into the foundation of a flourishing world where the idea becomes central to its existence. You can explore a variety of implications, results, and processes in society, in culture, in government, or in the development of organic life that might be affected, without worrying about having to justify those changes or developments within the constraints of our known “real world”: the reader places is able to trust and believe that the world exists.
In conclusion, please pick up a SFF book. It may be hard to get into for those who are unfamiliar, but the worlds are vast and amazing, the ideas are thrilling and daring, and the worlds are expansive and just might give you a different view of things. We both think they are worth it.