I’ve been following a lively discussion in a LinkedIn group for SciFi readers, writers, collectors and artists, on the subject of genre categorizations.
It seems there’s a whole lot of confusion and controversy over what constitutes Science Fiction. Should it be lumped with Fantasy? Where does Horror fit in? Must accurate science play a role in the story? Or is anything having to do with space travel and/or life on other planets properly called SciFi? What is Future Fiction? Space Opera? Are those legitimate subgenres under the SciFi umbrella, or should they be categories unto themselves?
After following the discussion for a while, I began to ask yet another question: Does it matter?
I think it does, to a degree. If you’re a writer, you have to decide where your book fits in best with other offerings, so you can know how to market it. I found that out when I tried pitching my novel Mom’s Mirror as Historical when it really doesn’t meet that criteria. It’s better suited for the Women’s Fiction category.
After all, if you want to sell an acoustic guitar, you don’t list it under Auto Parts.
But is it necessary to split hairs? Most people consider the SciFi/Fantasy heading to cover anything weird, whether it involves space travel, dragons, or vampires. That’s probably where the “speculative fiction” phrase comes from. It’s a convenient way to lump all this weird stuff together.
If you want to live in the here-and-now and deal only with what’s demonstrably possible, you won’t look at SciFi or anything located near it. If, on the other hand, you like the “what-if” scenarios (i.e., speculation) that take you out of the confines of the natural world, you head for the Speculative Fiction section.
Put another way, if you’re like I am, a rose by any other name is still an allergen. Call it an eggplant if you like, but sniffing it would give me a king-sized headache. I avoid anything rose-like no matter what heading it’s under.
Seems to me, those who like to mince terms and subdivide the genre into pointless specifics are just trying to avoid the headache their incompatibility with the species gives them. If you know it causes a bad reaction, why not sidestep it altogether and stick with the things you’re safe with?