A Rose By Any Other Name (Part II) (or, Still Learning, Never Quite Figuring it All Out)

A while back I wrote about genre classifications, inspired by a discussion in a LinkedIn group for SciFi readers, writers, collectors and artists.

I’ll admit, it was a pretty dull post. One reason is, it’s a pretty dull subject. But it’s a hot topic in the SF world. Someone in the group started another discussion last week, and the posts are flying like bats out of Carlsbad. This time, the question being bandied is the proper use of the terms “SciFi” and “SF.” I had no idea there was a distinction, let alone how strongly people felt about it.

Which is not to say they’re frothing at their keyboards. On the contrary, the discussion is being conducted in quite civil language. Nevertheless, it’s apparent people have strong opinions about the various aspects of the speculative world.

I’m a newcomer to the Science Fiction neighborhood. I read a little bit as a kid – in particular, I loved the Mushroom Planet series, which is pretty soft stuff where SciFi is concerned (it’s permissible to use the term “SciFi” in this context, isn’t it?). But I read a lot of things as a kid, and in general, science fiction titles didn’t rank very high on my list of favorites.

Fantasy is a different story. I was a Tolkein junky from fourth grade on, but that’s not the point; we’re talking about science fiction here.

As a newcomer, I’m trying to learn. Toward that end, I’m reading Age of Wonders by David G. Hartwell, which gives an overview of the history of the SF genre. The author talks about kids being introduced to SF at an early age (a group he refers to as omnivores), some of whom become hooked on the sense of wonder the stories create (these addicts, he calls chronics). Sometimes they outgrow the affliction and sometimes it’s terminal. In either case, it affects the way they view the world for the rest of their lives.

I can’t say I was ever what Hartwell calls an omnivore, and at this stage of my life, I’m a little long of tooth to become a chronic. But I am trying to get a feel for the genre and familiarize myself with some of the books and authors people are mentioning.

Why, if I’m such an outsider, do I want to write SF? The answer is simple: because it’s fun! And there’s a great deal of variation within the SciFi universe. Though I don’t get into the “science” parts, my tastes definitely do run along the speculative side of the tracks. So I don’t think I’m sniffing around the wrong tree.

Will being out of the loop help keep my writing fresh and original? Or will I unwittingly tromp over old ground that’s already well worn by others before me? Will I ignorantly break rules? Or are there no rules?

I don’t expect the chronics to appreciate my books, and the omnivores might not like the taste, either. But I hope to be able to create that sense of wonder that’s SF’s hallmark. And perhaps I can learn to do it well enough that a broad spectrum of grazers can enjoy a good feed, even if they never feel an intense craving for more.

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9 thoughts on “A Rose By Any Other Name (Part II) (or, Still Learning, Never Quite Figuring it All Out)

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