When someone finds out that I like to write this is how the conversation generally goes:
Them: “You write! Oh, that’s great! What do you write?”
Me: “Science Fiction.”
Them: “Oh.” (This is generally paired with a barely controlled facial expression on their part that makes me think I’ve come down with some kind of disease a shade worse than leprosy.)
Science fiction is an odd genre. It does very well in the movies (think big budget explosion summer popcorn flicks), but for books it has been relegated to the role of Fantasy’s difficult nerdy sibling that the popular kids make fun of. Fantasy has definitely come into its own. This in large part comes from an entire generation that has now grown up with Harry Potter and is comfortable with a fantastical environment and is willing to read it. Even those that didn’t read the books have probably watched the movies and liked those. Throw in some sparkly vampires (Twilight), southern vampires (True Blood) and a variety books with dark/dreamy monsters who just need a girl to love them, and you now have a genre that it is socially acceptable to read. Books like The Night Circus (a very fantastical book) would have been relegated to the cramped shelves at the back of Barnes and Noble even a dozen years ago. People would have removed the dust jacket so no one could see what they were reading, like a wino with a bottle of booze in a paper bag. Now readers carry the book unconcernedly out in the open and B&N is going out of its way to position books like Night Circus in the front of the store in prime selling spots.
Epic fantasy hasn’t quite made it there yet. I would bet though, that if you wrote an epic, urban fantasy with a strong love story between a woman and a (insert dark/dreamy monster of your choice) then it would be a fairly big hit.
I don’t mean to sound like I am bagging on fantasy. I enjoy a good fantasy as much as a a good sci fi, my point is simply this: Fantasy is growing in popularity while science fiction continues to be far less so.
Which brings me to my point of why I write science fiction.
If it’s unpopular then why write it? I write science fiction because to me it is the embodiment of hope. Whether it is bright and shining vision, or a dystopian one, it is still the future. That means we as humans have managed to struggle forward from our present place in time, and that we have survived. To me that is hope.
Science fiction is the promise of exploration. It is the promise of going further and further from our home. It is the promise of seeing alien sunrises and new worlds either barren or teaming with strange new life.
Science fiction is the hope for new technologies and medicines that allow us to live long enough to see those strange new places. It is the hope that future medicine can cure any ill. It is the hope that grandmas can be treated for every disease and doctors aren’t left fumbling trying to identify an infection.
Science fiction is information spread across the world so that we can finally become one people not defined by borders or governments. It is the sharing of knowledge so that people are no longer subjugated by superstition and closed minds. It is a global awakening where everyone is tolerant of each others beliefs.
Science fiction is the quest for understanding. It is the thirst to unlock the secrets of this universe so that we can know our place in it.
Science fiction is flying cars.
Science fiction is settling new planets.
Science fiction is space elevators.
Science fiction is space ships.
Science fiction is…
That is why I write science fiction. It is not as popular as fantasy. Nor will it ever be as accepted as straight fiction. But science fiction is a dream of a better future.
I write science fiction because I have to believe that the future is better. I have to believe that one day we will ride ships to distant stars. I have to believe so that everyone that looks at me like I’ve developed leprosy can have a future too.
I believe in the hope of science fiction…and that is why I write it.