Why Science Fiction May Not Be A Genre
Daniel Abraham has a very thought-provoking article on genre on his blog, I commend it all to your attention. He talks about what genres are, and he says:
I think that the successful genres of a particular period are reflections of the needs and thoughts and social struggles of that time. When you see a bunch of similar projects meeting with success, you’ve found a place in the social landscape where a particular story (or moral or scenario) speaks to readers. You’ve found a place where the things that stories offer are most needed.
And since the thing that stories most often offer is comfort, you’ve found someplace rich with anxiety and uncertainty. (That’s what I meant when I said to Melinda Snodgrass that genre is where fears pool.)
I think this is brilliant and insightful, and when he goes on to talk about romances, westerns, and urban fantasy I was nodding along. Genre is a something beyond a marketing category. Where fears pool. Yes. But when he got to science fiction I disagreed just as strongly as I’d been agreeing before, because in that sense—the sense in which “a particular story (or moral or scenario) speaks to readers” science fiction isn’t one genre, it’s a whole set of different ones, some of them nested.