I’ve just been reading this wonderful dialogue between Iain M. Banks and Simon Morden, over at the Orbit site.
Banks is one of the greats of modern SF; and Simon’s a rising star in the genre and a wonderful bloke; I thoroughly enjoyed meeting him at our last two Eastercons, and he even gave me some flapjacks. (Now that’s a man who comes prepared)
The discussion between these two scribes ranges far and wide and deep; so if you haven’t read it, do so! There’s nowt happening here except me blathering.
C.P. Snow once wrote about the ‘two cultures’ – arts graduates and science graduates – and that seems to be part of the cultural divide that B & M are discussing. It’s partly about the fact that people in power know nothing about science or its fundamental principles. And it’s partly a snobbery against certain kinds of genre fiction – what Stephen Hunt calls ‘ the sneer’. Eithe way, it’s us and them; us being the good guys, and them being people who disparage science, the scientific method, and all forms of extrapolative and speculative fiction, including those featuring space battles and wizards.
The prevailing ignorance about science is one of the greatest horrors of our age in my view. It explains the insanity of climate change denial – the belief that something can be denied and refuted WITHOUT EVIDENCE. Any argument that is built upon lies and stupidity is, in my opinion, contrary to the scientific approach – of finding out what is true without imposing answers upon reality.
The sneering against science fiction is a smaller crime. And I’m beginning to wonder if it’s any longer possible for SF fans to feel like the underdog. The massive coverage in the Guardian a weekend or so ago of science fiction and its authors has redressed years of neglect. Banks himself gets major critical attention, as do China Mieville and Ursula Le Guin and Neil Gaiman and a sprinkling of others, whenever they publish a book. The fact that Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights trilogy DIDN’T win the Booker Prize still rankles with me, but it was at least considered prize-worthy by many.
So I wouldn’t say we’re THAT hard done by; the sneerers are looking sillier and sillier by the day.
But that’s only a minor part of what Banks & Morden chat about. Do, as I say, check it out, if you haven’t already. Great stuff.
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