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Thumbing Their Noses at Science Fiction

From the Wired article Writers, Directors Fear ‘Sci-Fi’ Label Like an Attack From Mars:

Even when clearly appropriate, film studios and publishers avoid the phrase “science fiction.” So do the novelists, film directors and editors in their employ. McCarthy’s book [The Road], which is about to become a blockbuster — Oprah Winfrey will tout it on an upcoming TV show as part of her book club — is just another example of how the powers that be dodge the term, especially when it applies to “serious” fiction or cinema.

You won’t find the words “science fiction” in Random House’s bio of Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning author China Miéville. Instead, he’s called the “edgiest mythmaker of the day.” Michel Gondry’s The Science of Sleep? It’s classified as comedy, drama, romance and fantasy, but not sci-fi, at

Even Battlestar Galactica, the flagship show of (hello!) the Sci Fi Channel, keeps a distance. “It’s fleshed-out reality,” explains executive producer Ronald D. Moore in the sci-fi mag SFX. “It’s not in the science-fiction genre.”

The nose-thumbing is nothing new. In the ’50s, Robert Heinlein dismissed the term, opting for “speculative fiction.” (What fiction isn’t?)

About John DeNardo (13013 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

5 Comments on Thumbing Their Noses at Science Fiction

  1. I don’t care what they call it as long as they continue to consume it.

  2. Yep, and Crichton isn’t SF despite having reanimated dinosaurs and diagrams stalking his pages; same for Atwood with “Oryx and Crake” or PD James with “Children of Men”; yet KSR’s “Science in the Capital” trilogy most certainly is. hmm.

  3. Yes, it’s all pretty nit-picky.

    It seems like it’s mainly a marketing device. Over the years publishers have probably realized that they make more money on crossover books or movies if they drop the sci-fi tag.

    Some people just have a natural aversion to the word, just like I used to have for fantasy. It doesn’t really make sense, but a lot of people don’t think about it in depth and just act on impulses created by reading a single adjective.

  4. Tell me about it. I got into a discussion about whether or not Lost should be identified as scifi, recently. In my mind, of course it should! But it’s too sexy for people to want to think of it as scifi.


  5. Glad to see I’m not alone in remembering the Atwood circumstance of a few years ago. Another circumstance is the “The Sparrow” by Mary Doria Russell, sometimes not shelved by bookstores or libraries in their SF sections; of course, the book is about first contact with aliens and travel to an alien planet, it might be Spec. Fictional.:( I did read an Amazon review that said “The Sparrow was to good to SFnal.

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