Robert J. Sawyer Alienates Fans

Attend any Science Fiction Convention and check the program and you will find an panel called “The State of Fandom,” or the always shocking, “Is Fandom DEAD????” I have attended more than my share of these panels of which the upshot invariably is a rousing, “NO! Fandom is NOT DEAD!” These panels are usually on the Sunday and are most likely meant to send convention goers home with a warm and fuzzy feeling in their gut-meats.

I agree that fandom is not dead, in fact for the last fifteen or so years it seems that the Science Fiction Genre has been gaining greater prominence not only on mainstream television with channels like Space: The Imagination Station in Canada, and the SciFi Network in the United States, and Hollywood seems to have changed it’s collective mind about the genre as well, green-lighting more Science Fiction projects every year. Sure, not all of them have high quality writing, and for the most part flicks based on books are pale reflections of their literary counterparts, but they are still enjoyable escapes right? Doesn’t this in itself prove that Science Fiction in all forms is becoming more popular with the masses?

Not really, says Canadian Science Fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer who is determined, along with a large group of neo Sci-Fi Lit fans, to drive a huge wedge between themselves and fans of wider ranges of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

According to Sawyer and is rabidly loyal fan-base, the only real Science Fiction comes from paper-bound books (presumably his) only, and any other media including e-books, graphic novels, television, and film are “the single worst thing that has ever happened to the science fiction genre. I say that without reservation or without hesitation.”

At a recent lecture Sawyer spoke of the film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings and referred to as what he perceives as the “two kinds of (Science Fiction and Fantasy) fans: those who read the books and were wary of the films, and those who never read the books and loved the films.”

I find it strange that Sawyer, who always struck me a rather intelligent man, would make such a generalization about the fans, the people to whom he owes his very career.

He goes on to say in an interview with SciFi Dimensions that he “question(s) the clarity of thought of those who put on the Mr. Spock ears or the Stormtrooper costume (and) the clown with a lobster on his forehead pretending to be a Klingon." He goes on to say that groups of fans who like to celebrate fandom through the hard work of constructing a costume and having fun wearing them are nothing more than "arrested, overweight adolescent who’s putting on a Halloween costume, and it’s nowhere near October 31st.”

I gotta say I have to question Mr. Sawyer’s clarity of thought when he lets loose these kinds of blasts against the very fans that read his books. Even animals know not to defecate where they sleep. I wonder if RJS even realizes what he is saying when he bashes Sci-Fi film, television, the books that spring from them, and the fans that enjoy them. He claims that the Sci-Fi genre is on the decline, yet the sections in bookstores showcasing Science Fiction and Fantasy are growing bigger every day! I remember, not too long ago either when there were one or two shelves devoted to the genre, and now there are whole sections in the stores deticated to the genre that are iterally overflowing! Does it even occur to Sawyer that Television programs like Battlestar Galactica are introducing new generations of fans to the genre? Does he not realize that these new fans will be more likely to gravitate towards the Science Fiction and Fantasy section of the bookstore and possibly buy one of his books? That’s how it started for me anyway. Back in 1977 I saw Star Wars in the theatre and since that moment I have been a big fan of all things Sci-Fi, from novels (including among others, his books) to comics, from short fiction to television, and movies.

Until hearing one of Mr. Sawyer’s talks at a local convention I honestly had no idea he was trying so actively to perpetuate a vicious “Us vs. Them” attitude amongst fans at a time when we should be united, and all the stronger for it.

Which brings us back to the initial question: Is Fandom Dead? The answer is still no, but with well known, well liked writers like Sawyer determined to alienate fans and drive wedges between them, Science Fiction and Fantasy fandom as we know it may not have many years left in it.

1 comment:

Manganic said...

Back in the day, as it were, when I was fortunate enough to receive the Sci Fi Channel via C-Band satellite (and before they added scrambling,) I was watching Sci Fi Buzz, a news magazine show about all things... Well... Sci Fi. At the time Harlan Ellison had a minor commentary section, and it was usually quite funny. In one of them, he did get quite serious, and mentioned that he felt the Sci Fi (and Fantasy) genre was about to go through a big "weeding-out" process. His point was that much of the material was becoming repetitive, formula-based schlock, where much of the time, it was merely the same story told on a different map, spaceship, or planet.

I agree with him - how many times can the story of boy-being meets girl-being (under a silvery moon which then explodes for no adequately-explained reason) be told?

Don't get me wrong, I believe there is some excellent Sci Fi and fantasy out there (pick up Terry Goodkind) waiting to be read, but the days of Orcs, Goblins, and Klingons are, sadly, probably numbered.

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