m. c. de marco: To invent new life and new civilizations...

Barbarian at the Gates

A reference on a mailing list to Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s original argument made me realize I never linked it. So here it is, Barbarian Confessions:

I am one of the heretics who believes that art must be enjoyed first and analyzed later.

I am also a member of the Star Wars generation. Sixteen years old when the movie came out, at a first-night screening with a dozen of my high school buddies, I watched the world change right in front of me. Did I know that E.E. “Doc” Smith had done something similar thirty years before? Of course not. My small town library never had that kind of trash (their words, not mine). Had I memorized the science fiction canon? Hell, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as science fiction. Or fantasy. Or genre, for that matter.

I suppose I’m also a member of the Star Wars generation and media has often been my gateway drug to science fiction, but then there can’t be many old fans still on the convention circle who were not, at the very least, part of the original Star Trek generation and who haven’t read at least a few Star Trek tie-in novels (back when they were good, which is just to say, back when I read them).

SF came in dead last at 6.4 percent.

SF —y’know, the genre that includes fantasy. I have no idea how low the sales would be if we were only talking about science fiction all by its little ole self.

Lumping in fantasy with the disreputable sci-fi “trash” muddies the waters in more ways than one. Fantasy was allowed, even encouraged, in the children’s book sections of my youth. We had no movies, unless you count those horrid old cartoons of Tolkien, but we had the literary respectability of Newbery medals. Adult fantasy may be slumming with the space operas, but children’s fantasy has always been mainstream.