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Sometimes Wrong but rarely in doubt!

27 July 2009

How do You Like You Sci-Fi? Over Easy or Scrambled?

I was reading through a thread on Asimov's Forum today and a Baen author made an observation about the Sci-Fi market:

Just an observation, by no means universally true: [One group]  seems to prefer character revealed by actions, to include the spoken word, under circumstances, with only as much inner thought as [barely] necessary. [The other group] appear to prefer the reverse. (Again, not universally true.) The markets may not be broadly compatible.

Now in a conversation about what kind of Sci-Fi I like, a friend of mine and I compared opinions about what we want in our Sci-Fi.  One of us clearly fell within the above stated market model and the other broke the model by stradling the two groups.  Again it's a model and probably not universally true.  Now I'm curious as to what people like to read in Science Fiction.

My request is for comments on how you like your Sci-Fi and if you've got friends who read sci-fi, please ask them to post a comment too!  Please cite a author or two that is representative of what you like.  Don't limit your comments to addressing the aforementioned model Thanks!


  1. I like a varied lot of science fiction and other fiction (to which this same principal bifurcation would, one imagines, apply). I'm not sure that I can think of which school I would prefer over the other.

    I think my conclusion would be that I prefer a skillful execution of whichever of these two approaches one takes in a work. The appreciation has more to do with the skill in the execution of the craft of writing than with the particulars of which of these approaches was selected - either can convey a story.

    Now it may be that for some sorts of story, one of these is a superior vehicle vs. the other. It may also be that some authors write one style more easily than the other. But to me, I don't think you could call either style a preference - they are both forms of literary tools which should be used as appropriate.

    On a tangential note, I am fairly certain that one of these styles is more successful in translation to the movie or TV screen than the other.

    Last night, in a conversation, a friend and I discussed how some styles of tale and some forms of presentation would suit particular mediums.

    The more introspective and internalized presentation suits a book because movies and TV, being visual but lacking the inside-the-head perspective, often have trouble presenting books written in such a style.

    On the other hand, movies like Dances with Wolves will illustrate that a character can say very little and not act very much (in segements of the film), if he has the right backdrop. There are visual elements that a single photogaph, such as a landscape, may make instantly comprehensible that end up particularly difficult to render into text effectively.

    For another example, envision a fantastical kung-fu fight in a movie, complete with visual FX (think 'Shoryuken', 'Hadoken', and Scorpion's "Get over here!" move) and complex fight choreography (although a lot of films lately cheat on this by filming in a joggled, frenetic style). Trying to render this sort of fight in text leaves one either missing out things that would be immediately accessible in a visual format (for the sake of brevity and pace) or a single fight scene could take five chapters and the pacing would be awful (if you tried to capture the full detail).

    So certainly, the medium influences how your message is delivered. The message may help to dictate the best appropriate medium. You have to respect the medium and mould your message to it (or expect a poor result).

  2. I'm trying to think of an example from the second category.

  3. I'm certainly in Laserlight's group. On a recommendation by a friend I decided to try one of Sarah Hoyt's books, urban fantasy (or vampire porn if you prefer). I found it to be overly emotive and somewhat like the couch potato of urban fantasy, very under active. By contrast Monster Hunter International I found to be a very enjoyable read (and I recommend that people read it), again urban fantasy like Sarah Hoyt's books but gun porn not vampire porn.


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