I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “how do you punch a genre in the face?” The answer is: with great force.
I love science fiction, don’t get me wrong. I am fond of several different subgenres, from space opera (or fantasy in space, as I like to call it) to dystopian to even the occasional hard science fiction tale. But science fiction tends to have a rather lofty opinion of itself at times.
Not always, mind you. There are plenty of scifi tales out there that are poignant, thought-provoking, and well-written without being obnoxious. But then there are some of the others.
Science fiction believes – rightly, in many cases – that it is its job to show us how our actions in the present day will affect the future. This can be a few months from now to several (hundred) years out. Will our blatant commercialism led to us being known only be barcodes? Will our inability to properly manage our resources cause all-out war between countries desperate for fuel? Will we be forced into the darkness of space because we’ve made our planet unlivable?
And so forth.
That’s all well and good. But sometimes you come across science fiction that so strongly believes in its own message that it: a) beats the reader over the head with the message, usually including some trippy metaphor; b) becomes so bogged down in details that its unreadable; or c) feels the need to become utterly incomprehensible, because its message is too important for the average plebian to understand (or, as I somewhat lean towards, the author doesn’t quite know what his/her point is and so buries it in strange imagery).
A lot of it feels so forced. I’ve read novels where I’ve been riveted and, then, in the last few chapters, everything devolves into some metaphor that makes the whole thing incomprehensible and, worse, irrelevant. I’ve seen movies where the director or whoever feels the need to be so experimental with their camera angles that it’s impossible to tell what’s happening.
Kevin J. Anderson said something along these lines at PPWC – that if he had to pick something to never see in science fiction again, it would be stories that are purposefully inaccessible to the average reader.
And come on, Squiders. When someone’s being a pretentious lout, don’t you want to punch them in the face too?