Like that iconic televised moment itself, the recent death of Neil Armstrong appears to have struck a chord within the science fiction community… over 40 years since the first moon landing and, to the untrained eye, we seem no closer to any innovations as big and bold as that first small step. But what does that mean for Science Fiction? The parallels between science and sci-fi have always been undeniable, but have the lack of grand, scientific gestures over the last few decades also been reflected in its popularity?
Of course, that is not to say that scientific discoveries are at a stand-still – far from it. Technology is moving along at a rapid pace, innovations such as the LHC are gracing our screens from time to time, but it seems to be the scale of our advances that are failing to excite our imaginations anymore. From space travel and the possibility of alien invasions… to the iPhone 5, and a more rapid internet speed. I think it safe to say that, by no stretch of the imagination, will quicker access to Facebook save us all from a nuclear holocaust, or in fact – the time police.
However, in the midst of this vacuum of exciting scientific ideas, science fiction writers are continually offering us more – be it time travel; visions of a dystopian future; visions of a utopian future (!) – escapist realities sci-fi readers can delve into. A swift scan of the BBC’s big read, and other annual book lists, also prove that interest is not dwindling. Sci-fi is popular. Very popular – in fact it out performs most other genres considerably. So if this is the case, why is SF still considered such a niche genre?
Perhaps it’s due to the many, many sub-genres that exist within sci-fi. As our scientific interests changed over the years, the topics to be found in sci-fi also adapted. After WWII there was a massive upsurge in end-of-the-world fiction; ‘big brother’, 1984-esque dictators, and the potential after effects of nuclear warfare were to be found in books everywhere. The 60’s space race was reflected in TV and film as well as fiction – Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, etc. Each decade has brought its own sci-fi topics and themes, and as a result, a new sub-genre has been created for each and every one.
Any sci-fi book that features an alternate future and/or an oppressive regime can now be found under ‘dystopian fiction’; any that include A.I are likely to be found under ‘cyberpunk’; and that’s not to mention the inevitable extra categorising that comes into play if your book happens to form part of a series, or includes characters under the age of 18…
We don’t seem to have this problem with other genres – crime is crime, romance is romance, and yet sci-fi…? It seems to me that it is our desire for new, imagination-igniting topics within the sci-fi realm, and then to categorise the hell out of them, that is, strangely, resulting in a real lack of visibility. Is sci-fi still considered a niche-genre simply because no-one really knows exactly what it is…? Or, as was once said of ‘Earth’, is the label ‘sci-fi’ “just too fragile a basket to hold all of our eggs”?
So, to use the term one SF author invoked when describing all that was not sci-fi… in order to avoid the ‘mundane’, check out John Auckland’s first novel The Adventures of Nana Barb. To excite your imagination, ignite your curiosity, and delve head first into a newly crafted universe of infinite possibilities, unite against the time police with your copy, available from Amazon, Waterstones, or any good eBook retailer.