Monday, May 21, 2012

Damage, Nerds, and Mr. Grey

There's nothing like standing on a street corner in Brownstone Brooklyn and yakking about science fiction. Really, try it some time.

So I was talking to my buddy S. (who will be coming out with a YA dystopian in a year or two that will knock your socks off) and we got onto the topic of escapism. S. made the point that spec-fic fans are damaged. (Now, before anyone gets huffy, bear in mind that S. is a fan, she writes the stuff, and she will cheerfully cop to being damaged herself...even though anyone who met her would see just a cool, good-looking chick in her early 30s who is totally in charge of her own life.) Her point was that spec fic is about escapism, if you need to escape on a regular basis you're unhappy in your life, and that unhappiness indicates or is the result of damage.

Four or five years ago, I would have fought this. I would have said that some people just like F/SF. I would have said that it was a stereotyped statement. I would have been King Denier. But now, I think she's right, and I'm okay with it. Because you know what? We're ALL damaged. Not just the F/SF fans. The romance novel industry makes science fiction's revenues look like chump change. And how about all those folks reading detective novels? What about action movies, TV police procedurals, American Idol?

So the real question isn't "do you want to escape"? It's "what do you want to escape into?"

Maybe some kinds of escape are better than others. Maybe escaping into (say) a novel that invites you to think about the universe in new ways is better than escaping into a novel in which technology just offers you new ways to be more powerful and take your revenge on others. Maybe stories that reinforce passivity and power-worship...>cough< Twilight >cough<...are immoral, but novels that make you think, even as you're escaping, are good. What you might call a book "with its heart in the right place."

More on this, eventually.


  1. I think you're absolutely right about fantasy fans reading to escape. I know I would become totally immersed in different worlds ever since I was a kid, so much so that my parents worried about me. I don't agree about the damaged bit though. I love my life, it's just not the most kick-ass, exciting world to live in (no magic or dragons, darn it!) so I read to escape to other, more exiting, worlds.

  2. Fair enough, Erin! I think I was picturing it in terms of my friend, who's one of the coolest people I know, but who will also cop to having had a pretty awful childhood.