For The Love Of SF: A Sci-Fi Month Roundtable

Well, folks. This year’s Sci-Fi Month is almost, almost over.

BUT IT’S NOT QUITE OVER YET.

I teamed up with my co-host, imyril, to bring you a pretty epic two-part roundtable interview with some of our favourite SF people – writers and bloggers alike! – who are here to talk about science fiction and why they love it.

 

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash. Quote from The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers.

 

Before we get to the Q&A, let’s meet my guests!

Alexandra Wolfe is a writer and opinionated woman who talks about books, movies, TV, genre fiction and so much more. (And yes, it’s true, she loves Marmite.) You can find her on Twitter @thewrywriter.

Deanna is the owner and operator of Deanna Reads Books. She’s a 20-something blogger from the United States, and has been blogging for 3+ years (in various ways!). You can find her on Twitter @DReadsBooks.

Lauren is a SF/F/H blogger from Ohio. She’s also a librarian who has a cat, which makes her awesome automatically. (These opinions are my own, and entirely correct –Lisa) You can find her on Twitter @SunSoar25.

Carol Goodwin is a Sci-Fi Month Fleet Member, and a reviewer and editor for the Birmingham SF Group. You can find her on Twitter @JupitersGhost.

K. C. Alexander is the author of aggressive transhumanist sci-fi and co-author of Mass Effect: Nexus Uprising. She goes hard, not home. You can find her on Twitter @kacealexander.

A. Merc Rustad is a queer non-binary author from Minnesota. Their stories have appeared in Lightspeed, Fireside, Apex, Uncanny, Nightmare, and several Year’s Best anthologies. You can find them on Twitter @Merc_Rustad.

 

What do you love most about science fiction as a genre?

Alexandra: First of all, maybe the sheer scope of what is on offer, especially as the sub genres just continue to grow. But initially, it was the escapism. For me, as a tween and teenager, it was all about Robert Heinlein and his juvenile books—the fun, the adventure and the fact they were aimed at me. Me! Everything from Podkyne of Mars, Have Space Suit Will Travel, to The Space Family Stone … I could escape with these characters, off planet, and have a rip roaring adventure.

Deanna: I think I just love the possibilities of it all. I love the idea of exploration into space and seeking new ideas and new ways of life. I also love the hope that there can be peace, but I don’t think I’ll see that in my lifetime. It’s a way to dream big.

Carol: Again it’s hard to pin this down and a lot of these also apply to fantasy (which I also read) although SF is my “first love” and the one I still prefer. I think one of the most important things is that it is “bigger” than conventional fiction. What do I mean? Well not just the big battles across space or strange alien landscapes, much as I enjoy them. The worldbuilding, imagination and ideas that are explored in SF are just something I don’t find to the same degree anywhere else and are much more exciting to read than fiction restricted to the “real world”. Also that ability to explore places and technology that don’t exist or won’t exist in my lifetime and to consider the effects on people and characters is so much more intellectually stimulating.

And last but not least, in case the above sounds a little too serious, the sheer diversity of societies, characters and stories (which I feel in the last few years especially is improving) means that SF is just so much more fun to read and watch.

Lauren: I love the fact that there are so many possibilities.  There’s so much potential and just about anything you can imagine can happen.  I also love diving headlong into a whole new world and potentially getting a peek into our complex future – bleak or not.  The genre isn’t afraid to push the envelope, challenge your assumptions, and really make you think all while offering a tremendously entertaining thrill ride at the same time.

Merc: The sense of possibility. There is so much room to explore, all the while maintaining that human connection and empathy needed in a good story. Big ideas, wild adventures, enchanting characters–SFF has so much space to play. There are universes-worth of space, so everyone can find a star system to fall in love with and build their own worlds.

Kace: The thing I love most about sci-fi is that it is a genre where literally anything goes. Details, worlds, characters, elements, foundations, right down to the wrapping paper it’s delivered with can be as subtle or as extraordinary as I want. Which is only the surface: because of those elements, sci-fi can be one of the most subversive genres in entertainment. Gender and racial parity, sexuality, social awareness, societal taboo, disabilities and mental health—all of these can be included covertly or overtly, in your face or built into the trappings. Whichever it is, for the course of that book, those things become “the way it is”.

We unconsciously absorb these elements, and in so doing, our subconscious gains something to chew on. To consider. We may not even be aware of it, but new thoughts and new beliefs take time to form. We’ve seen it already, after all: look at how deeply Star Trek affected millions. (a female black officer! TV’s first interracial kiss! an Asian officer!)

It’s not fast and it’s not easy, but it’s one more wildly entertaining (which means tacitly more palatable to the closed-minded) tool in the arsenal of equality.

 

Where do you draw the boundaries between sc-ifi vs fantasy?

Alexandra: In Dark Matter! Ha! Ha! Okay, I’m not sure what you’re asking. But I’ll say, fantasy is its own form of speculative fiction, in the same way horror (and the supernatural/paranormal) is, they are not grounded in any sense of reality or in science, futuristic or otherwise. So, for me personally, fantasy represents situations that are impossible or improbable, whereas SF is the possible and the probable.

Carol: Oh this is tough. People have been arguing about this since scifi started. On the one hand I’m not one of the hard SF purists who insist that everything must be completely factual and calculated out in minute detail. Thus I am perfectly happy to class things as sci fi which include ideas that current science considers impossible or highly improbable such as faster than light travel or telepathy. On the other hand, I do like at least a handwave towards science so magic wands and flying dragons (unless they are genetically engineered like Anne McCaffrey’s Pernese dragons) I’d class as fantasy. If I had to pin it down Sci fi to me is something that deals with imagined futures and the effects on the lives of characters living in such worlds. It can involve things like space travel, aliens, time travel, genetic engineering or just be restricted to our own planet.  

Deanna: This is a tricky one, and I’m not sure I have the answer because they can mesh together so well. For instance, when I read the first book in N.K. Jemsin’s Broken Earth trilogy, I thought to myself, “Wait, this is scifi?” To me it felt more like a fantasy world with science. If it’s got spaceships and there is hard science I consider it scifi. If it’s strictly mythical beings and magic, I consider it fantasy. There is so much genre mixing, that I think it’s really hard to figure it out where the boundary is. Good thing I love both!

Kace: For my part, the line between SF and fantasy can be a blurred one—but a thickly drawn blurred one. To say there is no magic in sci-fi, for example, is false (see the Force in Star Wars; or, arguably, various abilities in Dune). And there are certainly elements of science in fantasy! (Space cows—I mean, Draenei in World of Warcraft; gnomes and goblin inventors in every Tolkien-inspired fantasy setting ever except Tolkien himself’s; or airships and magical automatons in The Golden Compass).

Where I consider it one or the other are the trappings that surround it and the methods by which the plot is accomplished. Fantasy often requires less explaining: it just is. (Thus why Star Wars is often referenced as “science-fantasy”; who cares how the Force works, let’s throw in parsecs for fun and then bend over backwards explaining it.) Fantasy is usually predicated on some sense of the mysticism or the magical. It doesn’t have to be a made up world or a feudal society (please, really, it doesn’t have to be European; I’m begging you), but it does have to rely heavier on the fantastical than it does the scientific. While fantasy can be explained by science, the primary focus to it is that it accomplishes things using means not available to science (as we know science so far).

Whereas science fiction has a tendency to want to educate by way of actual science; a beautiful motive in its own right. The things it accomplishes, it uses science to get there. It obeys the laws of physics. Okay, or at least it claims that it does (looking at you Interstellar). It draws things we know from physics and quantum theory and geology and astronomy and biology and every other scientific field and pushes them farther. It speculates, and in doing it, it pushes our own modern scientists to do the same. How many astrophysicists were inspired by Star Trek, after all? (Spoiler: a lot.)

 

What SF books or films are you looking forward to in 2019?

Deanna: Obviously the next movie in the new Star Wars Trilogy! I’m also really looking forward to Claudia Gray’s Master and Apprentice about Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon. I’m also planning on finishing Pierce Brown’s Red Rising series next year.

Merc: For movies, I’m really hoping the new Hellboy doesn’t disappoint, as the 2004 film is one of my all time favorite monster-fighting films.

The Outside by Ada Hoffmann is a novel I read in a very early draft and I am ridiculously excited about this! Ada is a fantastic writer (and good friend) and I cannot wait for everyone to meet the characters and live through the eldritch space horrors with them in June. Definitely don’t miss this one!

Carol: The first 2019 film I am looking forward to is Captain Marvel. Firstly, I am pleased that after 10+ years of Marvel films, this is finally one where we have a woman as the lead character and it really should not have taken this long. Fingers crossed that as Ru Paul would say they “don’t f*ck it up”. I love most of the Marvel films and from the few snippets of this one I’ve seen so far it looks to have potential. Also, I hope it’s a bit more upbeat after the gut punch that was Infinity War!

The second film I am looking forward to is Chaos Walking. I read the first book in the Chaos Walking series (The Knife Of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness) in one of my book clubs. I hadn’t heard of it before but really enjoyed it. I can see the plot working really well as a film and with a cast that includes Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley and Mads Mikkelsen it looks like my sort of film.

Book-wise I am looking forward to Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Ruin. I am a great fan of his writing and this is a sequel to his Clarke-Award winning Children of Time. Other SF books I am looking forward to are Gareth L Powell’s Fleet of Knives. This is another sequel (to Embers of War). [And] finally, Ian Macdonald’s amazing Luna series has a third book due out in March (Luna: Moon Rising). If you haven’t read this series you’re missing a treat.

Kace: Films in 2019! HOW DO YOU CHOOSE? Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman 2, Star Wars: Episode IX (December 2019, so far away), Spider-Man 2 (who, last we saw him, wasn’t feeling so good, Mr. Stark, sobbing wildly now). On the less-hyped side, I’m curious about Daisy Ridley’s upcoming Chaos Walking, and… Yeah, I’ll say it: the new MIB. Tessa Thompson, Chris Hemsworth, Emma Thompson. Liam Neeson? I want it. Come at me.

 

So much chewy goodness, so little time! But don’t worry – imyril has more for you over at There’s Always Room For One More, where she’s talking to SF authors Gareth L. Powell, Aliette de Bodard, Dave Hutchinson & Anne Corlett, among others! Get on over there and check out what they had to say. Thank you to all my guests, and to everyone who contributed!

Meanwhile, I’ll see you again tomorrow when I wrap up Sci-Fi Month by wrapping up our month-long readalong of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet! Until then…

 

 

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Dear Geek Place is my new home on the internet, though I've been around here before - I am the blogger formerly known as @EffingRainbow. Here, you can still find reviews of science fiction and fantasy books, but hopefully more besides, as I throw myself cheerfully out into the world and attempt to chronicle my experiences, one adventure at a time.

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