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Is science fiction an obsession?

01/08/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

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To outsiders, people look at our interest in Science Fiction as an obsession, mostly because it takes up so much of our lives, yet no one accuses sports fans as being equally or even more obsessive with their hobby. Then again, with wall-to-wall sports on television and people dressing in team colours just means a larger number, not that theyíre any better.

Hello everyone

To outsiders, people look at our interest in Science Fiction as an obsession, mostly because it takes up so much of our lives, yet no one accuses sports fans as being equally or even more obsessive with their hobby. Then again, with wall-to-wall sports on television and people dressing in team colours just means a larger number, not that theyíre any better. In that respect, theyíve got us SF fans beat in the obsessive stakes. Worse, theyíre mostly considered as normal compared to the rest of the population even if the statistics reveal they are only about 45% of the British population. Numbers may vary depending which country you live in or for any specific sport.

The ability to be obsessed seems to be a common condition however, centring mostly on all kinds of hobbies, as if itís a safety blanket or something more interesting way to pass the more humdrum ways of conventional or normal life. If anything, the oddest thing is seeing the sports obsessed paralleling our own extremes with fancy costumes and face make-up in recent decades. I do wonder how long before they start sewing their own sports shirts together than pay the extortionate prices the clubs charge over here. The merchandise arm has got them totally compared to us. Then again, I find it weird how people in general pay for tee-shirts that have the shop or manufacturer name on and become free advertising boards. Is that a common obsession for some folk, just a lack of imagination or more money than sense? Then again, maybe the difference is with imagination and how we use and exploit it. For us, Science Fiction has creative channels that sports can never achieve, so maybe that explains why it seems so boring to us.

Yet, despite the popular and regular SF blockbuster film that many outside of the genre will watch, weíre still seen as oddball because we donít lose our interest between films. The name Ďoddballí, as well as Ďgeekí, seems to have been designed for us because we look at life at an odd angle to other people. In a weird contradiction, we seem to get, grok or understand the world better the non-genre people about us. If we can see both then maybe weíre not as obsessed as we look just that the rest of the population canít do this with their own obsessions. Ergo, it isnít just our interest safety blanket that makes us different to the general population, but just the way we think.

Then again, it took some time for me to realise that imaginative people are in a small minority compared to the rest of the population. Iíve commented before as to whether weíre an odd off-shoot or something everyone should really be. Then again, if everyone had imagination, would the world be seemingly as crazy as other people see us or would it achieve a different sense of normality and an even crazier one-upmanship or team spirit? As it is, we should see ourselves as being curiously unique and be grateful to be oddball. After all, who wants to be Ďnormalí, whatever that is? That looks painfully dull.

I do wonder if being different is just something associated with Science Fiction or is it a normal thing? Would the original storytellers like Aesop and the Brothers Grimm have more in common with us than the rest of the population at the time? Would they have been seen as oddball but held sway simply because they caught the imagination of the population? Sounds a little like Scheherazade from ĎOne Thousand And One Nightsí. Indeed, it probably accounts for mythology and other tales. With the development of the printing press, it made stories more permanent and the ability to read meant fewer people sitting around an open fire late into the night being told stories when they could read for themselves. If anything, the more, shall we say, conventional stories are the new kids on the block compared to the early tales or maybe mundane stories werenít remembered.

Maybe more to do with how people could relate to them or simply required for a change. In an odd manner of circumstance, such stories replaced fantasy and made it harder for Science Fiction to gain a foothold because it had its own grip on reality. It does make you wonder if things were different that we would be deemed less oddball. Then again, the world would be very different if SF and fantasy was the norm. Now that would an interesting subject for another time. I mean, would it be a different type of release valve or would the metaphor for conventional life be given a different slant? More likely, things would stay the same. After all, the early mythologies didnít stop wars happening but just illustrated Manís tribal nature. If anything, one would have to wonder why these storytellers propagating mythology as religion didnít use it to curb Manís violent tendencies. Stories werenít just written to show the best virtues but also to highlight Manís worse nature. Shame, even up to today, people use both as templates for their lives

In some ways, it almost appears as though fiction of any sort was relegated in its position when it was printed and no longer dependent on wandering storytellers visiting to tell stories. Did monks keep their hand-written books in monasteries not only to protect them from damage but as a means to keep their power over the general population? After all, once you know what everyone else knows, what control do you have over others? Interesting dilemma, huh?

Even so, it doesnít explain why our obsession with imaginative fiction isnít appreciated more by the general population. I doubt if we are seen as omens of disaster, even if many SF tales illustrate fallen dystopias any more than showing happy futures. If anything, the general public fell for the ĎBlade Runnerí rundown version of the future, like us, than the shiny white version ĎThings To Comeí, but that could just be a reflection of how we view our civilisation. Maybe Man is prone to be pessimistic about his future and why it reflects more in Science Fiction than any other genre.

Maybe Science Fiction frightens the general population. After all, most people go through their lives without a need to think heavy. For us, heavy thinking is seen as a matter of course and we think (sic) nothing of it. We look at the world and the cosmos with wonder and speculate. We seek the future as much as looking at the present. Weíre not technophobes although we do wonder whether we should be its servants or not. Do I need to go on? Who would want to be obsessed about anything else when Science Fiction can offer so much? Beats sports by a mile.

Thank you, take care, good night and be grateful we have one of the most satisfying intellectual hobbies as an obsession.

Geoff Willmetts

Observation: Doesnít it feel odd that the focus on sports and the Olympics is about physical rather than mental achievement? Part of being rather geekish is that I suspect most of us SF fans were lousy at sports at school. As such, the appeal of sports tends to be somewhere below watching grass grow or paint drying. If thereís any team spirit, itís knowing that there are other SF fans out there and weíre not truly alone. If anything, weíre more amongst the intellectual part of society. Look at the way we discuss and debate our speciality. We need some measure of expertise on subjects that are beyond our speciality to put things in context. Granted I can never see what we do become an Olympic event but surely there has to be some subjects that could be used as a test of memory, intellectual knowledge or manipulation. Then again, maybe this is something that the man in the street might find they can be outmatched on. However, if you think about it, how many of them can truly match up to the professionals in their favourite sports? Why would it make any difference when it comes to intellect except maybe they donít understand the tests themselves? I have to confess that Iím not entirely convinced by IQ tests, mostly because the standard ones are based on answering patterns or finding the odd ones out when there are other forms of intellectualism related to imagination and such which are harder to evaluate. Then again, how can you measure imagination?

Food for thought (literally): ĎThe cow is the ultimate meal. You can drink its milk. You can eat practically all of its meat and organs. Once youíve got the marrow out of the bones, you can turn them into glue. So, whoís up to eat the curry they produce?í
[If you donít know what a cow is, ask your parents or google up some images.]

Observation: Beige is the new flesh.

A Zen thought:Everyone is going to be late, especially in death.

NB: Anyone interested in reviewing books for me, especially fantasy and military SF, as we have a surfeit of books, and lives in the UK should contact me through Iím always recruiting and details are through a link on the top of the SFC main page and in the SFC Forum for this and articles and stories as well. Just because itís sunny, doesnít mean youíre going to read any less.

If youíve on a budget, a book for a review is a good bargain and I can teach the nervous how to do it by seeing what you do when you present a sample. Itís a good deal. We get books in a variety of formats these days so all things are possible to those with the knack for putting words into sentences.

PPS Donít forget to join on in the new SFCrowsnest Forum. Join up and express your thoughts in leaving typed words that make sentences. Iíve noticed many of you are joining up but the Forum isnít supposed to be a passive site. Remember the editorial above. Iím not advocating a vow of silence. Well, unless youíre a monk but I doubt if that precludes typing. Are you going to be a lurker or a typer??!! Remember the editorial above, passivity is for sheep not a sentient species. The number of hits shown on the Forum arenít daily, but for every ten minutes! Write something and others will respond if you have something to say. Equally, you could just be a guest and look around, especially as we release a lot of news that way, but the more the merrier when you have something to say.
We havenít been spammed since inception with this new version now so you should feel safe to come and communicate on anything Science Fiction. Iím dying to see you people fill in the survey polls. They wonít bite yíknow and are active when you sign in and you must be dying to find out why I consider Element Lad the most powerful Legionnaire. Iím still pondering on any differences with the current changes in the DC Universe will have on that idea.

Speaking of the Forum, if you want up-to-date info of book signings, news and such, have a peak. You donít have to sign up to have a look as to when these things are happening and Iíve yet to hear of a flash crowd turning up for such things but thereís always the first time. Weíre not libel for that if you do such a thing, just to keep my boss happy.

Donít forget, Iím always on the lookout for new reviewers as well as articles, interviews and stories and after some recent changes, letís see if the full details about that appears below. If they donít then look in the new Forum or on the link line at the top of the main page. For potential book reviewers in the UK, itís a good way to keep up your reading habit and show you can write. There are detail links scattered over the website and on the forum. If you donít think youíre up to scratch, youíll discover why Iím the dutch uncle.

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