Crit Mass Feb 7th: Defining Science Fiction

“These difficulties of defining SF are, in part, a function of the sheer number of SF texts that need to be brought beneath the bar of any notional inclusive definition. Where SF once upon a time constituted a small body of texts, nearly all of them novels and short stories, which most fans could be expected to have read, nowadays SF texts are impossibly legion. Scott McCracken points out that ‘Science Fiction is enormously popular. It accounts for one in ten books sold in Britain, and in the United States the number is as high as one in four’ (McCracken 1998: 102). John Clute has pointed out that the number of texts classified as SF has ballooned since the early years of the twentieth century. According to Clute, even at the height of the ‘Golden Age’ the number of separate novels published as science fiction was a few hundred a year. Nowadays, taking together science fiction and fantasy, thousands of novels are published annually. Now ‘what was once a field [has] become the Mississippi Delta’. In Clute’s opinion, if Golden Age SF could be perceived as ‘a family of books which created (and inhabited) a knowable stage (or matrix[…]”

— Adam Roberts. “Science Fiction: Second Edition.”

We’re having a look at Adam Roberts’ critical work, Science Fiction (2nd edn, 2005) at the February critical mass meeting, 7pm at Kappy’s. Roman will take us on a quick tour through key ideas in the work, starting from some well-known definitions, looking at SF and gender, SF and race, different histories of SF and revealing a surprising connection between SF and poetry!