I was originally going to do this as a video blog, but decided the subject couldn’t wait until I could get the time to actually write down all the main points, find the time to do a video blog, etc. So I’m doing it here.
Now, Vandermeer already discussed this over on Clarkesworld, at least to some extent, and I too have talked about it before. I have to agree to some extent that indeed people are rather preoccupied with the idea of speculative fiction being against the mainstream or everything else. That is very true. In reality, specfic is practically mainstream anyway. The books are generally selling very well. Fantasy has exploded, partially thanks to Harry Potter, and while science fiction may not have superb sales, it too is doing very well in the fact that many books are actually being turned into films. Whether these films are of good quality and represent the greatness of the literature they are attempting to portray is an argument for another time.
One point, though, that I have to make, and have made, is that despite the popularity of specfic, despite its acceptance by the masses as a valuable form of literature, it is still being fought against by the academia. I will not deny that there are now colleges that teach specfic and neither will I deny that a lot of colleges do offer some courses in the subject. What must be realized, however, is that there are very few colleges that actually offer degrees in the field of specfic–mainly science fiction or fantasy–and of the colleges that offer coursework in the field the genre is not taken seriously at all. I will give you an example:
I took a science fiction & fantasy lit course at my previous school, a community college. Now, before one treads upon the quality of community colleges I will make a comparison to UC Santa Cruz, where I am studying now: they are almost exactly the same, with some very minor differences in leniency in the community college. The class, I will admit, was absolutely awesome, but for different reasons than one might think. It was a course that didn’t look at SF & F nearly in the same light as a class studying British lit. In fact, the class was almost like a giant forum for discussion, with minor amounts of reading. There was no reading into the history of SF & F, nor into the history of the authors we were reading. Given that, the course was basically open discussion, which never lent itself to deep analysis or otherwise thorough understanding of the text itself.
This is, unfortunately, the model by which many colleges treat specfic, if they deal with the genre at all. Most colleges don’t offer much in the way of studying specfic. This is an issue that has to be rectified if specfic is to be taken seriously in the literary community. More degree programs have to be offered that allow you to focus in the field. Four or five major programs in the world isn’t enough. There is an enormous field of analysis available by studying specfic. Science fiction, for example, is constantly raising questions about our society, our technology, and our species, drawing upon everything from physics to sociology. Just as one could look upon the many literary theories of criticism and draw information from a literary text, so too can you use such things on science fiction, meaning that a school could very well address science fiction texts without having to fully change their way of thinking.
While obviously specfic has come a long way in the last fifty years, heck, even in the last twenty, it still has a long way to go. People should stop complaining that specfic isn’t being accepted, because it is, but they should strive, or rather, push, to see specfic involved in teaching students at all levels about literature since specfic is extremely influential in our society–a fact that cannot logically be denied. Despite where it stands now, we still have a long way to go everyone. Let’s get over that next milestone and start claiming victory. For now, realize that we’ve achieved success in one arena.