Andy Simpkins is Moderately Vexed by… Misconceptions About Science Fiction Fans

Published: Sometime before 7th January 2002

Allow me to introduce myself. I am invariably male, I am aged between my late teens to midthirties, I am still living at home with my parents, I have few friends and I have had very little if any sexual experience with a member of the opposite sex.

This is the popular portrayal of what a science fiction fan looks like. Somebody who seems to have shut themselves off from the real one in order to frequent a world populated by aliens bent on galactic domination, lantern-jawed heroes thwarting them at every turn and pneumatic young women who just scream a lot and act as arm candy for the aforementioned heroes when they are taking a break from thwarting the latest attempt by the Evil Emperor (no, not Adam Purcell but I do have my doubts!) to enslave the Human Race. This is carried on to a never-ending litany of woe from his parents who wonder despairingly when he will give up reading and watching that rubbish and go out and find himself a nice girl and also by his peers who deride his interest as something a bit odd and therefore is the object of ridicule.

I suppose it is down to the question of what constitutes a minority. To bring it down to an easily digestible level, lots of people like football and is therefore not counted as a minority pastime but science fiction is because it has a less popular following and by its very nature as being something otherworldly and outside the mainstream of popular interests, it is often treated with derision and contempt or suspicion at the very least. People are scared of minorities. It upsets their thinking and their view of how the world is.

An example of what I am talking about appeared in the unprepossessing shape of a middle aged woman who is a TV critic for the Daily Mail. A few years ago she was asked to write a review of a programme on national television. The programme being either a sci-fi film or TV series. Normally this woman, who I cannot name because I do not wish to face a defamation of character lawsuit, normally pours her copious amounts of vitriol on the soap-operas and vents her spleen at the characters contained therein. What she did next was to rubbish the programme she was supposed to make an unbiased and impartial view of and then, in the same article and breath, to say that science fiction fans were emotionally stunted and socially retarded.

Needless to say, I was incandescent with rage and so was Keith Dunn when I showed him the article. This venomous harpy of a critic has no idea of the genre and the subjects contained within and took the populist way out by slandering this programme, the very subject matter and the very people who watch and read this genre. If she was to sit down with a good science fiction novel, the boundries of her very small and spite-filled world would have been expanded immeasurably. This could only happen if the poison dwarf in question were to take off her blinkers for a just a short moment.

People would come out with a stock question: "Why do you like that rubbish, it's all about spaceships and the future..." to which I would thrust my face in theirs and counter :"Exactly!!"

One thing I do like is reading. Whether it is popular fiction, a historical novel, poetry or a magazine. There is a comfort and a solace that only a good book can provide after a hectic day at work. However, the whole raison d'etre of science fiction becomes blindingly apparent when one reads the first lines of any major science fiction novel. Most popular fiction, however good it may be is constrained by one major factor;namely it takes place in the past or the present. The future is both a closed book and a fresh palette with which to create works that will allow our fancy and our imaginations to take flight. From the innocence of the pulp magazines of the 40's and 50's, through the Golden Age given to us by authors such as Clarke, Asimov and Heinlein to the dystopian nightmare presented to us in the 1980's by William Gibson and Bruce Serling to the new wave of authors such as Gemmell, Eddings etc, it is a genre that never ceases to amaze and ask as many questions about humanitys future as it does to settle old arguments.

One thing I must also point out is the prevalence of science fiction in both television and cinema. If sci-fi is such a maligned subject, then why do most cinematic block-busters that people so eagerly anticipate for months on end are in the vein of Star Wars, Independence Day or The Matrix. You only have to look at the Top 20 Top Selling Films of All Time to see that science fiction movies feature quite significantly.

Science fiction has a nasty habit of turning into science fact. You might laugh at the wobbly sets and the fact that you should never beam down onto an alien planet while wearing a red shirt but some of the concepts featured in the original series of Star Trek, such as matter transportation, communicators etc have been replicated in laboratories or are present in any High Street electronics store, albeit in a smaller and much altered form. One example is what you are cosying up to at this very moment;the humble home computer.

So, the next time some one says they are a science fiction fan, he or she is not to be treated with ridicule. As the author, Arthur C. Clarke once said: "Science Fiction fans are, on the whole, generally more intelligent than ordinary people..." I think that says it all...


Andy Simpkins is also a member of another much maligned minority:he is a fan of the rock band Status Quo...