The Genre of Science Fiction

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In her 1996 book on Anne McCaffrey, Robin Roberts writes that:
“Science fiction is a broad category that is difficult to define because different writers and critics use the term to refer to a variety of approaches and texts. Perhaps the label’s most common function is as a marketing device – science fiction readers look for it in a particular area of a bookstore. Mainstream writers like Margaret Atwood have written science fiction, but so have writers like Anne McCaffrey, who is known primarily for her genre writing.

Science fiction is unique in reader-fan relationships and sense of community. Special fan magazines, fanzines, connect science fiction readers and writers with criticism and reaction to science fiction of all types. Some fanzines specialize in the work of one author, others in types of science fiction. During the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s especially, writers paid close attention to fan reaction to their works, and fans would frequently begin as readers and end up as writers.” (11)

“Science fiction readers and writers,” she continues, “also interact at conventions, known [-p.12] as cons. In America, there are several cons each month, all over the country, which culminate in the annual World Science Fiction Convention. A con typically involves an art show based on science fiction themes and science fiction writers’ work. In addition, cons usually have a book exhibit featuring rare science fiction books and magazines and also contemporary works. A costume show is the highlight of most cons – fans dress up in costumes, inspired either by particular works of science fiction or science fiction themes. …While other popular genres, such as romance, have similar conventions and fanzines, the science fiction tradition involves more activity and a longer history.” (11-12)

Ref: Robin Roberts (1996) Anne McCaffrey; A Critical Companion. Greenwood Press: Westport, CT

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