Here at the blog, I'm often pretty critical of sci-fi and fantasy. I tend to look at these genres as the all-time low in fiction--Well, at least it's better than sci-fi or fantasy! That sort of thing. (And YA fantasy really takes a hit.)
A comment from wxroz on this post got me thinking that maybe I need to explain why this is, and maybe even offer up an apology to sci-fi and fantasy readers... (But not YA fantasy readers. That's going too far.)
(Just kidding. If you like YA fantasy, this apology goes for you, too.)
So here's the apology part (which includes some explaining). In general, I don't read sci-fi or fantasy. I only read said genres if they're classics (and sometimes not even then), or if I have to for school (which rarely happens). I have perfectly good reasons for feeling this way (which I'll explain later in this post), but that doesn't mean I expect everyone to feel the same way I do. That doesn't mean people who like sci-fi/fantasy are not welcome on this blog, or that I won't read their blogs, or that I think they're stupid, or anything like that. There are lots of good reasons to like sci-fi and fantasy! They're just not my cup of tea, that's all. So I hope I haven't offended anyone by criticizing science fiction and fantasy, and in the future I'll try not to be as sarcastic about them. (No promises, though.) But I think the genres have a lot of potential and maybe I'm just not reading the right books.
Also, my experience with the genres is somewhat limited. I mean, obviously, once I decided I didn't like sci-fi/fantasy books, I started avoiding them. But I do like a few, don't get me wrong. I just don't seek out your run-of-the-mill fantasy novel.
But in case you're wondering, I will give the reasons I don't like sci-fi or fantasy. But first, a disclaimer: Most of these are just general tendencies I've noticed in the genres; they don't necessarily describe every single sci-fi/fantasy novel. (So please don't comment with, "They're not all like that!" because yes, I'm aware of that, but I'm just not very good at weeding out the ones that are from the ones that aren't, and so I just avoid them all.)
1. The author spends most of his or her time developing the fantasy world/other planet/future society and often neglects things like character development.
I think a lot of people really enjoy getting caught up in the magic of another world, and it seems that that's what sci-fi and fantasy are for. I understand this, don't get me wrong. When I was a kid I liked to imagine what it would be like to go to Hogwarts, or to find a magic coin that only fulfilled half a wish (like in Half Magic). But now, I'm just really not interested in reading about fantasy worlds that never existed and never will exist. I don't mind reading a novel with that stuff in it, but after several pages of reading about every corner and alley in the city, etc., I just get bored. I want to read about real things, like human nature and life. I read books in order to learn, not in order to escape.
2. The main characters are often dull, annoying, or have absolutely nothing special about them other than things they have no control over.
It doesn't seem like the main characters in these books ever have to work for what they have, or ever have any part of them that they actually developed on their own that helps them on whatever quest they're on. (Except for maybe a pure heart, or something like that.) It's always some mysterious magical power that she so happens to have, or that the task just randomly fell to him even though he is just a twelve-year-old peasant boy (who then miraculously happens to be way more brave and tough than anyone else in the world, which brings me to my next point...).
3. The characters usually have an inhuman amount of emotional strength.
These characters probably have next to no training in whatever it is they're doing (see reason #2), and yet they face their challenges ridiculously easily and then have very little trauma afterward. Yes, afterward, it's all about how they beat the bad guys and saved the world and yippee, aren't they a hero? And yet there is no mention of night terrors or PTSD or anything. I mean, grown men who are trained to fight and know exactly what they're doing and are some of the bravest people on this planet still face emotional trauma. And yet, a teenage boy or girl gets off with absolutely nothing but a bloated ego? Seriously?
4. Why are the heroes/heroines always teenagers?!
This probably happens less in sci-fi than it does in fantasy, and maybe I've just been reading too much of the YA variety, but I just really don't see why kids have to do everything in these novels.
Yeah, okay, it's probably more YA fantasy than anything else, I'll admit that. But still.
5. The people who are supposed to be so smart keep doing such stupid things.
Like the scientist that built the time machine, or whatever. He must have been a genius to do that--but then he has to try it out with absolutely no backup plan--well, no real plans at all--because he's just so passionate and so excited and he just doesn't have time to think about it!
Really? You weren't thinking about that at all during the years it took you to build whatever machine or monster or tool you were building? It never even crossed your mind?
6. Various other factors that are completely silly and unrealistic.
Okay, I know the whole point of these novels is that they're unrealistic, but I still think that if the author is using humans as characters, he or she should at least be true to the fact that they're human. They should have real emotions. They should have some semblance of a personality that doesn't change with the weather. And moreover, I would love to actually get to know the characters, instead of reading pages upon pages of description of the magical world that I just really don't care about.
So there you have it. The six reasons I avoid science fiction and fantasy. I'm sure plenty of you will disagree with me, which is great! And if you have a suggestion for a sci-fi or fantasy novel that doesn't fall into any of these stereotypes, I'd love to hear them.