Is SF becoming SciFi? I hope not.
Dumbing down is the order of the day. Our marketing and publishing departments no longer want to see SF in SciFi, maybe because it couldn’t be labeled, but I think, like many others, because so long as they called it “SciFi” they had to give scifi. Now that they’re calling it “SyFy”, they can put on anything. The name isn’t a promise, it’s just a (TV) brand. Gynmastic shows, Wrestling, Ghost hunting, etc., with some science twists, like making ice cream with liquid nitrogen make it possible to brand something trivial as SyFy.
Not SF, Not SciFi. SyFy. An endless tirade of horror movies based on some crappy mutant animal ("Shark Attack” comes to mind).
I think this is the reason that SF has already kicked the bucket a few years ago. TV is telling us that SyFy is this kind of shit, instead of stories of the amazing and the speculative, the incredible and the awe-inspiring, the heroic and the terrible. Instead, we get the lowbrow and the crap, the easy and the lowest common denominator.
As I've always thought SF is supposed to inspire me to imagine. Instead, we’re being spoon fed. On top of that we're coming lazy. SF is just along for the ride. Using our imagination is getting harder, so don’t bother. Give me fast food-SF (the SyFy kind). Apply the couch potato modus operandi to the “difficult” (*cough*bullshit*cough*) sort of science fiction I like and voilà, I’m reading/watching something very remotely connected with SF.
I've always thought the cycles in science are linked to the cycles in engineering, which in turn are linked to the cycle in economic "sciences". With SF relying on science for some (not all) new input, it is not surprising we also have up and downs in SF. When we're in a trough economics-wise, it's time for the SyFy-look-alikes to take over. As a long time reader, new ideas in SF mean that publishers have to take a bigger risk than with the more tried and tested worlds and ideas. So when we have a recession, as we do now, we will see less innovative SF coming into the bookstores. Once things start moving economically again, then innovative SF will pick up.
"Galactic North" is not the rise of the Phoenix yet. The usual problems plaguing Reynolds' fiction are still present, but these so-called problems are not limited to Reynolds. They are unfortunately present in most of today's SF literature. And that is, *pause for effect*, because the SF of today is crap due to the absence of believable character(s)!! On top of that and coming to “Galactic North” again, we’ve other “issues”: me being led by the hand through the plot one frigging step at a time , moralizing that we can see a mile away, dialogue plot-oriented only, plot twists being telegraphed all the time, etc.
But I haven’t lost hope on Reynolds yet. Read the more recent "Slow Bullets" . You’ll be surprised. I know I was.
Despite the kind of SF being written today, I tend to think it's about to rise like a phoenix – only this time, it’s going to be huge!
SF = Speculative Fiction.