ABSTRACT

The literary critic, sociologist, or other outsider venturing to cast his eye over science fiction is likely to be struck almost immediately by two facts. One is the intensely participatory nature of the readership's inner core, something which reveals itself in passionate correspondence in the magazines, in a high proportion of amateur writing, and in the ritual of massive and enthusiastic conventions. The other is that all science fiction incontestably contains some datum known not to be true to the-world-as-it-is. The easiest conclusion to jump to is that the two facts are related: the charge that 'fans' get from science fiction is one of irresponsibility, freedom from restrictions. 'The trouble with these here neurotics is that they all the time got to fight reality. Show in the next twitch', to quote the psychologist from CM. Kornbluth's 'The Marching Morons' (Galaxy, 1951). This is an irritating thesis, and one which does no justice to the often intense self-scrutiny of many science-fiction writers and readers. Nevertheless, it does pay some attention to observable facts; and this cannot be said of a style of criticism common enough, and easily forgivable, among the fans themselves, but too often reflected back at them by fan-spokesmen venturing into criticism, and by professional critics who should know better.