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Must Watch: John Brunner Breaks Down The Silliness Of Genre Categories

Back in (I'm guessing) the early 1970s, Hugo Award-winning John Brunner already understood that the division between "science fiction" and "mainstream fiction" was largely meaningless. In this must-watch video, the eloquent writer explains why science fiction is the mainstream literature of our technological world.


In the above video, Brunner breaks it down as to why great "mainstream" writers like Anthony Burgess and Kurt Vonnegut have naturally reached for science fiction — because they (like everyone) live in a world that has been transformed by science and technology. And he goes into the importance of mastering both narrative skills and technological speculation, and adds that people should understand the rules before breaking them.

And Brunner says that people at parties are more likely to think that him being a science fiction writer is "groovy" than in the past, because SF has become so mainstream — but they don't understand the full scope of science fiction. He also makes an intriguing point: we ought to consider the "continuity" of readers of marvelous tales, rather than try to construct some coherent "genealogy" of science fiction writers — which I think means that the audience is too broad to restrict the label of SF writer to just one sort of person. Which, amen.


Brunner also makes a bold prediction for 40 years ago: the world will be changing to something unrecognizeable "while our backs are turned." Which is what makes Vonnegut's science-fictional experimentation (and Brunner's own) so indispensible. Amen. [via University of Illinois]

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Alan Dean Foster

In 1987, John and I (among many others) were invited guests of the then Soviet Writers Union in Moscow. John noticed a number of earnest youthful types hanging around the lobby and, inquiring, was told they were all young writers who had traveled to Moscow (one from as far away as Kransnayorsk) to try and attend the get-together...only to be turned away because they were not members of the Writers Union.

So John quietly invited every one of them up to his room later that night, bought all the vodka, and we all sat around talking science-fiction, writing, and the future. Great guy, John.