My look at Stableford’s work continues.
Review: The Sociology of Science Fiction, Brian Stableford, 1987.
In Chapter IV, “The Expectations of the Science Fiction Reader”, Stableford tries to discover what sf readers get out of the genre. He looks at three questions: what sf readers say they get out of the genre, how the various definitions of sf serve as rules for composing sf works, and what writers and apologists of sf say about the genre’s function and value.
Stableford argues that the whole question of science fiction as a genre is that reading a work of sf is different than reading another sort of novel. That’s what defines the genre. He quotes Darko Suvin as defining a genre as a system of expectations, based on prior reading experience, of a particular type of material. Even innovations in the genre are just an evolution of expectations based on past experience with sf.
What are those expectations? To get an idea, Stableford turns to the letters columns of sf magazines. There are a couple of methodological problems with this acknowledges Stableford.
These are, first of all, a self-selected sample, and, of course, not all the letters received were printed though Stableford notes early sf pulps frequently had letters insulting certain stories.Continue reading