I only got to attend a few sessions at BYU's LTUE Science Fiction Symposium, but the few I did attend were steller. I hope to see this symposium grow and garner more attention from the Sf/F community in the coming years.
By far the most engaging was the presentation by Brandon Sanderson, guest of honor. In his guest of honor speech, he took on the mighty and admirable task of refuting Sturgeon's Revelation (sometimes called Sturgeon's Law). Sturgeon's Revelation states that "90% of everything is crud." In this statement, Sturgeon, a sci-fi writer, defends the speculative fiction genre against literary critics.
Sanderson discussed how deeply this statement is embedded into the psyche of SF/F fans. He asked us, fans of the genre, the following questions (and I'm paraphrasing): As fans of the genre, do we really believe that 90% of everything published in our genre is worthless? Do we really believe that 90% of the stories in SF&F, Asimov's, etc., are crud? Do we really believe that 90% of the books published by Tor, Baen, etc., are crud? And if we do, then we must by extension believe that the editors of these respected publications and publishing houses have really bad taste. Or we believe the reverse of that: if the SF/F being produced is good, do we believe 90% of the readers/fans are idiots?
Sanderson drew a comparison of another genre of reviewers: movie critics . He went to Rotten Tomatoes, a aggregate of movie reviews. He tallied the last 50 movies that famous film critic Roger Ebert reviewed--and found that Ebert liked 33 of the 50 movies of reviewed, or 66%. So not even Ebert, who is known as a tough film critic, thinks 90% of his genre is crud. Sanderson studied another tough critic on Rotten Tomatoes (and I apologize for not catching the name), and even this tough critic liked 50% of what he saw.
Why are SF/F fans so willing to knock the genre we love so much? Sanderson discussed the difference between a good book/bad book, and liking a book/not liking a book. There is a profound difference between the two. When I saw No Country For Old Men, I didn't like it; but that didn't mean the movie wasn't good. It just wasn't to my taste.
The same is true for the speculative fiction genre; just because you don't care for a particular book doesn't mean it's not good. Sanderson pointed out that fans of the genre often spend more time knocking the genre than promoting it. For example, if someone outside the spec fic genre fanbase says, "I like Twilight," or "I like Harry Potter," or "I like Eragon," we should say, "Great! Glad you like our genre. If you like those books, you'll probably like x, y, and z." And if we happen not to like any of the above-mentioned books, we should keep those opinions to ourselves. After all, just because we don't like a particular book or author doesn't mean it's bad.
Closing remarks: Sanderson pointed out that as fans of the genre, we are also emissaries of the genre. Don't waste time trashing the genre to others. Our genre is wonderful! Spread the word.
I loved every minute of Sanderson's speech. It was so positive, so "un-snobby." I hope that by blogging about it, I can help spread Sanderson's message: Speculative Fiction is wonderful! Spread the word.