"After all, isn't science fiction supposed to be barmy?" wrote an Independent reviewer. Over at the New Yorker, "Science fiction is so inherently close to the absurd that the toughest challenge is not to lampoon it." Steve Jobs died and Macleans magazine explained that before Macs, "Computers were for geeks, science fiction enthusiasts and others even further beyond the pale."
Fantasy gets no more respect, especially when it's big on TV. Contemplating Merlin, the Telegraph wondered: "When did epic fantasy switch from being the nerdy stuff that the Dungeons & Dragons kids played at break time to something that is currently asking for consideration as serious television?" Maybe when it was made respectable by Sir Thomas Malory in 1485.
Clearly A Game of Thrones was too popular to be any good. Salman Rushdie sniffed: "It was garbage, yet very addictive garbage – because there's lots of violence, all the women take their clothes off all the time, and it's kind of fun. In the end, it's well-produced trash ...' (Haaretz.) At the New York Times, one female pundit found it too depressing, like Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: "the same predictably doomed battles between factions – armies from the north, east, south, and west, clashing into the night." Another played the D&D card: "If you are not averse to the Dungeons & Dragons aesthetic, the series might be worth the effort." Asked whether the naughty bits were "historically accurate", Esquire's sex columnist explained: "The Game of Thrones franchise has its hooves firmly dug into the genre known as 'fantasy', which [...] relies on supernatural phenomena as a primary element of plot, theme, or setting, and permits the creator to put in as many tits as he wants."
What would newspapers do without SF and fantasy, though? They're always pillaging the genre for similes. One political fellow resembles a hobbit (and so according to the Indie does George R.R. Martin), another is nicknamed Gollum, the Guardian describes Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson as rivals for the role of Batman, John Redwood is a Vulcan like the chap journalists tend to call Dr Spock, and – in a hideous ethnic slur on Doctor Who's chubbiest villains – any notably squat, corpulent Tory is dubbed a Sontaran. Which reminds me of the spine-chilling prophecy of political coalition in David Whitaker's 1965 novelization Doctor Who and The Crusaders: "No decision was more difficult for Susan or easier for her grandfather [the Doctor], who knew in his heart that she must share her future with David Cameron."
As in countless B-movies, the News of the World phone-hacking scandal erupted like "the moment when the monster, created in a secret laboratory, finally breaks free of any restraint and goes rampaging off amid a trail of mayhem." (Sunday Telegraph.) The embattled James Murdoch, by way of role model, once had "a life-sized cardboard cut out of Darth Vader outside his office". (Independent.) World finance can be described only in terms of shuddering horror: "Enter a terrifying procession of ghouls. The US economy has started to stumble lethargically, as if bitten by a zombie. The eurozone countries, one by one, are being drained of lifeblood by a swift and merciless vampire." (Financial Times.)
The genre infection has even reached the Evening Standard beauty column. After a pricy eyelash treatment, it seems,"your lashes will darken and fatten and seem to multiply like triffids." Stumping around on their three little legs, inflicting cutely poisonous stings – we've all met people with eyelashes like that....
David Langford should be nicer to UK newspapers now he's writing for one of them again.