More Rotten Cabbages

Tell me the old, old story: SF is still the genre that pundits I've never heard of love to hate. "Doctor Who is the most dreary thing," whinged TV presenter Fern Britton on Room 101: "I hate sci-fi as it's not real and all these people who are fans think it's real and it's some sort of religion to them." An Independent columnist chimed in about Doctor Who: "It's over-complicated, over-hyped and it has taken over. It is the McDonald's of telly – all franchise, fries and barely-met expectations. And you can stick that sonic screwdriver in your black hole."

Some folk simply can't stand alien monickers, as in John Carter: "I wouldn't trust the sanity of any critic who claimed to understand what goes on in this movie ... I haven't any idea of how Burroughs's gibberish should have been adapted. The Therns, the Tharks, Dejah Thoris? You can't speak the names aloud without sounding like Daffy Duck.' (New Yorker.)

David Quantick prefers crime fiction, declaring that "SF is also geeky because it's like a geek – it can't do relationships, its sex is all fantasy and it can build a warp engine but it can't make a cake." (Guardian.) Crime author Stuart MacBride nervously calls his SF venture a "near-future thriller" for fear of readers screaming "SCIENCE FICTION!!! RUN AWAY!!! ... There's something about a book set in the future that makes them think of aliens, space ships, and pasty teenagers living in their parents' basements ..."

On this vexed topic, it's well known that the Journalists' Code insists that allRed Dwarf X reviews must mention its "obsessive fan base, which stereotype would suggest is mainly men in their thirties and forties with a penchant for sci-fi and gaming – see how I'm subtly avoiding the provocative words 'nerd', 'geek' or 'unsuccessful with women' here?" (Telegraph.)

Even good SF can't be literature: "Iain M Banks's novel Use of Weapons has a narrative structure that, if it were not a work of science fiction, would qualify it as the most 'literary' of literary fiction." (Guardian.) "Lots of its authors, and a slew of its readers, like to think that science fiction sails on the ocean of science, but mostly it just paddles in the shallows of literature.' (Weekly Standard.) The real objection is that it shamelessly wallows in the gutters of popularity.

Thus another Guardian hack's horror at ebook sales figures: "Kindle-owning bibliophiles are furtive beasts. Their shelves still boast classics and Booker winners. But inside that plastic case, other things lurk. Sci-fi and self-help. Even paranormal romance, where vampires seduce virgins and elves bonk trolls."

Also, just to drive a last nail into the coffin, ebook fans are cheapskates: "... in certain genres (romance, science fiction and fantasy) formerly relegated to the moribund mass-market paperback, readers care not a whit about cover design or even good writing ... they just want their fix at the lowest possible price ..." (The Nation.)

Even SF-loving Nobel prizewinner Paul Krugman plays safe when introducing Asimov's Foundation trilogy: "... it's not exactly science fiction – not really. Yes, it's set in the future, there's interstellar travel, people shoot each other with blasters instead of pistols and so on. But these are superficial details ..."

Finally, the co-founder of PayPal reckons SF ain't what it used to be: "The anthology of the top twenty-five sci-fi stories in 1970 was, like, 'Me and my friend the robot went for a walk on the moon,' and in 2008 it was, like, 'The galaxy is run by a fundamentalist Islamic confederacy and there are people who are hunting planets and killing them for fun.'" (New Yorker.) Why don't I recognize either of those anthologies?

David Langford was quite enjoying A.A. Gill's collected TV reviews until he reached the line "... people who don't like or understand literature read science fiction."