Vivienne Raper references a 2009 article by John Howell here about the difficulty of writing science fiction in today’s literary climate. Rather than concerns about the difficulty of keeping abreast of change, Howell despairs about the stigma attached to science fiction as a literary genre. He quotes Margaret Atwood, who maintains she doesn’t write science fiction because, “Science fiction is rockets, chemicals and talking squids in outer space.”

Although she writes things that look suspiciously like science fiction, Atwood prefers to be considered a mainstream author. Presumably she has absorbed her definition of SF from the cultural consciousness, still stuck in a post WWII technology. It also sounds very much like Stanley Schmidt’s comment on clanking hardware.

This is a curious development. Hard science fiction, once considered a cutting-edge predictor of the future, is now caught in the past. Somehow it can’t shake free of that image that Atwood summarizes so clearly. She’s not far wrong, either. The Hugo packet this year featured a talking dinosaur, an intelligent squid and a couple of versions of robotic artillery.