The Sneer

A peek into the inner workings of sfnovelists.  The blog here is our public face, but we actually talk to each, too.  Mostly we talk about business-related topics, but sometimes something less professional strikes a chord, and a symphony breaks out.

Or maybe it’s something more like a bunch of dogs howling at the moon.  Anyway…

Lately we’ve been talking about “the Sneer.”

Imagine this.  You’ve finally broken in and sold a book to a major publisher, cashed a check with more than three or even four digits in the number, and are sitting down in a bookstore to do your first signing.  Someone wanders up, all smiles, and asks what kind of book you’ve written.  You tell them.  “Science fiction.”

Their smile freezes on their face, or maybe twists a little.  They make some excuse about how they only read serious books and move on.

And you sit there in shock, deflated.

It’s happened to most of us in one form or another.  Instead of science fiction, the book might be fantasy, or romance, or young adult.  Or — horrors! — a media tie in.  Someone, and it could even be a family member or close friend, will ask you when are you going to write a “real book” or “something important” or worse, just give you a dismissive sneer.

It isn’t just an issue for writers.  Being caught reading the wrong kind of book on the airplane can evoke the sneer, too.

I’m a proud science fiction writer, but who likes to get dissed about their passion?

Got a story?  Join the howling!  It’s therapeutic.

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There are 4 comments. Get the RSS feed for comments on this entry.

  1. 1. Gary Gibson

    I’ve experienced something like this on a couple of occasions. One time was at a creative writing class with an old girlfriend, which I wrote about here:

    The other time was when I got a lift from a friend of a friend. He asked me what I was doing, I said writing a book, and he asked what kind, followed by my inevitable answer.

    We were sitting at the lights at the time. He stared at me like I’d just told him I raped puppies. He turned away, hands gripping the steering wheel, lowered his head halfway to it, and muttered ‘Jesus Christ, *Jesus* Christ’. The lights changed and we took off.

    It took him another five minutes to recover sufficiently to start talking to me again or even, now that I think about it, even to look at me. When he did, it was with an expression of strained joviality, before changing the subject entirely.

    At least he didn’t ask me how long I had ‘believed in flying saucers’.

  2. 2. Emily

    I write about videogames for a living and always wonder how many people I meet are writing me off as a slacker for not covering murder or politics or at least restaurants.


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Author Information

Mike Brotherton

Professional astronomer, science fiction novelist (Star Dragon, Spider Star). Visit site.



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