Science Fiction, Canonization, Marginalization, and the Academy

By Gary Wastfahl; George Slusser | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Chapter 6
The Arthur C. Clarke Award
and Its Reception in Britain

Edward James

The ultimate authority is the one who decides what language means, as George Orwell saw. In many cases, that authority is not the minority whose interests are wedded to a particular usage of language, but the general public who adopt that usage in daily discourse, or a socially or politically dominant group who are able to impose their own ideology upon the language. I am talking about the phrase “science fiction,” of course, and how its meaning has been determined in the British context. To dramatize it, one might say that this chapter is about the struggle within the science fiction community, and between the science fiction community and the literary or intellectual community, for the right to define “science fiction” as it wishes. I will look in particular at the early stages of the Arthur C. Clarke Award, which was deliberately designed to give a higher profile to the genre of science fiction and to change public perception of it. But I shall begin with some thoughts on the way in which one might test the public usage of a phrase like “science fiction,” and, more importantly, check the ways in which that usage changes over time.

A series of opinion polls spread over a number of years might, at great expense, achieve this result; so would a laborious trawl through the press, popular or otherwise. But a new tool is now at our disposal for investigating matters such as this: the CD-ROM. I used the CD-ROMs containing the entire content of four upmarket British newspapers (the Times, Sunday Times, Independent, and Independent on Sunday) to look up all references to “science fiction,” “sf” and “sci-fi” in the years 1992 and 1993. An initial impression, and hardly a surprising one, is that “science fiction” is much more likely to be used with positive connotations on the science or computer pages of a newspaper than it is on the book or film review pages, or in general news and editorial sections. In an article on mobile telecommunications in the Independent, for instance, Steve Homer wrote that “Science fiction should become science fact before the end of this decade.”1 That remark, or variations of it, is common enough on the science pages (as it has been ever since World War II, if not earlier): science fiction is viewed, in


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Science Fiction, Canonization, Marginalization, and the Academy
Table of contents

Table of contents



Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 182

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?