I got talking to a girl yesterday, and somehow the conversation turned to Science Fiction. Here’s a little bit of the chat transcribed. I’ll circumvent the early introductions, because I start talking to random people a lot, and the beginning bit is the boring bit.
Me: “… yeah, it’s a great book. You’ll probably like it.” [Marge Piercy’s ‘He, She and It’.]
Her: “Not if it’s about Science Fiction. I don’t like Science Fiction.”
Me: “Well… it’s not about Science Fiction… It’s a love story, it’s just that there’s also a robot. But it’s not just the science… or the fiction… no, hang on. Erm… it’s just a really good story.”
Her: “Why does there have to be a robot? That’s what I mean. Why?”
Me: “It’s set in the future, but… Why does there have to NOT be a robot?” [I display the smug face that I wear when I’ve convinced myself that I’ve made a great point.]
Her: [She looks at me blankly. Then her face shifts as the realisation dawns that she is at the tram stop, late at night, talking to a strange woman about robots. She has a little look around and then shrugs while searching my eyes for any further, undetected madness.] “Each to their own, I suppose.” [She picks up her glossy mag, I stare at the tramlines; our meeting ends].
When I chat to randoms, I respect the clear social indications that the other person has had enough of the conversation. I believe it’s what separates me from the drunks and mad people who also enjoy striking up dialogue with strangers in public places. On this occasion, and some others, I have wanted to push the conversation, having become genuinely interested in a stranger’s opinion.
How could someone dismiss something on the grounds that it’s ‘Science Fiction’? What do they think this ‘Science Fiction’ is? The girl was a 2nd year biology student and was reading a celebrity magazine; clearly a fan of both science and fiction, but not of Science Fiction.
We both got on the Eccles bound tram and just after she sat down, she looked up and I smiled at her. She gave me the mouth flatline and raised her magazine slightly. She got off before my stop, and as she walked past the window, from the safety of the other side of the glass, she gave me a smile and a nod.
Two complete strangers meet at a mass transport intersection, and travel across the surface of a solar orbital in a metal pod. They have a tiny human moment. One of them recounts the moment into her palm top communication device and projects the message into cyberspace.
It’s the story that counts, not the genre.