It was the day my grandmother exploded.
This is evidently the first line of Iain Banks’ 1992 novel The Crow Road, which I haven’t read, but after that first line, maybe I should take a look at the novel. Have any of you read it?
This post at tor.com takes a close look at the books written by “Iain Banks” versus “Iain M Banks.” You all probably knew that the latter, author of the Culture series is the same person as the former literary author. I haven’t read much by either name, just a couple Culture novels.
From the linked post: Banks himself never had any time for what he considered ‘bullshit’ mainstream snobbery, and was always clear that he brought the same skill and effort to both of his careers, famously stating that: ‘The difference is entirely one of setting.’
Interesting! Because I would have thought that the post-scarcity utopian setting of the Culture novels would have a huge effect on the plot and characters, so much so that it would be impossible to say something that dismissed the difference between mainstream and SF as “entirely” setting.
Here’s what the author of this post has to say about The Crow Road:
The Crow Road is a mystery thriller that masquerades as a bildungsroman, that in turn masquerades as a family saga, and yet at its heart is perhaps more like a science fiction novel than anything else: it deals with the biggest of ideas and questions through the most intriguing of characters, and it is smart and funny to boot.
I like the above paragraph, which is delightful, but I would hardly define an SF novel as distinguished from other genres because it “deals with the biggest of ideas” etc. The SF genre IS defined by setting, not by the ideas and questions it explores, however big those might be.
It’s a longish post; click through if you have a minute and you can see whether you find the idea that setting is unimportant and really SF is whatever you say it is persuasive.