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Discover Magazine Demonstrates Its Uselessness by "Discovering" Facts About Science Fiction

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It took THREE people at Discover magazine (two writers and one "researcher") to come up with a list of "20 Things You Didn't Know About Science Fiction." The whole package is full of facts YOU probably didn't know. For example, there are science fiction writers named Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, and Robert Heinlein (Facts #5, #11-12, #15 and #18-30). Seven of the 20 facts tell us that? Yeah, I'm irrationally pissed about this and I'm just getting started.

Who the hell are these people that Discover magazine thinks need to know these allegedly unknown facts? People who've never read science fiction? In which case, they'll be left in ignorance with the (incorrect) Fact #2 that Hugo Gernsback invented "true" science fiction with his pulp magazine — actually, kids, it was Mary Shelley who created the first science fiction with her mad scientist in Frankenstein about 100 years before our pal Hugo. If they're aiming at non-SF readers, riddle me this: what non-science fiction reader would care about the fact Heinlein invented the waterbed (Fact #14)?


But let's say charitably that they're aiming at people like me, regular readers of SF who want a little trivia: Should I be startled at the amazing fact that there is a lot of sex in Heinlein books (Fact #15)? Also, will we be enlightened by the apparently unknown fact that women can write science fiction (but only if they are named James Tiptree — Fact #9)? Also, gay people can write SF too (Fact #10)! Whoa, no way! And all this time I thought Ursula Le Guin was a man, and Samuel Delany and Joanna Russ were raving heterosexuals.

And what kind of "fact" is it that most science fiction is based on mythology (Fact #1)? There's plenty of hard SF that's based purely on scientific speculation. Also the THREE writers got so lazy that they actually use the entirety of Fact #17 to point out that PanAm doesn't fly to the moon like it did in 2001 because — wait for it — PanAm shut down 17 years ago! Now THERE is a fact about science fiction you probably didn't know.


Here's another one of the amazing "facts" you'll get from Discover: apparently TRUE science fiction fans don't like the epithet "scifi" and prefer the abbreviation "SF" (Fact #6). Um, yeah. There are like ten guys with giant beards who have never read anything written past 1960 who care about that distinction. The rest of us just like good writing, and we don't care if it's labeled scifi or SF or science fiction or speculative whoozit or floop or Jimmy Jam Jam. Seriously, people, we're not an oppressed group; we don't need a special, PC label for our textual preferences, OK?

But I don't want to be too uncharitable. There was actually one useful fact on the list. Apparently Gene Wolfe helped invent the machine that cooks Pringles. I didn't know that! Good going, Gene.

20 Things You Didn't Know About Science Fiction [Discover]