Matthew Munson: The monster under the bed

The fascinating world of sci-fi

Back in 2014, I spent a long weekend with around 8,000 people in a large convention centre in London. By choice.

The ExCel Centre hosted the 2014 World Science Fiction Convention, and let me tell you, it was wonderous. There are people who are rather dismissive of science fiction and fantasy (SFF), but I’m not one of them – my published works are, thus far, all in these two genres, and it’s such an incredibly diverse and fascinating field.

So, I simply don’t understand those people who are dismissive of SFF; a lot of the time, people who say that might have only seen one thing that doesn’t interest them, and generalise from that one thing. To me, that’s like saying they don’t like all cinemas because they had a bad experience with a member of staff in one particular cinema. You don’t just give up; you keep searching for the right fit for you.

SFF is actually ingrained in all of us. Don’t believe me? Talk to a child. SFF is part of their mind’s development, where they learn how to fill the gap between reality and their own knowledge. Let me put it another way; when you were a child, in your dark bedroom at 3am, and you heard a floorboard creak or a pipe rumble because your mum flushed the loo and the house’s plumbing hadn’t been updated since the 1900s, what was your first reaction? Did you analyse the interior decoration of the house? Or perhaps you thought of it as a burglar or an alien coming to take you away … or perhaps a monster had settled in under the bed or in your cupboard.

Even when, as they grow, they learn about pipes and lagging, or about old floorboards, children still prefer to exercise their imaginations and think about monsters, elves, and aliens. There’s something more exciting about them.

There’s a stereotype – commonly pervasive because some people are inevitably like this; not that there’s anything wrong with it – that all SFF fans are men (and, less often, women) who are sat in their parents’ bedroom planning their next role-playing costume whilst practicing the Vulcan salute from Star Trek and playing Dungeons & Dragons as a table-top game. Two out of the three of those things I’ve done, and my parents don’t even own a basement. Not that I care if that’s how people see me; I’m a geek and very proud of that label.

The perception is changing, slowly; Game of Thrones as a TV series is hugely popular, and the Lord of the Rings, Matrix, and Harry Potter film franchises are still immense. People are consuming entertainment like this in ways that couldn’t ever be imagined before they came along. SFF is becoming more about magic and special powers and plots rather more than this depressing stereotype that flashes into peoples’ minds as soon as you use the word SFF fan.

Hardcore fantasy isn’t for everyone, of course it’s not, bu fans of Marvel, DC, Star Trek, Star Wars, Robert Jordan, Ursula K Le Guin, Richard Wood, Craig Hallam, David Wilkinson, Ben Hennessey (and the list could go on) know that the diversity of the genres means that there’s something for everyone within them. Come and dip a toe in the water; it’s really quite fun.