A new non-fiction book by “Wired” editor Steve Silberman, _NeuroTribes_ contains a very interesting perspective on the origin of the problems writers of science fiction encounter in the course of selling or popularizing their work.
_NeuroTribes_ is not about writers as such. More accurately, it’s about those of us referred to as geeks in popular culture. A fascinating chronicle of the latest findings on the Autism Spectrum, it includes in its historical background a chapter on Hugo Gernsback, made famous for popularizing science fiction largely through his work as the original editor of “Astounding Science Fiction.”
Gernsback, for whom the Hugo award was named, can be thought of as the poster child for Asperger’s Syndrome (yes, it’s still a real neurological condition in DSM-V, it’s just been relabeled as part of the autism spectrum). Looking back on my experience at this year’s Worldcon, it’s a bit embarrassing to recognize his set of eccentricities in so many of the attendees. Myself included.
Unlike Gernsback, we live in a world where being obsessed with the beauty of math, a captivating story, or the ideas of SF do not automatically earn an individual a one-way ticket to a mental institution. (The wealthy have almost always been exempt. Remember the old saying, “Fans are Slan?” The fan who originated that escaped from an institution, where he was to be sterilized.)
We live in a world where science fiction movies are popular, but the fact that the most popular are scientifically inaccurate should give writers worried about accuracy a hint. The vast majority of people want a good story with interesting characters, not a science lesson. IMO, a writer needs more than talent, hard work, and a great tolerance for rejections. They also need to know if they are even capable of writing a hero that neurotypicals can identify with. If not, sharpen your focus on hard-core SF ideas, and write those kinds of stories. Be thankful that you can do a virtual book tour instead of the IRL kind. You can’t know your audience unless you first know yourself.
Wherever you are on the spectrum (I highly recommend reading _NeuroTribes_ for its nuanced treatment of a complex subject) go with your strengths. Life is too short to waste beating yourself up because you don’t fit the standard neurological genre.