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Thursday 1 April 2004

Heinlein, Dick, Bradbury and Others To Become "Imaginary"

by Jacky Telemark Lisp

The Science Fiction Writers of America's Nomenclature Committee has issued its long-awaited final report on the status of obsolete science fiction — stories overtaken by current events. Many in and outside of SFWA have come to question whether texts originally written in the '40s, '50s and '60s but set in the '80s, '90s and '00s ought still to be considered SF. The controversy first surfaced in 1984 during the presidency of Marta Randall, but it was the acrimonious debate that raged throughout 2001 in the online newsgroup sff.private.sfwa.lounge which caused President Paul Levinson to empanel the Nomenclature Committee. The Committee is recommending that a new genre be created for all science fiction formerly set in the future, to be called Imaginary Fiction, or IF. If this recommendation is approved, all science fiction set prior to 2005 will re-genred as IF. Among the new Imaginary Fiction titles will be such classics as Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles, Philip K. Dick's Dr. Bloodmoney and many of Robert A. Heinlein's best known stories including "The Roads Must Roll", "The Man Who Sold the Moon", and "The Green Hills of Earth."

Chairman Steve Schwindler, award-winning author of the Starsong Sextet, commented on the Committee's deliberations. "This was a difficult decision, but our hand was forced after the American Library Association threatened to issue a content advisory. We recognized that it was past time for SFWA to put its house in order. I mean, in some of this stuff we have colonies on Mars and Venus, but there's no Internet, and computers are the size of grain elevators. You can't read it with a straight face. There was strong sentiment for shunting everything over to alternate history, but World Uchronian Federation (WUF) objected that it wasn't fair to swamp their genre with billions of words that our genre no longer had any use for. We think calling these works Imaginary Fiction is an honorable compromise. After all, imagination is what it's all about, isn't it?"

The Nomenclature Committee's report is online in the Member's Only section of the SFWA website ( and its recommendation will be put to the membership at the annual meeting at Noreascon Four on Saturday, September 4, 2004.

In a related story, Locus Online has learned that Gordon Van Gelder, editor of F&SF and CEO of Spilogale, Inc. has acquired the rights to Worlds of If and is seriously considering launching a new quarterly magazine in 2005, pending the SFWA vote.

Jacky Telemark Lisp writes science fiction, not imaginary fiction, every June in Asimov's magazine.

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