The most important genre?

A few weeks ago I highlighted an interesting five minute interview with Iain M Banks, where he brought up so many interesting points I couldn’t discuss them all in one blog post (quite impressive in only five minutes).  One of the questions that really intrigued me was, what is the point of sci fi writing? As someone who has written (and published) a sci fi novel, I was particularly interested in his answer. I also think that sci fi is often overlooked as being something only for children or for geeks – I know that children and geeks do love it, of course, but as an author and an avid reader I can identify with the notion that it is possible to like sci fi and like other more mainstream genres as well. That is another reason why I was interested in Banks’s opinion on this subject, as he, like me, writes (and no doubt reads) more than one genre.

So, what is his opinion on the purpose of sci fi writing? He boldly calls it “the most important genre,”  concerned with issues that others aren’t; namely the effect of ever changing science and technology on humans, highlighting new discoveries that change our world forever. He points out that these developments change our society so quickly; that we are not dying in the same world we were born in, and that we need a genre of writing to reflect that. I can understand what he is saying – I think sci fi novels certainly can be written for a bold purpose and can have valid messages about what our futures might be like. But is it the “most important” genre? Is there such a thing as genres of writing being more or less important than others? Of that, I’m not so sure.


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