I’m a Sci-Fi reader. Take me seriously, please!

Posted on January 23, 2008. Filed under: Games, Musings, Science |

I read science fiction avidly.  The majority of television that I watch (and I’m fairly selective) is at least somewhat sci-fi related, and many of the movies I see have a sci-fi or fantasy theme.  Given all that, you’d think most of my friends would be sci-fi fans, too.  They are not.  In fact, they tend to tolerate this unfathomable aspect of me, barely, and move on to other topics of conversation.

Some of us genre readers were in a standoff with our local library recently.  For some reason, the head librarian decided to inter-shelve the genre fiction during an expansion and remodel.  All the books are processed at the main county library before coming to our branch, and the books are labeled with a symbol if they fit into a genre.  Here are the categories in our part of the world:

Horror:  a bloody axe;  Mystery:  a skull;  Romance:  a long-stemmed rose;  Science Fiction:  an “Atom”;  Western:  a cowboy boot.


Everything that doesn’t fit into one of those categories is labeled “literature” and shelved together.  Therefore, Kafka could be shelved near Koontz.  Just so you get the idea.

Anyway, this arrangement has always been fine with me.  I do read a great deal of “literature”, but only two of the above specific genres, namely Mystery and Science Fiction.

When all the genres were filed together, it made it impossible to browse a category!  I’m usually looking for at least one good sci-fi read when I visit the library, but this way I had to look at innumerable bloody axes and boots, to boot!


Can you imagine the number of emails, letters, and phone calls the library got after this fiasco?  If you don’t read genre fiction, perhaps not.  The librarian seemed a bit dazed by all the feedback.  It appeared sensible to her that all the “real” literature readers were all together, and the “genre” people were in another, less worthy section.  She may have been amazed at the number of articulate well written notes of protest she received.  I, and my local library patrons are not alone in our desire.  Read this for another perspective and good discussion.

Well, to shorten this already-too-long story:  It took an entire year to get the genre books re-shelved back into their specific genres, even though some of us volunteered to come in during off-hours and help.

I guess the head librarian didn’t want a lot of hostile romance readers in her building all at once. 😀


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13 Responses to “I’m a Sci-Fi reader. Take me seriously, please!”

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That’s very interesting. Genres are segregated at my library, but then so is “literature”, mostly classics. General fiction gets the rest, with popular fiction shelved with literary fiction and many books that could probably also be at home in other sections.

I’m not even sure there’s a romance section.

And did anyone find a suitable place to stick the long-stemmed rose? 🙂

I will add some pages from the novels I wrote on my blog, Muse. Once they are up I will let you know and you can give me your critique on them, it would be interesting to read what you put.

And I am not one of those people who just want toe standard “Oh, that was great, Will” I like criticism – call me a masochist! LOL

I found this very interesting. I’m not a fan of any form of genre categorisation myself, but I can see why plenty of people prefer to have their books sorted by whatever specific genre they enjoy, for ease of reference.

However, putting all “genre” fiction together seems to be missing the point completely; a reader of romance is not necessarily going to be into mystery stories, after all. I bet she didn’t file Sense and Sensibility or Frankenstein under genre fiction (even though one’s a romance and the other’s a horror story).

I’m glad to hear that you managed to get the books categorised sensibly by genre again, although certainly I don’t envy you the task!

Speaking of science fiction, did you know they found a man on Mars? 🙂 Or is it a Rock…

ellaella: I’m not at all sure there is a “right” way to do this. I looked at several libraries’ policies as I was writing the post. Some books are impossible to classify, while others are crossovers, just as are some musical styles.

Tony–[cheeky] you get the LOL award of the day! Now, do you like roses? 😀

Alrighty, Will, I’m game! I wonder if I’ll think they’re Sci-fi or not? A warning, though: I’m not given to devastating, soul-destroying criticism of any kind, although I’ll pledge to be frank. 😉

Bobby, point well taken about Austen and Shelley. I wonder what stickers librarians would have put on those novels when first published? It’s certainly true that, whatever the genre, if a book is extremely well written, or extremely well read, it does cross over from “genre” to “literature” in most minds. And some sci-fi novels are very well written and have become classics. Still, though, there are times I just want to run into the library, grab a few good reads, and run out again. 🙂 I appreciate your input!

I did indeed see the pictures and news stories on “the man”, mrgnome. Together with the Texas sightings recently, they’ve given us speculative types much to talk and muse about. Thanks for the link! [dear readers, I recommend you click on mrgnome’s link, above, and spend an astounding 10 minutes over there.]

But not the thorns 🙂

I come from a family of librarians – mother, father, sister and now perhaps one of my nieces so I’ve spent much time in and around libraries and books. I’ve seen it done all ways. Your post got me wondering if there isn’t a board of directors who help make the decisions about where the books go, how or if they’re labeled, etc. (It also makes me think you live in a small(ish) town perhaps?)

As a patron of different libraries, I must say it can be confusing going into a different library and trying to figure out what thier policy is and how they sort their books. I am a patron who carries a list in her pocket or purse of books that she’s been told she “must read” so I am always looking for specific books…and/but…I wander. I can spend hours in the library wandering around, browsing, reading blurbs.

I used to read much sci-fi back in the olden days of Bradbury and Heinlein but not much at all anymore.

I’ve missed you. Sorry but I’ve been quite sick and it’s been hard to get around. I do love visiting you here because I always find it interesting – like I have today. The subject of books never tires me. I do hope to be back soon.

OH! I ran across “Noetic Institute” somewhere and did some reading about it and found it facinating. I’d really like to read more on the topic and shall be on the lookout for it – when my eyes are more cooperative. I did think of you when I was reading it though and wanted to share with you that I’d done so. Very interesting!

Peace my friend and thanks.

RubyShooz: Oh, a family of librarians! You would know more about it than I, although you confirm there doesn’t seem to be a standard shelving practice.

I know you’ve been ill, and I’m sorry. I’ve been lurking and reading the updates on your blog, but didn’t want to give you more work to do. Of course taking care of yourself is the most important priority! 🙂

I’m glad you’re interested in the Noetics. Thanks for letting me know! I’m a member and quite involved with them. They seem to be a really good bridge between hard science and the investigation into spiritual phenomena. Lots of good stuff on their website, too.
I’m about to do a post on one of their topics.

It’s good to see your ShooZ, dear one. I’m popping over for a visit!

Hello museditions, you recently left a comment on my blog so I thought I would return the favor! By the way, I love books, too! I love anything well written, but my favorite is historical fiction.I just recently read “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston. It’s not your genre, but honestly, parts of that book brought tears to my eyes because of the beauty of language. -By the way, at our (smallish, about 13,000 books) elementary school library, all of the fiction is shelved by author’s last name with the exception of several free standing racks where I rotate different books.

That’s interesting; what your librarian did is exactly what our libraries have done for years. The books are divided into genres by stickers but all get clumped together as genre fiction while literature and classics are separate. I’ve never liked it but I just thought it was how libraries did it… separating them makes much more sense.

I wonder if there’s a practical reason for it? Is it easier for the librarians to restock the shelves if the genres are all together? Or do they think people are more likely to read several genres, so they put them together? It just seems to cause confusion when I’m looking, particularly for something like Brave New World. I always think it should be with the genre books but it ends up in with the classics.

Btw, have you seen the new Trek trailer, Muse? Looks good. Can’t wait for Christmas. 🙂

Hi teeveebee, thanks for dropping by. Your library sounds very fun and well run. And thanks for the book recommendation. I certainly didn’t mean to imply I read only Sci-Fi & Mystery, I read lots of kinds of things, just of genre fiction, these are my preferences. I sometimes like thrillers if they’re well written, and not “icky”. I read a great deal of non-fiction, too. I’ll look for your book next time I’m at the library!

Hey, cj, I know what you mean. Once a book of any genre is deemed “literature” or a “classic” by–actually I don’t know who by!–it gets shelved in the major literature section. We have books there such as Childhood’s End and Stranger in a Strange Land; can you imagine? These are, indeed, classics, but by picking out just the hallowed few as “real literature” it seems *they* view the rest of the genre books as schlock! Ah, me…

Thanks for the trailer. I had not seen it. It’s such an itty bitty taste, though–left me wanting more, of course!

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