Les Miserables: Not SF

…well, you probably knew that anyway.

I saw the film last weekend.  I like musicals, though this one is not a favourite – I think the music is rather uneven, magnificent in parts, almost trite in others. But this isn’t a film review or music blog even if I am going to write about Anne Hathaway singing I Dreamed a Dream.

Now, I don’t particularly like this song.  I’m not sure that I liked it originally, I’ve heard it too many times to register it now.

…until Anne Hathaway sang it.  I’d read what a great performance she gave, I wasn’t prepared for just how great.  It’s a little unfair that a song, merely by its own popularity can become a cliché (think Bohemian Rhapsody or Nessun Dorma)  but Hathaway made it sound as if it was being sung for the first time.  More, she made me feel the emotions the song was trying to evoke.  That made me think about writing…

It reminded me that one of the great things about literature is that sometimes it can take something commonplace and everyday and make the reader look at it with new eyes.  It can retell an old story and make the reader experience it as if it were fresh. This isn’t what SF does.  SF  extrapolates a premise into something new, it’s not there to reveal something you already know.

I’m not saying that you will never read SF that makes you look at the familiar with new eyes.  Of course you will.  Avoiding cliche is part and parcel of good writing, and there are some great writers writing SF.

You’ll find romance in some SF, but SF is not romance.  You’ll also find comedy, though that isn’t a necessary component.  A good SF tale will contain many strands, but not all of those strands are necessary to make it SF.

Update 13 Feb 2013

I notice that Anne Hathaway won a BAFTA for her performance this weekend. No doubt she intends to thank me for the part I played in getting her noticed. I’ve not heard anything yet.