Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"I don't consider manga or comics to be Sci-Fi"

So, a friend of mine, who happens to be an excellent sci fi writer, but who I will not name so that he doesn't get hate mail from all of my friends who write for comics and manga, made this comment in a recent email to a sci fi and fantasy writer's list I'm on.

"I don't consider manga or comics to be Sci-Fi"

This pushed almost as many of my buttons as the recent comments about how "women are destroying science fiction" that have been going around. (Go to to see my favorite answer to that one.) Here is my answer:

Ack!! Sorry, but you just hit one of my big pet peeves.

<rant> That’s like saying, I don’t consider movies or TV to be sci fi.  I think this is because you are confusing the media with the message. Manga and comics are nothing in the world but another way to tell stories, a way that intermingles art with literature, and uses both to tell the story.

I have read comics about the problems in a lesbian relationship where one woman is sure that she’s straight and the other is an ex-prostitute with mafia connections, a great manga series about a high school for demi-gods, a comic series about a future city where evolved apes and humans co-exist, blood and thunder fantasy with Conan and Red Sonja slugging it out, an alternate past story where dragons and bi-planes regularly do battle, and a noir story about a grizzled private detective who works in a trans-dimensional city. 

That, of course, on top of a hundred different superhero stories, some set in the past, some in an altered version of the present and some in the future, some in an alternate future where a chemical reaction or DNA splicing virus has escaped into the population causing massive mutations, many awful or deadly, but some extraordinary. I’ve also seen stories set on earth, on other planets, or in space involving galaxy-spanning alien empires.

Any genre of story can be told in comic format. Some individual stories lend themselves more to visual media, some not so much. But the format is just that, a format for story-telling. 2001: A Space Odyssey would have been awesome as a graphic novel. I’d love to see someone do Asimov’s Caves of Steel, Robots of Dawn, The Naked Sun as a graphic series. Ringworld would make a great graphic novel. I could totally see Heinlein’s Friday or Stranger in a Strange Land as a manga.

For a few examples, try this list on Goodreads of 100 great sci fi and fantasy graphic novels:

You can argue all day about what is or isn’t sci fi. Everyone has their own opinion about whether space opera counts, or if anything with faster than light travel is “real” sci fi, or whatever. But whether comics or manga qualify as sci fi shouldn’t even be a debate. Sci fi is not about whether the concepts are presented as words in a book, or images with word balloons, or moving images on a screen. The genre definition has to be about “what” concepts are presented, not “how” they are presented.

</end rant>


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