Over at SCI FI Weekly, Michael Cassutt offers a quiz to calculate your “sci-fi credentials.” Let’s see how I do. There are 10 questions, with a maximum of 10 points each, for a total of 100 possible points.
1. Have you ever used a calculator when writing a script or story? (And not just, as Harry Harrison once noted, to add up the money still owed to you.) 10 points.
Yes. More than once. Typical usage: calculating the internal volume of a cylindrical spaceship, or portion thereof. 10 points.
2. Do you subscribe to Science, Scientific American, Nature or any similar publication? (Cruising their online sites counts.) 10 points.
I cruise their (and many other) online sites regularly. And I have an electronic subscription to Popular Science (not in the same ballpark as the ones he mentions, but that ought to count for something.) 10 points.
3. Have you taken college-level or post-high-school courses in any scientific or technical field. This includes biology, medicine and computer repair. 10 points.
I took a university-level computer programming course, so I guess…10 points. Even if it was, literally, a BASIC course.
4. Have you ever attended a technical or scientific conference? 10 points if by choice, 5 points if asked to appear on a panel by people who should have known better.
I’ve been on panels or given talks, but never attended an entire scientific conference. So, 5 points.
5. Have you used the word “interface” as a verb? 10 points, and you ought to be slapped.
Yes. Ouch! 10 points.
6. Are you nostalgic about the Apollo program? 5 points. Add 5 points if you ever seriously considered applying to become an astronaut.
Nostalgic? Absolutely. Also rueful that it didn’t lead the future in space we expected it to and it should have done. But I never seriously considered applying to become an astronaut, being a far-from-athletic kid with really bad eyesight. 5 points.
7. Have you ever enrolled in an organization promising a new paradigm such as technocracy or est, or in any group using the word “mental” or “power”? Religions that were organized prior to the year 1906 do not count. 10 points.
No. (I also reject the reasoning that considers this a reasonable indication of sci-fi-writeriness, but it’s not my quiz.) 0 points.
8. Do you know what a (or “the”) Singularity is? 10 points—and please send me the explanation.
Yes, sort of. But I’m not telling you. 10 points.
9. Your idea of a desert-island book is The Boy Scout Handbook (10 points), James Joyce’s Ulysses (because you keep meaning to read it, 5 points), or a Power Mac (zero points, but I understand the feeling).
Actually, I’d prefer the U.S. Army survival handbook, but I’ll settle for the Boy Scout one. 10 points.
10. Do you reject the idea of surveys to begin with, because you cannot be categorized? 10 points.
Hmmm. Somewhat, but not entirely. Let’s call it 5 points.
Let’s see, that totals…75. But I’m going to call it 85, because I object strongly to the use of the term “sci-fi” instead of the much more acceptable “SF,” and only someone immersed in the SF world would even understand what I’m talking about. That gives me an extra ten points, to my way of thinking.
It doesn’t matter on Cassutt’s scale, anyway:
score of 66 or higher—You’re a E.E. “Doc” Smith, Larry Niven, Greg Bear, Vernor Vinge, Charles Stross or Nancy Kress. Ideas come first for you, the stranger or more innovative the better. If you are a television series, you are Max Headroom, Star Trek: Voyager or Enterprise. This sort of storytelling, by the way, used to be known as science fiction, or “hard” science fiction.
I can live with that!
In case you’ve been scoring yourself, here are the other categories:
35 to 65—You could be another Ursula K. Le Guin, Frank Herbert, Kim Stanley Robinson, Connie Willis or Vonda McIntyre. You are aware of science and technology, but given a choice, will try to emphasize character and drama. This sort of story used to be known as speculative fiction*. If you are a television series, you might be the original Star Trek, X-Files or the current Battlestar Galactica.
34 and under—Now you are in territory staked out by Ray Bradbury, R.A. Lafferty, Roger Zelazny, Harlan Ellison. Your strength is style and mood. If you have a space vehicle in your story, it was an oversight—and it’s called a “spaceship.” Sometimes you get the science wrong—and you don’t care. In television terms, you are (to chose a great example) Lost or (to chose a differently great example) Space: 1999. This used to be “sci-fi.”*
*I reject his definitions of speculative fiction and (to a lesser extent) sci-fi, too. Also his choices of TV shows to illustrate the differences among what he calls science fiction, speculative fiction and sci-fi. For which I think I’ll give myself another 10 points. So I scored 95. Take that!