I went twice last week to the Fab Cafe in Manchester, a place dedicated to cult TV and what it calls "independent" music. It made me think some rather naughty thoughts.
There I was, basically in a crowd of geeks, people who could tell you cast lists and continuity errors in Doctor Who or Star Wars, who could talk the hindleg off a donkey about Star Wars, and I wondered, are poets like this too? Except, of course, we're interested in "high culture", not the "low culture" of long-running TV series that are perhaps not the most intellectually stimulating of programmes.
Except - they do often deal in quite poetic themes about the nature of reality, of time, even of memory. There are often quite complex themes about the nature of what we call life - is a pan-dimensional cloud of glass "alive" in any way, for instance?
I used to read science fiction all the time, and now I rarely do. Nowadays, I read an enormous amount of poetry. Most poets like to put themselves as rather superior to science-fiction fans, especially the kind of fan that dresses up as a Klingon. Yet being passionate about our art is exactly what makes us poets. Fandom is, perhaps, rather secondhand; someone else has usually done the writing, unless you become one of the many who write their own stories as an adjunct to the franchise; even then you're just slotting into an already established format. Rather like neo-formalist poets, he suggests with a tongue wedged firmly in his cheek...
One thing that fans have in their favour is that nobody ever suggests that their interest in and love of a science-fiction series is ever called "elitist", unlike those of us who are interested in "high art." Whether that "high art" is contemporary visual art, classical music, opera, or poetry (especially of the difficult late-modernist variety), it's assumed that if you like something that only a minority like, it must be "elitist."
But it's really no more elitist than watching every episode of Blake's Seven 10 times. Or prefering Tom Baker to David Tennant. We may like to think of ourselves as being concerned with more important ideas to do with language, culture etc etc etc, but I often wonder if a good science fiction story isn't as much concerned with those as poetry is.
Of course, all this could just be a temporal shift anomaly and really we're still back in Kansas.