I got to fiddling with the Which Science Fiction Writer Are You? test. I already knew two reasons not to take it seriously: (1.) Greg Benford is one of its easiest-to-get results, but when Greg Benford took it, it told him he was Arthur C. Clarke; and (2.) the test is unshakably convinced that I’m Kurt Vonnegut.
But validity isn’t the point here. I was fiddling with it to see if I could predict which stereotypes would result in which author. My first attempt was successful: I answered as though I were Jerry Pournelle, and got Jerry Pournelle.
Cool. I next tried answering as though I were David Brin. It told me I was Greg Benford. That didn’t seem too far off. Neither was getting Olaf Stapledon when I was trying for Cordwainer Smith, or Hal Clement when I was trying for Poul Anderson, or Alice Sheldon when I was trying for Ursula K. LeGuin. (When I tried for Alice Sheldon, it gave me Olaf Stapledon.)
So, not too bad. I was a little brought down when I tried for J. G. Ballard and got Octavia Butler instead, but then I scored again: answered as Samuel R. Delany, got Samuel R. Delany. Go, me!
Then I hit the wall. How is it that I can’t get this test to tell me I’m Bill Gibson, Fred Pohl, Harlan Ellison, or Robert A. Heinlein? No set of answers that falls within the parameters of what I know about Heinlein has worked so far. Two out of three times it tells me I’m Hal Clement, and the rest of the time it says I’m Arthur C. Clarke.
Any range of answers that’s plausible for Harlan Ellison will get you Philip K. Dick.
Fred Pohl was a long shot, but it was interesting to see the results. As I varied my responses, it told me I was John Brunner, Frank Herbert, and Stanislaw Lem.
Getting Bill Gibson was a lot tougher than I’d anticipated. First time I tried, it returned Greg Benford, which is just wrong. I varied the anwers. Greg Benford again. I varied them some more. Still Greg Benford. I stretched them as far as I could, and it came back with Samuel R. Delany.
Later, I accidentally discovered that you can get Bill Gibson by saying the grand theme of life you focus on most often is “rape and mind control”—which I would never have identified as one of his primary themes—and that cybernetics is your favorite technology. To my mind, that combination ought to yield Alice Sheldon.
Three more oddments. If you answer as “stereotypical loud right-winger,” you get Doc Smith. The range of answers I would have predicted would yield one of the post-New Wave feminists—Ursula Le Guin, Joanna Russ, Suzy Charnas, Lizzy Lynn, Vonda McIntyre, etc.—instead turns up John Brunner, whom the test identifies as a dystopian. And if you say your main theme is “futility and confusion,” then configure the rest of your answers to make it impossible for the test to identify you as Kurt Vonnegut, it’ll tell you you’re Mickey Spillane.