Don&#39t Look Back in Awe

Here’s a blog entry saying that old Science Fiction is no longer relevant to readers.

That sucks.

Young people, especially, have the feeling that their minds, emotions and lives are different, somehow, from the lives of those who came before them. The unfortunate truth is that they are exactly the same as their parents, exactly the same as their grandparents and exactly the same as the peasant working the fields in medieval Europe that they are descended. They may have had a few different experiences growing up, but their minds and souls are of the same human stuff as Homo Sapiens has been for about 40,000 years or even longer.

Each generation (I came of age in the summer of love) thinks that they are different, when we are just the same old genes being recycled. If it is nature or nurture, the nature doesn’t change and the nurture hardly changes.

People haven’t changed. Values haven’t changed. Society has only changed a little. Our inner lives are roughly the same as our ancestors. Our external lives are more involved with technology and changes in media. Our attitudes and opinions, as survey after survey prove, are firmly rooted in the 19th century. In fact fewer and fewer of us get to college or are exposed to any enlightenment. Let’s face it, most of us live in a country of trailer park ignorance, that would be easily understood by anyone from the last few thousand years.

There is nothing about the year 2008 that invalidates something written in 1948.

As far as SF changing since the golden age, I think that the change has generally been for the worse. This blogger cites Asimov’s Nightfall as being a wasted effort. “By all criteria, ‘Nightfall’ fails as a good short story” he says. By all criteria, he fails as a reader and critic.

What really bothers me is that this blogger lists The Alexandria Quartet in his profile as being one of his favorite novels. Durrell wrote the quartet in the late 1950s (I reread it recently and blogged about it – good stuff). This was about the same time that Asimov wrote Nightfall. You could be silly and make the claim that literature has changed and the no one reads Durrell any more. That Durrell is dated and doesn’t belong in our cyberpunk world.

My own feeling about the state of SF is that it will never be as good as it once was. SF has come and gone. Now comic books and bad movies are all that’s left of it. I try to read SF in the zines and new novels and it always feels flat and uninspired. They are just technical exercises in speculation. The sense of wonder has vanished.

The sense of wonder – that’s the real essence of Speculative Fiction. I think this is what is missing from modern SF. You have to get that thrill in the small of your back. You have to laugh and sigh and shed a tear, but always feel amazed.

The names of the Golden Age magazines say it all:
Amazing, Astounding, Thrilling Wonder Stories, Startling Stories, Fantastic Story, Weird Tales

One Comment

  1. .e. Jim Shannon wrote:

    “The sense of wonder – that’s the real essence of Speculative Fiction. I think this is what is missing from modern SF. You have to get that thrill in the small of your back. You have to laugh and sigh and shed a tear, but always feel amazed”

    Could be your being a bit SF complacent and a bit SF jadded. Everything had been there and done that. Comes with age.


    Saturday, August 30, 2008 at 10:32 pm | Permalink


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I started reading Science Fiction in the 1950s. I started Writing SF in the 1960s. Then, I had a life. Now I am retired, raising chickens and keeping bees. I am still an avid reader and I have sold about 70 stories in the last 20 years.
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