I’m a crotchety old fan. I’m a curmudgeon. An old fart. I happily subscribe to the world view that change is bad and therefore we must fear it. Nothing good ever comes from change.
I’m an uber science fiction fan. I’ve been reading the stuff for four plus decades and, while I can’t hold a candle to Forry Ackerman in the longevity (or even the collection) department, I’m certainly on his side of the generational divide. I think Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Russell, Chandler, Smith (all three), Brackett, Brunner, Aldis, Anderson, Niven, Pournell, Pohl, Dick, Disch, Dickson, Delaney, Moorcock, Spinrad Kornbluth, Silverberg and yes, even Ellison, are science fiction.
Alas, I seem to be in the minority. That’s ok. Kids never seem to know what’s good for ‘em until they’re old enough to be waving their own old-man stick around. What gets my goatee are the reasons I’m in the minority.
Old scifi isn’t literary enough. Old scifi lacks characterization. Old scifi is, you know, old.
I’ll defy any whip-snapping guttersnipe to explain to me what ‘not literary enough’ means. There’s words on the page that make sentences. Several follow each other in paragraphs. Eventually they all combine to tell a story. Does every single paragraph have to appeal to each one of my five senses? Do I have to keep a copy of the OED handy when I read? Is a program required to keep track of the characters? Must I be transported on airy waves of meaningless, time wasting drivel? Fah. Take an English class.
And what’s all this crap about characterization? I’m sorry if the younger generation has been so swaddled in sensory overload that it takes a sledgehammer to make even the minutest impression on their creaseless brains, but I shouldn’t have to pay the price. They’re so out of touch that they can’t even recognize a stereotype anymore. Stereotypes make it easier to get to the story. We read for the story – remember?
I don’t need to know whythe bad guy is a bad guy – he’s a bad guy with bad guy motivations who’s gonna do bad guy things. Scientists will invent neat stuff because they’re scientists. Engineers will figure out how to solve technological problems because they’re engineers. Nubile young daughters will fall in love with heroes because they’re nubile young daughters and heroes will win the day for the obvious reason. What the hell else do you need to know? If you want to spend all your time trying to figure out who is who and why is why – go read a suspense thriller, but stay out of my science fiction.
Old. Outdated. The world they wrote in no longer exists. The references aren’t relevant. Some of them don’t even mention computers (thank god).
To which I say – what the hell happened to your sense of wonder? Do you mean to sit there and tell me that you’re going to let the lack of specific technological advances put you off a science fiction story? That you can’t imagine your way around a reference to vacuum tubes or punch cards? What a sorry bunch of intellectual wimps!
So what that it didn’t happen that way. It might have. If you listen to the latest theories on how the Universe really works, you’d know that there are probably an infinitude of parallel universes. For really real. You don’t even have to pretend anymore, not even a little. Because you know what? There IS a universe where they went to the Moon using punch cards to plot ballistic trajectories. There IS a universe where computers are still room-sized behemoths, another where people fly around cities using personal jetpacks, another where Venus is inhabited by intelligent amphibians and still another where the imagination of science fiction fans isn’t straight-jacketed by ‘what really happened’.
Science is now telling you that everything you can possibly imagine - in infinite and endless combination – is really happening somewhere. The old authors and ancient stories give you a ringside seat into some of those worlds and what do you do? You stick your sense-of-wonder in a box and retreat into the gray, toneless world of only accepting things you can see.
Talk about fearing change.
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