Whatever happened to Science Fiction?
I grew up reading Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, his Robot stories. Then there was Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, Tunnel In the Sky, R is for Rocket, S is for Spaceship, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Time Enough for Love.
I became voracious in reading Harlan Ellison. Just about everything he has written.
I belonged to the Science Fiction Book Club for years, and bought tons of books, but something happened around 1985. The Science Fiction Book Club stopped offering Science Fiction. It started rather subtle, I noticed the growing trend towards Sword and Sorcery, magic and fantasy in the 70's. Some of the books were really good. Anne McCafery's Dragonriders of Pern series are really marvelous, but by 1985 that's all the book club offered. The Science Fiction Book Club no longer had Science Fiction.
I don't know if people stopped writing Science Fiction or the books stopped selling, or publishers stopped accepting the genre. All I know is that for all intents and purposes Science Fiction is dead.
There was always two kinds of Science Fiction. The optimistic and scared shitless.
Isaac Asimov called the latter the Frankenstein Syndrome. Fear of the future and the unknown. That's what made the writers I've mentioned above so wonderful, they wrote about the promises inherent in advances in science instead doom and gloom. Well Ellison is as gloomy as they come, but it's not the science you fear in his stories -- it's the people.
Hollywood embraced Science Fiction in the 50's with all of its giant bug movies. Giant ants, or grasshoppers, spiders, etc usually because of radiation from atomic bombs. Again the fearmongers held sway. Then came Star Trek. Hey the future could be hip, cool, even positive.
Star Trek has run its course it seems and were back to Michael Crighton's brand of Frankenstein stories where Science is to be feared instead of embraced.
Alright already -- what got me all sappy about SF?
I came across this today on Bruce's blog: Chris Hedges essay on his book Christianists on the March.
The Christian right has lured tens of millions of Americans, who rightly feel abandoned and betrayed by the political system, from the reality-based world to one of magic - to fantastic visions of angels and miracles, to a childlike belief that God has a plan for them and Jesus will guide and protect them. This mythological worldview, one that has no use for science or dispassionate, honest intellectual inquiry, one that promises that the loss of jobs and health insurance does not matter, as long as you are right with Jesus, offers a lying world of consistency that addresses the emotional yearnings of desperate followers at the expense of reality. It creates a world where facts become interchangeable with opinions, where lies become true - the very essence of the totalitarian state. It includes a dark license to kill, to obliterate all those who do not conform to this vision, from Muslims in the Middle East to those at home who refuse to submit to the movement. And it conveniently empowers a rapacious oligarchy whose god is maximum profit at the expense of citizens. We now live in a nation where the top 1 percent control more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined, where we have legalized torture and can lock up citizens without trial. Arthur Schlesinger, in "The Cycles of American History," wrote that "the great religious ages were notable for their indifference to human rights in the contemporary sense - not only for their acquiescence in poverty, inequality and oppression, but for their enthusiastic justification of slavery, persecution, torture and genocide."
Somehow when science fiction died and was replaced by Fantasy, the rest of the country left reality and has gone into never never land too, and that is not a good thing.