Saturday, May 03, 2008

Who is Right?

Continuing on yesterday's topic. As I mentioned yesterday, Orson Scott Card has written about the demise of science fiction. (If anybody has a link to this, I'd appreciate sharing.) I don't think it's dead, just maturing.

Who is right? I think we both are. Let me explain.

Card is probably right that SF is no longer the avant-guard genre it once was. The edges have been pushed out very far by the New Wave crowd. Dangerous Visions of the past are commonplace today. Furthermore, science and technology are getting so complicated that most writers can't hope to understand it in depth.

That said, there are scientist-turned-writers creating SF. Gregory Benford comes to mind first. Hard SF is in good hands.

Hard SF isn't the whole genre, though. So if there are so few Dangerous Visions left, what purpose does SF hold today? (And note: I am talking prose, not on the screen.) I think the future of SF is what it originally was--to entertain. SF has matured and most of the tropes have been done. That doesn't kill the genre.

Space Opera is alive and being done well, not pulpish. Iain M. Banks published The Algebraist in 2004, a shining example of what space opera should be. It holds true to the tradition of SF by making social commentary on top of a fun story. That I managed to guess the ending takes away nothing from the experience.

There is still room for the occasional Dangerous Vision, whenever anyone can come up with one. In fact, with these ideas becoming sparse, those stories will garner plenty of attention when done well. There is also room for prediction and social commentary. The former is pretty much a fingerprint of SF, the latter can be done in any genre.

No, SF isn't dead, it's just matured. The ingredient for keeping the genre alive is to maintain the tradition and keep the story fun. After all, people read fiction for entertainment. As a writer, I am an entertainer. I owe my readers a little fun.


Gray Rinehart said...

Very interesting, Rick; you inspired me to blog about this myself. I agree with you that the "new wave" hurt the genre somewhat: I think it alienated some of the core audience at the same time folks were seeing SF dreams come true in the Apollo program.

Rick Novy said...

But an interesting aspect to consider is whether the New Wave movement was avoidable. I think it inevitable those explorations would happen. if not in the sixties, then maybe now. Just part of the genre's maturation process.