Why Science Fiction Readers Shouldn't Just Cling to the Golden Age

Illustration for article titled Why Science Fiction Readers Shouldn't Just Cling to the Golden Age

Author Gareth Powell recently attended a book group where nobody had read any authors who came along in the past 50 years. In a bracing essay for SF Signal, he talks about the peril of focusing only on "golden age" science fiction, and neglecting how the genre has changed.

Powell writes:

Some fans will always cling to the 'golden age' works of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, and I can understand why. They provide a magic door back to the simple pleasures of a simpler world – a world before global warming, oil shortages, terrorism, and economic uncertainty; relics of a world where the future was easily understood, and (largely) American, middle class and white in outlook, origin and ethnicity.

Part of me understands and sympathizes with that need for security. I still draw comfort and enjoyment from those old books. Arthur C. Clarke, Larry Niven, Philip K. Dick… These writers are the elder gods in my personal pantheon; but they are neither the beginning nor the end. Society and culture have moved on, and there's more to our genre than words written more than half a century ago....

Science fiction isn't a museum exhibit. It isn't a collection of musty old paperbacks on a dealer's table, or a cardboard box of old videos in your attic. It's a vital and evolving genre, filled with verve and possibility. To let it stagnate would be to let it die.

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The whole essay is well worth reading.

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DISCUSSION

simonstillwellgray
stillwellgray

I still feel an affinity because i find it hard to find copy that.. well.. that does the same thing (i almost said measure up but that's not what I meant)

Dune. While the Hyperion Cantos (simmons) and the Martian series (robinson) manage to get close in terms of size of story, they never quite hit that bar of true Epicness. hyperion gets close to the post-tech magicness, but that series has always been partly spoiled for me by the (imho) failure of his Ilium series (what a car crash)

but the flip side is that 50s-70s sci fi did small room sci fi very well too, which is done better (maybe it's easier) these days than epic science fiction - think pitch black, moon, primer, etc.

i dunno if epicness then is actually a legacy artifact in sci fi. maybe those stories are too big to be real, and... i dunno, weren't actually that good when they came out, and only through a looking glass of reverence and nostalgia do they hold up.

that said, i'd love some recos for modern, hard epic sci fi if anyone has any suggestions.