Saturday, December 17, 2005

Dissing the Apocalypse: How Science Fiction Lost Me

John Scalzi, author of the many-blog-recommended Old Man's War, posted a challenge on his blog:

Having bloviated yesterday that current science fiction offers few "open doors" for non-Science Fiction readers to check out the genre, I want to offer interested parties an opportunity to prove me wrong, or at the very least, prove that I've wildly overstated the issue. So, consider this your opportunity to suggest Gateway Science Fiction -- Good, recent science fiction for people who don't read science fiction.


What I need to think about isn't "Gateway" Science Fiction; I want to figure out why SF lost me some years ago. I stopped visiting the SF shelves some time after the new titles stopped being compelling (maybe not coincidentally, around the mid-90's).

So now when I go to Barnes & Noble I check for Stephenson, I jones for new Gene Wolfe, and on recommendation I've started reading Stross....

I may be a bastard, but I'm not the type of bastard who thinks he's outgrown SF. Instead, I find that (with few exceptions) there's just not much new fiction I find interesting at all. The things I found missing from "straight" lit'ra'chure when I was younger is, if anything, more missing today.

I'll definitely read Scalzi's book at some point because it is generating a lot of buzz here in Web-space.

I think what happened in the 90's is that optimism became unfashionable in SF. I blame William Gibson and Greg Bear, I really do. Both fine writers, and I wouldn't want them to write any way other than how they do. But they set a tone for other writers in the genre, and I think it was a bad tone.

Maybe the nihilism is passing from SF now. I hope so. We get enough of that crap from everyplace else.

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