Hey, Why Aren’t More Things Being Written That I Like?
Damien G Walter says science fiction used to be too optimistic and now it is too pessimistic. Why can’t it be somewhere in between? To which I would say, why can’t it be anything it wants? I always react bady to this sort of attempt at constraint. If you want to write in a particular way get on and do it, don’t feel you have to stick your nose into what everyone else is doing.
Walter says he isn’t calling for science fiction that would “replicate the naive visions of the genres golden age” but naive is a good word to sum up his article. His sense of the importance of science fiction in particular is massively overblown:
The best science fiction, as with all great art, doesn’t just reflect the world but seeks to influence it. The dark warnings of science fiction have had innumerable, immeasurable effects on the world. The darkest and greatest of all, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, ranks among the most influential works of literature ever written. How many more totalitarian states would persist today if Nineteen Eighty-Four had not warned generations against the threat they represented, both abroad and at home?
This is a rhetorical question but I will answer it anyway: zero.
He also makes some interesting factual claims about the genre in support of his thesis that it is all doom and gloom:
Biotechnology and genetic research offer fantastic advances in medicine, yet their portrayal in science fiction is typified by the gloom of Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake.
Really? This is a vast area of speculation that has produced a riot of different ideas and stories. Genetic tinkering leading to the human race being wiped out is certainly one strand of this but it by no means typifies it. Then there is this:
The internet is already democratising many new areas of society, but our political future is still most commonly depicted as one flavour of Big Brother dystopia or another.
This is less outright wrong than just debateable. It certainly seems to me that there are more of a plurality of futures out there than Walter thinks. It is noteworthy that the only two modern writers he mentions are Atwood and Cormac McCarthy who both write science fiction from outside the genre and such writers concentrate almost exclusively on dystopias and post-apocalyptic scenerios (with a bit of alternative history thrown in.)