Saturday, May 17, 2008

John Barnes

I think Kelly and Lyda have perfect tones for blog writing, and my tone is the least good among the Wyrdsmiths. What one wants is a relaxed, conversational tone. This is a conversation, after all.

But I don't think I'm likely to change. J'y suis. J'y reste. I yam what I yam.

Be that as it may...

I am doing a panel at Wiscon about an essay that John Barnes wrote, arguing that genres have a 70 year life span, and science fiction is now dead, though still interesting as the corpse decays. Look at those lovely bacteria and fungi!

I think what Barnes means by SF is American pulp SF and what evolved out of it in the 60s through the 90s.

He's leaving out a lot of what I'd call SF, and I'm making a list for use at Wiscon.

But let's not get into that discussion here.

Instead, my question is: are we dead?

Has the field used up its ideas? Is sense of wonder gone?


Paul Lamb said...

Who feels they have the authority to make these kinds of declarations? What do they gain by these analyses? Academic credentials? More importantly, why do we care what these people have to say? S.S. Van Dine declared that all mysteries had to have a murder in them. Too many people have believed that in the decades since he said it.

Just write what is required of us. The stories we have. The folks who read the genre don't realize it's dead.

Kelly McCullough said...

Eleanor, I really enjoy your blog voice, in part because it is different. Difference makes for contrast and contrast is interesting.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Eleanor, part of the reason I personally don't engage in more conversation with you on the blog is that every time you post, you leave me with lots to digest before I'm ready to talk about the subject. The silence is appreciation.

Having said that, I'm always stunned at the people who feel the need to make sweeping pronouncements about art. Their implicit assumption that artists and audiences are monolithic is absurd.

Anonymous said...

Thinking about a couple of the recently-published 'hard' SF books I just read, my quick answer was 'no, it's not dead.' There's still cool stuff out there to read, not just that explicitly breaks from the pulp history, but also that links directly back to it.

But getting into whether the books gave the same sensawunda that, say, a 30's pulp might have given me in its context, I notice that the thing these recent books have to offer is the attitude that things that were 'wondrous' back in the 1930's, like colonizing the moon, are likely to be 'normal' things done by non-super-hero type people. (I'm not talking about 'mundane SF' books, though I guess maybe these might fit that bill.)

The science isn't all speculation - we know so much more about what's possible. So the stories change. Also, the sensibility of the protagonists and the other characters is a practical, let's get things done kind of vibe - future snazzy tech is taken for granted by them in their POV. Instead of 'gee whiz, Bobby, let's zoom in a shiny rocket ship up to the stars. Wowwee Kazam!!'

Still lots of explosions, too, though.