There’s a fascinating comment over at Unz Review:
People are getting dumber. Whatever cultural genre you choose, no matter who it’s aimed get, it gets cleverer and cleverer as you go back in time.
Literature, magazine, news, tv, everything. Read a mass-market pulp fiction magazine from the 30s or watch one of the many 1950s tv shows on Youtube like What’s My Line if you don’t believe me. Not even talking about Victorian era mass market literature.
It’s not that they’re more correct, it’s that the ideas expressed are more complicated than what we’re used to. The audience was expected to follow along with longer trains of thought and keep more ideas in their minds simultaneously.
This is absolutely correct. And the funny thing about it is that it’s not just difficult to explain how it happened. It’s actually challenging to convince most people that it happened at all!
The writing of authors such as Dunsany, Merritt, Lovecraft, Howard, and Moore…? It’s an order of magnitude richer and more literate than either the “Hard” science fiction of Asimov, Heinlein, and Clarke or the New Wave era works of Moorcock, Zelazny, and Vance. Fantasy and science fiction takes another devolutionary step in the eighties and it does so yet again twenty years later.
People reflexively sneer at pulp. It’s synonymous with bad writing. We all have this script programmed into our heads constantly whispering that the early 20th century was a dark age and that every decade since is getting better and better. But go back and read it.
You’ll be surprised at what you find there. And how good it is.