Noah Berlatsky at the Atlantic declares science fiction dead of terminal nostalgia:
Poor George Orwell wants his panopticon back.
He also quotes an important fresh voice* in science fiction that:
“we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope.”
Then he spends the rest of the article writing about Marvel comic books and their related movies.
The thesis, that science fiction has lost its way in a retrospective swamp of camp nostalgia for Star Wars, Star Trek and comic books is a bait-and-switch, however:
Science fiction is everywhere in popular culture, and it seems like it’s managed to be everywhere in the present by largely jettisoning the future. [emphasis added]
Berlatsky has switched terms on the reader. He isn’t talking about science fiction as a genre, he’s complaining about pop culture, as if that has anything to do with the core idea factory of science fiction, which, and always has been, books.
It does not.
If the reader needs any more confirmation, the critic’s only example of a “current” science fiction writer whose ideas run counter to the prison of pop culture is…Octavia Butler, a prog-writer who has been dead for nearly a decade, and whose most prominent work is more than thirty years past its publication date.
While Tor Books spams its blog subscribers with daily or weekly breathless ledes gushing about the latest variation on the pop permaculture baubles of Star Trek, Star Wars and Harry Potter (or Twilight or Kitchen Fire or whatever the new one is with the pouty girl who likes archery and braids), the highbrow takes its cue – and the same subject matter – and dismisses it as so much dross. And both have the audacity to treat these ornaments as if they are the sum total of all of science fiction.
Even in declaring pop culture science fiction something of a reactionary zombie, the Atlantic misses the most relevant and current science fiction movie in theaters now:
As embarrassing as that gross oversight is, what is worse is that we have a science fiction critic who does not seem to have even a passing familiarity with the new works in the genre…any new works in the genre.
Maybe old Noah should have gotten off his ark and looked around the mountain before declaring his position on it. He could start anywhere:
…and dozens if not hundreds more. Such a failure is one not only of imagination and awareness but of integrity as a critic.
If a highbrow science fiction critic can not tear himself from the youtube trailers in permanent loop long enough to pick up a single example of real science fiction published in 2014…he’s got no business serving as its critic. It appears as if the county coroner is getting paid per death certificate, and now he’s just filling them out in advance for people who haven’t been born yet.
*Oh, and that “fresh” quote from above? It’s from a kid just getting started in the business: Ursula LeGuin.