Monday, December 12, 2016

There's Always Room for New Speculative Fiction, No Matter What the Curmudgeons Say

Jason Sanford wrote a nice piece on his blog about the Great Men of science fiction, and I wasn’t going to dwell on it until I noticed the ghost of Marilyn Monroe gesturing at us from the old Startling Stories (a thrilling publication) cover. 

It reminded me of this time I was sitting around with a baby boomer, named John, talking about Marilyn Monroe. John said something about how all Americans, each of us, grow up being bombarded with images of Marilyn Monroe.

“Not I,” I said. She died before I was born. I hadn’t even seen any of her movies at that point (I’ve only seen one to this day, plus a bunch of clips from several others). I wasn't even really aware of her until she appeared as a plastic statue in Tommy, a film I saw about a decade after its original release.

John was appalled and incensed that I had the temerity to contradict his theory about the universal essential definitiveness of Marilyn. He had a very difficult time believing, in fact, that teenagers from other decades listened to different music, ate different foods, read different books. Kind of like the guy in Sanford’s piece who maintains that since Robert E. Heinlein wrote science fiction for youths, nobody else needs to.

Well all righty then.  I can’t even remember if I read Heinlein’s juveniles. I know I read Stranger in a Strange Land and then I tossed it on the same mental heap as Marilyn Monroe, the Who, and many baby boomer writers such as Tom Robbins and Jack Kerouac and Richard Brautigan and Harlan Ellison. That mental heap is something I internally classify as “stuff creepy old dudes once tried to play on me like it was a hipness card.”

Now that I’m of an age where the coin has developed a second side, sometimes I ask myself if I’m a creepy old lady trying to play hipness cards with the youth of today, innocent of my own solipsistic out-of-touchedness? And the answer is “I don’t think so; I'm more of a lifelong fan deciding at an advanced age to discard pretentiousness and wallow in that which gives me artistic joy.” But yeah, I can see how I might be interpreted as creepy. So I'm going to try not to compound it by making statements about that which is universal, or essential, or important, or definitive.

After all, I found speculative fiction through Star Wars and Stephen King and George R.R. Martin. Someone else might find it through Asimov and Tolkein (writers whose artistry is evident yet which leave me cold). Maybe even through Jar Jar Binks and Big Hero 6. There’s a great big beautiful speculative fiction universe out there, and it has niches for everybody. Or it should, anyway, and since our current corporate publishing system isn’t quite satisfying our word-hungry eyeballs there’s a thriving indie scene. And there’s always room for more!

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