Magazines & Anthologies
Rampant Loon Media LLC
Our Beloved Founder and Editor-in-Chief

Follow us on Facebook!


Read them free on Kindle Unlimited!





Monday, July 13, 2009

Ruminations of an Old Goat

The good old days. Old folks talk about 'em like the good old days were so much better than the bad new days. I'm on the wrong side of fifty, so I guess I'm supposed to start doing that, too. As this blog site is mostly about science fiction, I started thinking about what was so good about the good old days of science fiction. And I even came up with an answer.

The good old days were all about shared experiences. In the 1960s and early 1970s, science fiction fans were few and far between. At least they were in my neck of the woods. Out of about 750 people in my high school, there were only a handful of us and we all knew each other pretty well. Actually, we knew each other pretty well even before we met because of our shared experiences with science fiction. What shared experiences am I talking about? The books we'd all read, of course.

Chances were, any science fiction fan you met would have read a lot of the same books as you. We had all read Asimov's Foundation Trilogy and his robot stories. We all knew Heinlein's Starship Troopers and had cut our teeth on his juveniles; books like Farmer in the Sky (the first real science fiction novel I read), Starman Jones, Tunnel in the Sky and Citizen of the Galaxy. We'd all read Clarke's stories "The Star" and "The Nine Billion Names of God" along with Childhood's End and Rendezvous With Rama. Everyone had read Frank Herbert's Dune, but nothing else by him (still the case with many of us). By high school, you could add Niven's Ringworld to the list. We were all familiar with Poul Anderson, L. Sprague de Camp, Clifford Simak, Roger Zelazy and Keith Laumer.

We wouldn't have read all the same books, of course, but we'd have a solid foundation for discussions about our passion. Plus, each of us was able to broaden the other's horizons by introducing a new author to them, someone whose works our friends hadn't read yet. In my group, I was the guy who "discovered" Larry Niven and H. Beam Piper. We'd pass our paperback books around among ourselves because the school library only had a few dozen science fiction books. Those paperbacks got so beaten up that sometimes we'd have to buy new ones, but it never once occurred to us not to share our treasures.

But books weren't the only things we had in common. We all watched Star Trek reruns once it hit syndication. We had all watched such stellar TV shows as Land of the Giants and Time Tunnel and the cheesy British show UFO. We had all watched Bruce Dern in the first tree hugger science fiction film, Silent Running, and caught every Plant of the Apes movie as they were released. In 1971, we'd gone to see an odd movie called THX-1138 and, of course, had seen 2001: A Space Odyssey.

I'm sure I've forgotten some of the names of the authors we all read. I'm sure I've forgotten some of the science fiction movies we saw. But I'm not forgetting very many of them because there simply weren't that many big name authors to read or big release movies to see. I'm not saying there were only a handful of science fiction authors. I'm saying there were only a handful you could count on finding in every bookstore with a science fiction section. And, in reality, it was because of the limited choices we had that we had all read the same books.

So, exactly what am I saying about the good old days? Apparently, I'm saying things were a lot better when there was a lot less for us to enjoy. Lack of choice, that's what made those instant shared experiences possible. Does that make any sense? Would science fiction really be a better field if there was less of it? Okay, it might be, but only if I got to pick the dreck we got rid of.

Since I don't get to pick what to get rid of, I'll settle for picking what to read, instead. For all that I loved that instant connection of yesteryear, I'd much rather have access to Bujold's Vorkosigan series, David Weber's Honorverse (well, except for some of the recent bricks he's been putting out) and Elizabeth Moon's science fiction universes. I'll settle for having science fiction TV shows that run for years (except Firefly, *sigh*) and being able to see a bunch of big budget science fiction movies each year in the theaters.

While there was something special about the shared experiences, I cannot believe that any of those fans I knew back in high school would object to where the field is today. Because there is so much more to discover in science fiction than there used to be. And isn't discovery what science fiction is all about?
blog comments powered by Disqus