Sci-fi genre losing its thunder?
Me and my family always spent quite a lot of our time with our noses stuck in a book. Our book collection contains quite a lot of sci-fi, mostly the older authors from all around the world (well, mostly the Central and Eastern European authors, now that I think of it). It just seems to all of us that the new sci-fi books lack any novel thoughts. Is it because there are no more themes to write about, or do the authors choose to write about what already proved to be successful?
I am a huge sci-fi fan! I love reading Wells, Asimov, and Clark, to name a few. Even the commercial writers are fun (D. C. Fontana and Peter David are but a few). These writers took the human condition from the here-and-now and placed it in the "what-if" condition. What if man could actually reach the moon? What if it were possible to carry a phone with you? What if nature fought back?
Inspiration for these writers came from the world around them. Most lived during times of great change - social as well as economical. The future was an unknown and few "leaders" were considering what the consequences of their actions could be. Science Fiction became that mode for the populous to voice their concerns, to explore the what-if without scrutiny.
Society cycles. We move from periods of struggle to periods of rest. When we "rest" we are trying to drum up something which requires a struggle. Humans are funny creatures...we are never happy and are constantly seeking a new challenge - even when we think we don't want one.
Writing follows that cycle as well. What was once forward thinking is moving more towards backwards wandering. We've reached the age of cell phones, space travel, and looking beyond our own galaxy. The struggles we face on Earth no longer can be solved by looking ahead. For most of us we've reached the "future" we once dreamed about. What we can do, though, is look behind us and see where we've been.
Enter the age of Steampunk. Shows like Warehouse 13 show us that not everything is solved by what is to come. The goal of the sci-fi writer is the same as it always has been - to show us how things could be. Instead of the topic being 100 years in the future it's now 100 years in the past. What have we learned? What did we get right? What did we get wrong?
Sci-fi writers will always push the envelope and explore areas normally left untouched. Today's writers are doing the same as they always have. What's changed, I think, is the setting and the voice.
New, younger writers are taking their world and bending it, twisting it, and exploring it just as their forefathers did. The world is changing.
But, fear not, Buck Rogers and Captain Kirk will always be around and sci-fi writers will continue to keep reality in check.
I think the sci fi of old is losing a bit of thunder, but that the genre as a whole is on the rise. Look at two of the three top grossing movies of all time. One is Avatar and the other is the Avengers. Both of which are science fiction. People still enjoy these stories that take us beyond our world, it's just that those stories have changed a bit over time. Super heroes are more popular now than traditional alien storylines, and many new sci fi narratives are incorporating elements of fantasy. Giving worlds magic in addition to technology. Sub-genres are also stepping up like steampunk. So, I would say that the genre is changing more than it is weakening, but I do understand where you're coming from. It feels like a lot of the great writers in the genre are being forgotten.
What constitutes "sci-fi" these days? I agree there is a shift, but is it getting broader or narrower?
In my mind, sci fi is any story where advanced technology (stuff we don't have yet) or alien worlds, are an important part of the plot. So, I think it's getting broader, but one could make the argument that it's being spread too thin.
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