I guess this is a second chapter to my earlier blog, “Are SF Writers Leading or Following?” I think the answer to that question is “both”. Since that earlier piece I’ve only seen more retreat – particularly with my middle-aged peers – from embracing new SF in favor of going back to the well-worn path of creative fruits from the late, mid, or early 20th
century. The most obvious reason seems to be that the outlook from where we stand now is not particularly inviting, with global warming (or the exhausting effort to deny it), a reduction in ambitious visions of manned space
exploration (unless you’re Chinese), an increase in global obesity, the continued rise of religious extremism, the uncertainties of where the digital age is leading us, the empowerment of plutocracies in “the Free West” and the coming tests (and turmoil) over the validity of the capitalist model.
Given all that who can blame someone for looking “backwards” for a vision of the future. It’s not realistic… but it can be comforting. However now more than ever scifi has a role to play. The future before us is probably less predictable than the one we saw in the latter 20th
century, but face it: while that “old future” seemed brighter, it didn’t turn out to be the path reality chose to walk.
So increasingly I see a division in SF fandom (and pros): those who accept the challenge of unblinkingly looking to the future from today’s vantage, and those turning their backs in favor of “comfort food fiction”. One is a pursuit of scifi’s mission. The other is an exercise in nostalgia (I think this includes all Star Trek’s manifestations, to date). The old stuff may still be entertaining, but it’s “off-mission”. Fresh SF has a shelf life.
I expect to see this audience divide (let me label it “progressive SF” vs. “conservative SF”, for lack of better terms, though the political associations are not relevant) grow even more obvious in the next few years, or at least become more clearly divided.
[disable cranky SF purist mode] OK. You’ve endured that, now a treat – ART!!!! GO!, my DA brothers and sisters!!! Feed your eyes and imaginations!