There is, of course, a tradition within gSF to lament the sorry state of affairs ‘these days,’ and wonder if science fiction is in terminal decline. Kemp went so far as to conduct a postmortem in 1960, collecting responses from a number of gSF authors and other intelligentsia to questions like “Is it dead,” and “Who’s responsible?” The entire fanzine, as well as some follow-ups Kemp conducted, are on line HERE. Wonderful read … especially Marion Zimmer Bradley’s answers!
(Incidentally, others approached the question with different strategies. For example, there’s the old phrase [variously attributed, but Hartwell’s essay routinely cited] “The Golden Age of science fiction is twelve” — that is, it’s not that gSF is in decline from a golden era, but that one inevitably prefers whatever one first encountered when one was twelve years of age. Personally, I argue [HERE and in the forthcoming book] that “science fiction” has an indefinite history, and is unlikely to ever end … but the genre form, as a textual tradition distinct from the mainstream, may no longer be viable.)
I’m not a very good Spider Robinson fan. By that I mean that I love his books — I’m not an idiot — but I don’t keep on top of events in authors’ personal lives, even my favorites. It’s none of my business, and I’ve never felt that public performances (textual included) were an invitation into an artist’s personal life. Spider (“Do you mind if I call you Spider?”) comes closer than most, though, because he just seems like such a nice guy, and all logic to the contrary I can’t help but play a mental game of Pascal’s Wager where he’s concerned: if I DID see him in a bar, and DID buy him a drink, maybe he’d tell me where Callahan’s has moved to. So, I was honestly upset to learn that he had had a heart attack (back in August — I’m REALLY not a good fan) but is doing really well, and similarly happy to learn that his daughter’s health is wonderfully improved.
Writing this reminds me of his old essay on religion, which can be read HERE. I certainly don’t agree with everything he says — there’s entirely too much essentializing of world religions down to theological points, both positive and negative, for example — but it’s a good read, and a great insight into a latter-day Golden Age author’s perspective on religion. (Imagine if Heinlein was reborn as an optimist … )
On the other hand, if you’ve no idea who Spider is, you could do worse than spend a few minutes reading this: Melancholy Elephants.
Part of the point of this blog was to chronicle my thought processes, choices, and roads not taken while writing my book. The best laid plans of mice and men … I realized all too quickly that I could either blog, or finish the book (almost) on schedule.
I opted for the latter, and I’m happy to say it’s DONE, and only 20% longer than planned. To sum up the last few months, I’ll just say it reminded me of finishing my dissertation. If you’ve never, you should, if only so you’ll understand 1) how much fun it is to dig as deeply as possible into an idea (given the damn wordcount restrictions, of course), plus 2) what a relief it is to STOP writing and get caught up on the outside world. Two crucial differences: THIS time my goal was to write something more than an handful of people would ever want to read; and at the end of the dissertation, one has the absolute certainty that one will have the opportunity to sit down with a couple people who’ve actually read it and are prepared to discuss it in detail. (In my case it was a developmental psychologist and a constitutional law professor — being interdisciplinary can be so invigorating, sometimes.) Of course, when you’re defending you’re ALSO worried that these people’s opinions could be that you’ve just wasted a few years, so I suppose it’s a mixed blessing.
To celebrate, I’m avoiding science fiction for a while. Currently on the nightstand are Libba Bray (magic in a 19th c. finishing school) and a volume of essays on the cult of Mithras (non-fiction, but just as interesting). Oh, and Mieville’s Embassytown … I expect the “no-sf” rule to crack around Thursday, and must be prepared.