Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Don't Make Me Use My Dad Voice

There are two types of Science Fiction and Fantasy fans in the world:

1.) Those who acknowledge both new and old works as being relevant to the genre.
2.) Those who are wrong.

Yep. That completes the list. That's everybody. I don't know where you fall into the list, dear reader, but you're on there somewhere. I don't get why anyone would denigrate either, but there it is.
Some readers are never going to like certain authors. That's the way it should be. The fact remains that not liking an author doesn't make them irrelevant to the genre.

This rant started because of things I've read recently after seeing them linked on Facebook. I can't seem to find them. One had an explicit statement that anything published more than fifteen years ago is no longer relevant. I believe that it was written by a young person. I understand the hubris of youth and the belief that history started the day that person was born, but no it didn't actually happen that way.

Everything in SF/F builds on what has come before. The roots of modern fantasy go back at least as far as The Epic of Gilgamesh. (And possibly farther. Since it's the oldest known written document it's hard to say for sure but that's the way I'd bet.) Science Fiction goes back to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Everything in either genre derives from those two works in some way, shape or form. Everything. ALL OF IT.

Now don't get me wrong. Lots of work is still happening in both genres and it's all relevant too. Harry Potter is a bit older now, but it has legions of fans. The boom in Young Adult literature (much of which kicks ass) is attributable directly to J.K. Rowling. Authors like Veronica Roth, Suzanne Collins and Rick Riordan have all benefited from the popularity of someone else's series. (Please understand that I'm not demeaning any of the above. Their work is awesome. I'm just stating that Harry Potter created a market for them to get the recognition they deserve.) This is a good thing for SF/F and those individual authors alike. It's also good for a guy like me, who likes a good story regardless.

Speaking of the Hunger Games trilogy and the Divergent series, I'll offer dystopic science fiction as a case in point. Darren Allen has an excellent post on this very subject here. I won't go into the types of dystopias he has mentioned. He does a terrific job of that himself. My point is the relevance. Those older works are relevant based on the influence they still have on work today.

The relevance of the more modern work is probably more evident to a younger person. The wave of modern day dystopic fiction probably started with the success (and yes, that's key) of The Hunger Games. The books and the movies related to Suzanne Collins work is long and becoming longer. She re-popularized the sub-genre and sent it higher in popularity than anyone who came before her. She deserves a ton of credit. The fact remains that her work built on a foundation established decades earlier. It's all relevant.

The same can be said of works like The Time Machine and Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne. The Time Machine opened another entire sub-genre of SF/F: that of time travel. Journey to the Center of The Earth introduced science fiction to the ancient concept of the fantastic journey. Seriously, every SF work that contains space travel owes a debt to Jules Verne. Every episode of Star Trek, every Star Wars movie, every Green Lantern comic book and all the rest can trace their roots back here, with an assist to the French silent film A Trip to the Moon.

So go ahead and play Halo.  Enjoy it. It's relevant to a new generation of fans. Just don't think you invented the space travel or power armor. Power armor has been around since at least the debut of Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein. It's awesome. It's fun. It's just not original. But relevant? Oh hell yeah. Have you seen the hype this game generates? Have you watched the movies or read the novels? (No, I haven't read the novels but if anyone wants to let me know where to start, I'm there. The influence of this video game on an entire generation of fandom is immense.)

Oh, and since I'm rocking out with my dad voice...

There has been a movement recently to add more women into SF/F circles. This in and of itself is a good thing. What is not good is the bullshit people are peddling when they try to highlight their cause. Are you paying attention here people? I have a statement to make:

If someone tells you that women have historically been ignored or pushed aside in SF/F they are either a liar or an idiot. 


As a matter of fact, if they're dumb enough to believe that anyone who knows anything about the genre is ignorant enough to believe their bullshit they're probably both. I spent five minutes on the Hugo Awards list site compiling the following list of Hugo Awards won by women before 1980:

Weyr Search” by Anne McCaffrey [Analog Oct 1967] Best Novella 1968
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin [Ace, 1969] best novel 1970
The Word for World is Forest” by Ursula K. Le Guin [Again, Dangerous Visions, 1972] best novella 1973
“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin [New Dimensions #3, 1973] best short 1974
The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin [Harper & Row, 1974] Best Novel 1975
Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm [Harper & Row, 1976] Best Novel 1977
Eyes of Amber” by Joan D. Vinge [Analog Jun 1977] best Novelette 1978
Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre [Houghton Mifflin, 1978] Best Novel 1979

There have been others since, but I've got to work in a bit so that's as far as I took it. Also, I didn't look into the retro awards, so there may have been some there. To be fair, there may not have been as well.

And let's not forget that Mary Shelley was the FOUNDING AUTHOR of Science Fiction. The technology in the work may appear dated to modern eyes, but the book was first published in 1818. No, that's not a typo. Next year is the two-hundredth anniversary of the first published Science Fiction work. It is also the two-hundred anniversary of the publication of the  first ever Science Fiction story written by a woman. A woman who has at least three separate awards named after her. Seriously. Please, people learn something about a genre before you bash it. Check your fucking assumptions and do some god damned research before you start spouting horse manure. Really. The amount of books, movies and toys that come from Shelley's work is beyond my ability to calculate.

Some works mentioned above are available at the links below:

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