Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Science Fiction Then and Now

A lifetime ago, when I was what they now call a 'tween', I had read through all the books in the children's section of our public library. At 11 or 12, I wasn't old enough to obtain an adult library card which would grant me access to an entirely different world of books.

My mother went to the library with me and signed some sort of permission/waiver that allowed me to have my own adult library card. I still remember the smell of that amber/orange rectangle with rounded corners. It was one of my prized possessions.

I know my experience is not unique for those of us who came of age in the 70's. There really wasn't the depth of what is now YA literature. Books I remember reading in those years included the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew (left over from my older sister), the adventure classics: The Black Stallion books, The Three Musketeers, The Man in the Iron Mask, the animal books: Old Yeller, Call of the Wild, etc. Yes, there were the Judy Blume books and I devoured them all. And "A Wrinkle in Time" remains one of my favorite books of all time.

In the 70s, a precocious reader would often be steered to sci fi because they were books that were complex enough to satisfy and yet had emotional content that was not beyond the reach of most young tweens and teens. I discovered the EE Doc Smith Lensmen series, Asimov, Heinlein, Silverberg, and Bradbury. These were books that had an essentially optimistic/hopeful view of the future.

Then something happened.

The future turned out to be quite different than the dreamers had dreamed. And all sorts of stories and genres became darker, more nihilistic. I read far less science fiction than I used to. I also watch far fewer movies and less television. I'm no hermit, nor am I a prude, but the older I get, the more vulnerable I feel (though not for me--mostly for my children) and the less I want to immerse myself in gratuitous victimization.

Is it such a bad thing to want to see some light and hope in the fiction I choose to read?

That may be one of the reasons I read so much YA fantasy these days. Even the stories I choose to write have a thread of hope, both the stories written for a YA and an adult audience. Perhaps that puts me out of step with the market. I certainly hope not.

1 comment:

  1. i have never had any interest in science fiction.. i think the closest i ever got was orwell or rand.... the future came quickly enough and is horrifying enough in its own right,,, i certainly have no use for it now....