Why is Science fiction falling by the wayside in the literary world?

I recently read Paul Goat Allen’s latest article concerning the demise of science fiction in literature on the “Explorations” web page, part of Barnes & Noble. Paul argued that fantasy had taken over in the reading world. The following is my comment to his article: 

“Science fiction like all other genre’s falls in and out of fashion. What was popular in the 1950’s and 60’s gets rediscovered and reinvented by later generations. Book genre’s fall in and out of fashion like everything else.

Nothing is new. Everything gets rediscovered over time.

It is completely understandable that the current generation read fantasy, using the genre as a literary head in the sand approach to the problems of the day.

But, subjects like global warming, population explosion, modern day warfare, famine and exploitation in the third world are all subjects for future science fiction novels, not fantasy, which to my mind is why the current reading fashion decrees that fantasy is, for the moment, king.

Is science fiction dead? No, merely taking a snooze, waiting for fashion and fads to change once more, putting science fiction back where it belongs at the forefront of literary exploration Paul.”

Thinking about the subject some more, after I wrote the above, I have to say I think the real reason for the demise of  science fiction is down to the ‘deep and meaningful’ approach taken by television and Hollywood when faced with a script. Take the Star Trek phenomena for example. In the first series, apart from chronically bad acting especially by the two lead actors, the story-lines where pure scifi. Lots of encounters with new planets, new species – all good stuff. But by the time the great Shakespearian actor Patrick Stewart assumed control of the Enterprise, the bridge crew counted among its member a ‘counsellor’ – give me strength! Instead of action we got boring ‘deep and meaningful’ discussions by the angst ridden crew members.

 Then the rot set in even further when Star Trek Voyager appeared, or as I like to call it PMT in Space, with a female captain who spent most of her time mothering her delinquent crew.

There has only ever been one scifi series on television that truly shone and that was Babylon Five. There have been a few excellent scifi movies over the years like Stargate, which unfortunately was spoiled when the original story was turned into a television series by employing McGiver in the lead role. Half the time I fully expected him to get them out of a tricky situation using nothing but his Swiss-Army knife and a piece of string.

If anyone is truly to blame for the slow death of pure science fiction in the world of literature, look no further than the whimpish screen writers for both television and the silver screen, who foolishly believe that simpering dialogue means more than action.

Shame on you…

2 thoughts on “Why is Science fiction falling by the wayside in the literary world?

  1. I agree with you that SciFi comes in and out of fashion, but I believe SciFi, Horror and Fantasy have historically been viewed as lesser genres, the domain of adolescent boys, and not for those who love Pure Literature. Isn't that why they are collectively known as "Genre Fiction" by the publishing industry. Many's the agent whose query guidelines forbid the submission of "Genre Fiction".I agree with you that TV has dumbed down SciFi in the hopes of making it more palatable to the Great Unwashed, but in praising the original Star Trek and Babylon Five, you leave out Firefly, which is great fun, and true SciFi. It also shows you a lot about character-driven plot and humor that comes organically from the narrative. And I would argue that the first two seasons of Ron Moore's Battlestar Galactica were some of the finest SciFi – and storytelling in general – ever on TV.As for the value of pure action over Deep Meaningful Discussions, I dunno. As much as I love action, sooner or later, the fisticuffs, lasers and explosions need to stop so we can learn a little bit about the people in the story and what they're hoping to achieve so we care whether or not they get blown up or whether or not they succeed.


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