Would a re-invented wheel be edgier?


Ow, my eyes... okay, maybe that was a little too much Wii this weekend.

Fortunately, this was primarily a reading weekend, and a good one at that. I found a garage sale with the sort of sci-fi collection that would get you on Antiques Roadshow. This is great, because I'm still trying to read at least one book by each of the 23 Grand Masters of Science Fiction. Leafing through them today, I'm aware that they're a breath of fresh air in a smoggy world.

For the most part, these authors weren't the million-sellers; these were the people that the million-selling authors read when they were kids.

There's an incredible sense of "play" in their works. They're writing a story first, and a genre second. If it served the story, they weren't above writing a happy ending. Even in the stories where everything goes horribly wrong, there's still a reassuring implication that it's just for fun -- although if you want to learn something from it, so much the better.

It almost seems like sci-fi authors have to work harder today, to make sure that their book stands out against this background. Usually, it results in an emphasis on deeper characters or harder science or closer relevance, and that's great. But it's vital to keep perspective on where you are, and not to make assumptions about the previous generation.

What touched off this entire post was the Battlestar Galactica commentary I watched this afternoon. The producer, Ron Moore, mentioned that the 1978 series was nice, but today's audiences were more sophisticated. For the record, the new Battlestar is way better than the old series, but that one comment set my teeth on edge.

One lesson I will always carry with me from Bio 100: "More evolved" does not mean "superior". If a tapeworm grows body hair, it's more evolved. It will then die when its host chokes up a living, squirming hairball. There are many words to describe that, but none of them are "superior".

Similarly, don't pat yourself on the back for having a sophisticated audience. Unless you're PBS, you're confusing "thoughtful" with "media-saturated". It's a valid reason for messing with a dated TV show, but never assume that newer is better.

I really hope I'm writing this because it's true, and not because I'm getting old and crotchety.

1 comment:

Wrexie said...

I'm proud to say I've read at least 1 Sci-Fi book by a Grand Master (Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451) but lemme say now that I was mildly disappointed that Piers Anthony wasn't on that list. I thoroughly enjoyed "On A Pale Horse". A great story, there, and it just happened to be sci-fi.

I need more reading material.

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Canadian explorer. Chemist by training, biologist by nature. Long-time supporter and participant in National Novel Writing Month. Known as "Aquadeo" in most Internet circles. Also known as "that guy with the pants" to people who have seen me in certain pants.