Monthly Archives: September 2016

The Big Book of Science Fiction

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I got this the other day. It is edited by Jeff and Ann Vandermeer and it is quite a large collection. I did not buy it because there is a R.A. Lafferty story in it even though there is. I own that story in probably three other collections. No, I got this collection because of how many unheard of authors (unheard of by myself at least) are between its covers.

Now it is part and parcel of the elite clique in charge of science fiction and fantasy circle to poo-poo much of science fiction’s (and fantasy’s) origins as a American/British white male dominated field. I am not one of those people. Although I hate the phrase, I think it useful here: It is what it is. It was a white male (mostly American and British phenomena) dominated field for quite some time. Dominated but not exclusive.

Simple fact is it was thusly dominated because it was, in fact, thusly dominated. The people writing it and overwhelmingly the people reading were, and to a large extent still are, white males. I go to Norwescon here in the Seattle area and, say what you will, it is a white affair, baby. Some newcomers want to make an issue of it. It is a non-issue. Particularly of such a field as science fiction. Talk about a historically inclusive field with a historically inclusively dominate theme running through much of its history.

Plain fact of the matter is white male writers produced white male fans who in turn became the writers. Woman have been part of science fiction for decades now. More now than ever – but that is because of acceptability. Acceptability among women themselves is part of the bigger push, I believe, than anything else.

If someone asks me why there haven’t been as many black science fiction writers than there could have been, I am more likely to say, “because most of them thought it was stupid?”

For myself I don’t really care who, or what, the author is. And in general I avoid bios of authors. I know nothing about the actors I watch on television (mostly) and even less about musicians whose music I listen (mostly). I care about the story.

And I fucking mean that. You can have a message (for Christ’s sake I spent over a decade with Atlas Shrugged as my favorite novel!) but it better gel within the story. If not, it sticks out like a horny thumb through a peanut butter & jelly samich. Speaking of Atlas Shrugged, I still hold that she did a great job of melding message to story what with the force of the anvil over the head messaging in any lesser hands it would have been beyond intolerable. I know some people do, in fact, find the book intolerable, but if looked at dispassionately from a technical standpoint with that level of message she intertwined it quite well.

That rambling aside it remains true that my experience of science fiction (and to a lesser extent fantasy – I don’t read all that much of what is defined as fantasy) has been almost exclusively an American/British affair. And it has had the biggest impact, all around, on the development of the genre. That is just how the world works.

The introduction to this book doesn’t convey that they hold the Golden Age in much regard, that “… gee whiz, can do attitude…” Well, again the genre does not live outside the world that gave rise to it. And America was still just that sort of country that would produce that kind of work for young boys, and some men, to gobble up. You cannot divorce 30’s science fiction and 60’s science fiction from the society they rise in.

Would Frank Capra have been Quentin Tarantino if only born several decades later? Probably not, but he probably also would not have been Frank Capra – at least not the one who made such movies as It’s a Wonderful Life. We cannot divorce the artist entirely from his milieu. Even the rare genius has at least ephemeral feet in his time whether in reaction or protest or material.

And that rambling aside! So I was intrigued by the book. It is good to dip your feet in unfamiliar waters. Maybe I’ll find that there is even more reason why the American/ British dominance existed. Maybe they were also producing the only stuff worth reading! I don’t know. I doubt that, some of these entries are for Russian authors. A country not famous for producing poor writers. Producing shitty governments, check, but not shitty writers.

I’ll post any gems I find.