Monday, January 20, 2014
Great Jzkppluy! It's the Lhiubrst From The Haswuttyr Galaxy!
A long, long time ago in a city about 1200 miles away, I used to read a lot of Science Fiction. It was great escapist fun, fired up my imagination and made me believe the universe was full of promise.
Then I got older, and started paying attention in some of the hard science classes I had enrolled in, and realized that the physics and engineering in most of Sci-Fi was not simply imaginative, it was somewhat irresponsible, ignoring the known laws of nature and contradicting the plausible, not to mention probable, exceptions.
I also, truth be told, just flat out got tired of trying to pronounce some of the place and person/thing names that science fiction authors love to come up with - "Gxhachkkkkes! The humans are approaching Dazertykkj IV! We must alert the council and prepare for battle! In Xvblewq's name we must not allow them to make landfall!"
That sort of thing takes a lot of the fun out of reading - if I wanted to wrestle with pronouncing names, I'd move to Wales.
The action and adventure of most of the books remained fairly engaging, but then there came a point when every single last science fiction book I opened seemed to have devolved into simple David vs. Goliath stories ("We are outgunned, out-manned, & out-teched, but we are a spirited small band of rebels, and we shall defeat the evil empire!") and books such as those written by the Sci-Fi writers I had embraced early on, such as Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Ursula K. Le Guin, writers who tackled philosophical questions about the nature of mankind and our interactions with the Universe and each other through subtle allegory and clever analogy (as opposed to "Pew, pew, pew, shoot them, shoot them all! We must escape through the hyperdrive wormhole!") seemed to have fallen out of favor.
Yes, yes, I know that there are still great Sci-Fi writers, and I have enjoyed the works of Iain M. Banks (1954-2013), Greg Bear, and Marek Huberath, but for every one of those writers of great speculative fiction, there are ten more hacks just jumping on the populist band wagon of "Hey, invaders from Hktyuwsrde! We must blow them up!"
The tendency for some Sci-Fi authors to milk a particular book until it's dry as dirt (The Dune franchise immediately springs to mind) also helped turn me away from Sci-Fi.
The epic Space Operas that tell stories spanning eons and seem to have no end work for some, but not me. I'm more of a trilogy, tops, kinda guy.
The influence of Hollywood is readily apparent in a lot of the Sci-Fi that has been published in the last thirty or so years. A lot of what I have read (or rather, tried to read) seemed to be a rough draft for a script that was rejected and then fleshed out as a book in order to salvage the work. Trite plots about evil empires and rebellions, or Spaceship crews adrift in the vast reaches of space making a horrific discovery that somehow ties into the origin of man on Earth...that is one beaten dead horse.
I haven't given up completely on reading Sci-Fi, as I'm sure there are still some great stories being told by some talented writers. I get a recommendation or two every so often that pans out (though it has been a long while - the last author that really grabbed me was David Zindell with his Requiem For Homo Sapiens trilogy - and those were published at least 15 years ago).
I am still waiting for a Sci-Fi writer to pen the one story I think truly needs to be told - that of the human race being the most technologically advanced (and thus most dominant) species in the Universe. Because we are.
Fragile as hell on our own planet (No claws or talons or large sharp pointy teeth, no armor plating or tough leathery hides, no exceptional night vision or unique ability to fly or swim underwater for great periods of time, smaller and weaker than most large predators roaming the Earth), we somehow have become the one species that pretty much calls all the shots (no pun intended).
How the human race came to rule the Earth, and how it will move on to dominate the Universe in the same fashion, would make a great story - hell, the first part already is.