from Paul De Filippo at Sci Fi Wire
Lately there have been some fresh sentiments from younger readers and writers questioning the utility and pleasures to be found in the reading of older science fiction, the classics and canon of the genre, hitherto deemed essential.
SF suffers more than mainstream fiction in this regard, because so much of it offers predictions or intellectual speculations that the real world has a way of dramatically outmoding, rendering the central conceit of certain stories (first moon landings, anyone?) unrealistic in an untenable fashion. But this same problem applies to all art. High-school students rebel against Shakespeare and Henry James and J.D. Salinger for all the reasons given above. This is an eternal truth.
But it seems to me that there is something timeless and immortal in the best storytelling from any era. Once readers make the determination to enjoy an older work, reset their cultural expectations and recalibrate their knowledge base (the hero is not going to be found using a cell phone in a contemporary novel set in 1980), there is still plenty of pleasure and usefulness to be derived from stories that were written, *gasp!*, even before the 19-year-old reader was born!
Otherwise, please explain to me the continuing popularity of Jane Austen and H.P. Lovecraft—often conjoined—among others.
Read More here
I don’t think it’s fair to say that all classic Science Fiction is outdated. I still argue that The War of the Worlds is terrifying (and gory), and it’s over 100 years old. There’s some out there that isn’t very good, but that’s true of some of the new stuff too. Even the books that have whose topics have come to pass (like The Earth to the Moon) are still good reads. And if you look at it from a historical stand point, Science Fiction has the unique advantage of being able to comment on the fears of the current society without becoming preachy or overly political. Books from the 40’s and 50’s focused on the fear of the Cold War using rockets and missiles (and sometimes nuclear winter); today we see a lot of biological weapons and and genetics (or eugenics). I think fear of abuses of new technology is ever present, and since that is such a big issue in Science Fiction, I think anything well written will continue to be enjoyed.
Do you think Science fiction can get outdated? What’s your favorite classic Sci Fi book?