Thursday, May 31, 2007

SF, Fantasy, and the Sense of Wonder

Here is a quote from Russell Kirkpatrick's webpage (as linked from one of my favorite websites SF Signal):

"A generation ago we lived in a world where progress towards utopia was taken for granted. We believed technology and human ingenuity would overcome any obstacle. In this period science fiction proliferated. However, we’ve more recently had a rude awakening: people are asking ‘who benefits from all this technology?’ and are realising the wealth is not spread evenly. More, we have come to recognise the environmental damage we’ve done with our unthinking trust in technology. I believe the 1970s saw the beginning of a widespread public rejection of the ‘tech fix’, and this is mirrored by the rise of the fantasy novel, in which technology is absent or at least tightly prescribed, and the consequent decline of science fiction."


The comments by readers also is enlightening. Read on.

I have wondered about this for a few years now. I have wondered where the SF version of Harry Potter was. Where is the modern equivalent of Tom Swift? (Actually, a fellow writer is trying to fill that void now with his first novel.)

But, to continue, the sense of wonder in modern SF is, I think, missing. I may be wrong, here, and please correct me if I am. But back in the day, when Asimov, Heinlein, and others were writing about their future (our present), they envisioned flying cars, rocket ships to Mars, and other wonderous things. Well, we've lived through 2001 and I want my flying car. Moreover, I realize that I'll never see a flying car. So where did the sense of wonder go? Was it technology--inventive as it is--that killed the sense of wonder? Was it our knowledge of the limitations of technology that has driven wonder out of the realm of SF and landed it in fantasy? Is modern technology, with all its coolnesses (iPods, TV on the internet, etc.), the thing that killed the sense of wonder? Are we so jaded to realize that technology is not the end-all be-all?

I am developing a couple of SF books and stories set it two different types of universes. For one, I'm doing a dystopian future thing but with a new twist. But for the second, I aim to reclaim the sense of wonder that once existed in SF. I want to reclaim the sense of wonder John Carter felt when he transported to Mars or that any kid felt during the 1960s when they looked up at the moon and dreamed of walking on it.

What are your thoughts? Did SF kill the sense of wonder? Do we have the situation of the more we learn, the less the sense of wonder exists? How can we reclaim it?

8 comments:

John D. said...

I see sense of wonder as jut one attribute of science fiction. Not all authors choose to emphasize it, and certainly less than the authors of yesteryear. A couple of years ago, it became trendy to write posthumanism stories where everyone would up/download copies of themselves. These days, it seems slipstream and mundane sf are the latest trends. Though the winds of change affect science fiction, there are still remnants of sense of wonder. Recent examples: Helix by Eric Brown, Paragaea by Chris Roberson, and Sun of Suns by Karl Schroeder

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