Ideology (and Ideological Rot) in Science Fiction

Vox Day has an interesting dissection of the problems with “mainstream” science fiction and fantasy nowadays – The Cancer in SF/F:

One need only look at the increasingly mediocre works that have been nominated for, and in some cases even won, science fiction’s highest prizes to realize that the genre is dominated by the ideological left and is in severe decline from both the literary and revenue perspectives.  When six of the top 10-selling SF books in 2012 are either ripped off from an Xbox game or were first published more than a decade ago, it shouldn’t be difficult to observe that there is a very serious problem with the science fiction that is presently being published…

But even if one dismisses me, the problem is that I am far from the only former Asimov and Analog subscriber who no longer bothers to even pirate, let alone buy, The Year’s Best Science Fiction collections because so little of it is worth reading anymore. As an SFWA member, I have a vote for the Nebula, but at least in the case of the Best Novel category, there is simply nothing for which one can credibly vote.

It is simply impossible to call any of the novels presently up for this year’s Nebula or Hugo the best novel in SF/F with a straight face. And if one of them truly does merit the description, then the genre is in even worse shape than I have observed.  It should not be controversial to suggest that it is highly unlikely that anyone from this year’s class will one day be named a Grandmaster of Science Fiction.

I’d have to agree with him. I still look over the new releases at Barnes & Noble or Amazon every couple  of weeks, hoping in spite of experience to find something promising and worthwhile and not larded with left-leaning cliches, but almost always come away disappointed…and have for the past 15 years or so.

He follows up with a discussion of comments Sarah Hoyt made on a similar subject (part of her own ongoing exploration of the theme). And to expand it into other media, this week J. Michael Straczynski of Babylon 5 fame made some related observations on TV SF.

I do like Sarah Hoyt’s take on the problem as self-correcting – the emergence of alternative distribution channels like Kindle spells doom to those traditional channels increasingly controlled by a single exclusionary ideology, if they are unwilling to change. In other words: the free market works, and competition has benefits.

2 thoughts on “Ideology (and Ideological Rot) in Science Fiction

  1. MadRocketSci

    So, I remember reading In the Shadow of Ares a year or two ago. I enjoyed it very much! When are you coming out with a sequel?

    I remember a bit of a long dry spell where there wouldn’t be very much science fiction that interested me (starting about 8 or so years ago). Niel Stephenson’s stuff was usually good (if occasionally meandering.) Vernor Vinge (though I don’t know when he published his series.) But a lot of it seemed dull – perhaps symptomatic of the ideological rot.

    Now that anyone can write and arbitrarily distribute anything just by pitching a website and formatting it as an e-book, I imagine we’ll see a lot more innovative stuff. Perhaps stuff that brings back that old spirit of adventure and of a large enough idea of the universe (as opposed to cramped, broken down dystopias).

  2. T.L. James Post author

    Thanks. We’re working on the sequel and a couple of related short stories at the moment. (Indeed…I should be working on one of the outlines right now.)

    Yes, hopefully e-publishing will ‘disintermediate’ new writers from their potential audiences. Unfortunately, a lot of bad will at first come with the good, making the good stuff still hard to find. But like blogging, social media, etc. it’s only a matter of time before the early adopters drop out – it’s fairly time-consuming to write, especially if you have a more-than-full-time regular job. Without critical and commercial success, the surge in bad writers will tail off.

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