Tuesday, February 12, 2019

On Old Science Fiction

At the end of January I completed an Andre Norton book, a sequel to a previous book that I had read and enjoyed.  I had looked for the sequel for at least a year before finally breaking down and ordering it on-line.  Of course, I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was with a sense of regret that I put it up on the shelf.

As I put it up on the shelf I started looking at the other Science Fiction and Fantasy works that I have collected.  I was taken with the fact that the most "modern" work I had was from 1988.  And that on the whole, I have not more than a dozen authors on my shelf.

Which, of course, got me to thinking.

Most of these authors are ones that I read in my teenage years and fired my imagination:  Andre Norton, Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Christopher, J.R.R. Tolkein, even early C.J. Cherryh.  There are a few outliers there as well:  Elizabeth Boyer, Jerry Pournelle, Sterling Lanier, Robert Heinlein, H. Beam Piper - and a couple of single outliers:  David Drake, Gorden R. Dickson, L. Sprague De Camp, Patricia Wrede.  But really, that is about that I kept.

I am not quite sure what happened. 

For some authors, they seem to have taken a sharp turn towards "realism" (as found in rather harsh language and sexuality) which is simply something I do not need in my books, let alone my actual life.  For others - even some of my most favorites - in their later years they started "co-writing" with other authors.  That is their choice of course - and I am sure a great honor for the co-writer - but I have not found those works to be significantly better than those of the original author.  And for a third set, it became less about writing science fiction and fantasy and more about addressing current social trends through their works. 

As for new works - new books are expensive and time is precious.  The chances I am going to gamble on an author, especially a new one I do not know, with  my time and money is increasingly unlikely.  There are plenty of old favorites to choose from.

The one thing that you might note from my list is that almost every one of those authors is dead.  So the chances that new works are coming from them is pretty slim.  Which ultimately means that my purchasing of science fiction and fantasy will continue to dwindle as I run down the books from these authors that I am interested in.

Which is rather okay.  I am finding more and more that works from the past - my past anyway- give me more pleasure than anything that I can currently find if for no other reason I find happy memories there, of a time when the horizon really was the limit and life appeared a great deal more sunny and uncomplicated than it is now.


Anonymous said...

Goodwill and Salvation Army are the places I do my book shopping, mostly. Many authors all on book shelves for easy title viewing. A buck for a book - easy and inexpensive if the book turns out to be a bad choice. If I don't like it enough, I just return it for someone else to take a turn.

LindaG said...

I would have to say "Here, here" to books from the past bringing more enjoyment than books now.

I was a big comic book reader growing up. Haunted Tank, Legion of Super Heroes, Sergeant Rock of Easy Company, etc. I was into war comics a lot for some reason.

I read some Andre Norton. And Heinlein and I think I read some Dickson, too. Your others, while I recall the names I don't recall reading. (No, I never read Lord of the Rings or anything else by Tolkein, I am pretty sure).
I think maybe Pournelle. Seems familiar as I look over your list again. And while I loved the Tarzan TV shows, I don't recall reading anything by E.R. Burroughs.

Now I did read some Asimov. But only his robot books and the Lucky Starr books he wrote under the name Paul French.
F.W. Dixon's Hardy Boys series, I devoured whenever I found them. All the WWI/II printings in the brown covers and brown paper, that I could find at the Good Will store. I wish I still had them. Can't imagine being able to even write them now, really. Sad.

The only current authors I can think of right now are Anne McCaffrey. Loved the Dragonriders of Pern series.
And Piers Anthony's Xanth novels were funny and great reading.

But like you, even though I peruse the book shelves of local stores, none of the new stuff really interests me. Did I lose my imagination somewhere?
I don't know.
But I do know that if I were to pick up any of the earlier books again, I'd really enjoy them again. :)

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Anonymous - Good idea as well. My only "difficulty" with Goodwill/Salvation Army is that my circle of books is fairly limited and I have not had a lot of luck there.

Thanks for stopping by!

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Linda - I have read Asimov's Robot series long ago as well, and the Dragonriders of Pern as well (the first three were an epic work). I was a Hardy Boys reader as well and a Nancy Drew reader to some extent. Tom Swift as well (those might be books I would be interested in collecting again someday). Piers Anthony's Xanth series was enjoyable for a while, but eventually wore on me.

As to new things - as indicated above, too much of an investment and time risk.