Sarah A Hoyt at According to Hoyt has an essay well worth reading: Bring Back That Wonder Feeling.
The author contemplates the slow decline of science fiction, debunks the common explanations “The age of wonder in SF is between 12 and 14” or “They’re living in a science fiction world ” as “bullsheep” and offers a more insightful theory as to its causes.
Loyal readers will see a similarity of theme between Mrs Hoyt and Mr Wolverton, whose essay on the limits of mainstream genre I lauded and recommended in a previous article.
Here is a quote from Hoyt:
So, who killed the sense of wonder?
You’ll forgive me, since I know a lot of my readers belong to this generation, but it was boomers moving into the publishing houses.
I understand WHY it happened. I just don’t have to like it. Boomers came of age at a time when population was supposed to keep expanding indefinitely (note to the brainless bunnies who commented on my war is Hell post, no it’s no longer doing that. It might actually be contracting. We only have highly dubious counts, from countries who get aid per capita to believe it is still expanding. We also thought the USSR was expanding, until it collapsed. There’s lies, damn lies and statistics.) Youth was the way of the future. You only have to re-read the Heinlein of the sixties and seventies to get this feeling. The older people were kowtowing because they expected to be vastly out-numbered. So between that and a bunch of other cultural things, that one generation grew up thinking they were something special and that they should make everything different.
Also for some reason and I honestly can’t think why, unless it is a combination of their parents’ experiences in WWII AND Soviet Agit Prop (yeah, I know. I blame a lot of things on it. But they were GOOD), the boomers thought that they could create a perfect world.
Unfortunately this meant that when they moved into SF, right after Heinlein had exploded out of the ghetto of crudely colored magazines, they decided it was their mission in life to make SF accurate, respectable and, above all RELEVANT.
This is when the problems came in. They came in because every generation’s idea of “relevant” freezes at around the time they come of age. The burning issues of the day get resolved and gotten over, but they’re still the ones that formed them. And some of those issues weren’t even, really, issues by the time they came of age, but they were part of what was being struggled with while they were growing up.
When the boomers swept away the old order of SF and brought their stuff in, suddenly SF became obsessed with gender issues (mostly defined as a rather pat feminism), race issues (the burning issue of their day), and misunderstood economics (that to be honest is still relevant. their kids fail to grasp economics in exactly the same way.) The idea of being “cool” made them worship “literary” only since most of them wouldn’t know literary if it bit them in the fleshy part of the arse, “incoherent” “hallucinatory” and “pointless” had to do the turn.
Then came my generation who, btw, are not boomers, though we often get aggregated onto the end of it. We’re also not gen xers, sorry. Some people call us the lost generation, though we were mostly found – at work, trying to claw a space for ourselves while being told we weren’t cool or “socially conscious.”
I’m not saying all the boomers did was bad. Largely I’d rather praise them than bury them. But in SF they’ve been an unmitigated disaster.
My comment: amen and hear, hear.
Sarah A Hoyt in another article wins my eternal admiration by posting a manifesto and starting her own movement to overturn the literary world, called Human Wave Science Fiction. The prime directive thereof is: You are allowed to write escapist science fiction – or fantasy. Sometimes we just need a good read.
I see a confluence of goals when it come to my own titanic and world-girdling New Space Princess movement.