Hoyt on Loss of Wonder

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.

12 Comments

  1. Comment by The OFloinn:

    Hey. Wait a minute. I’m a boomer.

  2. Comment by ladyhobbit:

    Yeah, me too. But I could never stand the mainstream baby boomer stuff.

  3. Comment by deiseach:

    Off-topic, but I wasn’t quite sure where this would fit (you need to set up a category of “Pyrotechnics in Church” or “Everything’s Better with Gunpowder”, Mr. Wright).

    Link courtesy of Rocco Palmo’s Whispers in the Loggia, what the Florentines do for Easter – use the Easter Candle to light a fuse connected to a fake dove which whizzes out of the Duomo and sets a 500-year old cart of fireworks alight (the cart is alleged to be 500 years old, the fireworks obviously are new each year).

    The scene inside the cathedral.

    The fireworks in the square outside.

    We now know why Dante was so eager to get back to his native city :-)

  4. Comment by KokoroGnosis:

    I thought she made a valid point about why video games are so attractive these days– and for that matter, although she didn’t point it out, anime– we still get craploads of heroism, explosions, and gosh-wow sense of wonder in video games. All of a sudden, my slavish devotion to the Mass Effect series– flaws and all– made sense.

    • Comment by The OFloinn:

      Video games are so attractive that a shooting in the housing development behind us just last week was due to an argument over a Wii system. Two shot; perp in custody. They are in their 30s.

    • Comment by Manwe King of the Valar:

      I agree about video games and anime! The good stuff still exists there!
      But of all the games, you mention the mass effect series?! Didn’t the ending of that trilogy kind of firmly plant it on the other side of this debate? It was like an anti-wonder ending. Actually Bioware seems to be moving more and more in that sad direction, you can see some of the same trends starting to take root in their Dragon Age series. :( That and the fact that bioware seems intent to homosexualize every single series they can get their hands on (even Star Wars for God’s sake!)

      • Comment by KokoroGnosis:

        Like I said, I love Mass Effect, but it’s never been a perfect series. The potential homosexuality’s been there from the start with the asari, who, let’s face it, belong in fan fiction. A race of “monogendered,” phenotypically sexy female aliens, with life spans of a 1000 years or more, and a culture mandate to breed with other species, regardless of gender, because they can mate with either and conceive? Especially coming from a universe where most of the other aliens are extremely well thought out and portrayed? Let’s face it, the only difference between Femshep/Liara and BroShep/ShuttleDude is that my libido is prepared to call one hot, regardless of my religious feelings, and the other involves two guys with stubble. Ew.

        (And I have to acknowledge the fact that they didn’t cave to the fan pressure so far as and make everyone romanceable regardless of gender– if my totally heterosexual bromance with Garrus suddenly resulted in a proposition, I would’ve probably uninstalled the game then and there.)

        As far as the ending goes, I’ll give you that the execution was poor. The choices you made in the games should’ve amounted to something, and while I didn’t think it was completely out of left field, the foreshadowing was nigh non-existent. What I did like, though, was that I wound up working to get my war asset score high enough to survive, putting a lot of work into, it, and then found out in the end that in order to protect the geth that I’d come to respect, there was no chance to survive. All that work, for nothing– except that it gave me, as the player, a small sacrifice to make along with Shep. This I liked, even if the ending was admittedly poorly executed.

        But that’s 15 minutes out a minimum of sixty hours of fantastic story telling backed up by good gameplay. I’d rather assume that BioWare will learn from that mistake than be pissed off about it.

        Apologies if this is rambly, but I just worked 15 hours and I’m do back in eight, so I’m going to go to bed now. I just feel the response is disproportionate to the crime. ;)

        (Afterthought: And what none of the flaws change is/was the sense of wonder that so well pervaded the series. In sixty hours of gameplay, I’d saved the galaxy multiple times, killed eldritch horrors, killed Lovecraftian machine gods, sacrificed to save friends, romanced a sexy alien chick despite not being able to see her face, leapt from the corpse of an example of said machine gods as it was underfire by a hostile battleship, and laughed more times than I care to count. For all its flaws, it was worth the price of admission.)

        • Comment by Manwe King of the Valar:

          “who, let’s face it, belong in fan fiction”
          Agreed.

          “if my totally heterosexual bromance with Garrus suddenly resulted in a proposition, I would’ve probably uninstalled the game then and there.”
          lol! If that was more than just a joke…don’t play bioware’s Dragon Age series. Great games, but unlike ME, DA does not hold back in it’s gayness. While not everybody is gay, the charcters that are hit on you, and if you rebuke them, you loose affection points with them. You bring them back up again, but im my experience they just start hitting on you again. This was more the case in DA2, rather than DA1. It’s a perverse little add-on, so I would not say that bioware is beyond cavin in, they might not have in ME but they did in DA. And even their new Star Wars mmo, they are adding gay romances to. It’s sad too, because both series are really, really good. Come to think of it, the whole RPG field seems to be getting queered up more and more these days. Besides the bioware games (Me, DA, SWTOR), there are other mmos that have caved, then there is the whole Fable series, and just recently Skyrim (gay vikings?! I don’t think so!).

          And I totally understand your point about the fun to be had in ME, I was not attacking that. I enjoyed the first one plenty myself! It’s the bad ending in ME3 that my guns were aimed at. But your in luck, while ME3 was the last of the trilogy, I hear bioware is planning on making more games set in the ME universe.

          • Comment by KokoroGnosis:

            Lol, I played most of the first one. I was annoyed when the elf assassin hit on me, but not infuriated; I had no history with him. With Garrus? That would’ve been a radical personality retcon.

            I think it’s more than just the RPG world, sadly. And it’s going to become more and more prevalent– I guess visual media is finally catching up to books.

            If there’s nothing else to be said for JRPGs, at least the mainstream ones are pretty traditional in a lot of ways. I’m happy to report that Xenoblade has so far just been hours and hours of glorious robot beating down, with heroic heroes and no men hitting on me.

            • Comment by Manwe King of the Valar:

              “I had no history with him”
              Same here, I already had a rouge (leliana), so I didn’t need another, especially not a gay antonio banderas wannabe! The problem came in with Anders (mage), he was straight in the expansion, but “came out of the closet” in the sequel. It was awkward to say the least…

              “I think it’s more than just the RPG world”
              Oh, very much so. Several other big titles out there (like the Sims) have been doing that stuff for years. It will only become more prevelant in games (as well as everything else in pop culture) as time goes on. As Mark Shea says “You.Must.Approve”. Actually, these days it’s more like “You.Must.Celebrate”.

              “If there’s nothing else to be said for JRPGs, at least the mainstream ones are pretty traditional in a lot of ways.”
              That is true! And thank God for that! Can you just imagine a gay version of Final Fantasy? Given how they dress in those games…I wouldn’t think it could get any gayer as is!
              Jokes aside, yes many JRPGs and even anime still have plenty of tradtional things in them. I guess Japan has not totally gone post-modern just yet.
              Well alot of mainstream JRPGs anyway, I mean look at the aforementioned Final Fantasy series. Almost every single game is about a group of misfits needing to battle a wicked and oppressive society! Add in the weird anti-religious elements of the some of the games and you end up with one of the most popular jrpgs being firmly planted in the non-tradtional (or even anti-tradtional) category.

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