Thinking West: Sci-Fi Growing Up

What happened to classic sci-fi? What happened to the fiction that spanned the known galaxy, hopping from star system to star system? What happened to the fiction gleaming with technological wonders and an optimistic view of the future? What happened to the fiction that imagined boundless frontiers amongst the stars and those spaces between stars and universes?

Science fiction appears to be in a new age. It is an age filled with dystopic futures and collapses caused by the very technologies the Golden Era of science fiction imagined and incessantly wrote about. The new era is dotted with fiction that is anchored to the world we are still struggling to know. Evil corporations, corrupt politicians, and crazy social orders prevail. What the hell happened?

It appears that the current age of science fiction has left behind the techno-optimism of the Golden Era of science fiction. The genre appears to have left that stage in life where the imagination is unhindered by reality and cannot imagine a future that is the product of the endless march of progress and technological achievement.

It seems that science fiction has moved away from those prepubescent years, where fantastical technologies and millions of alien species coexist and mingle in a nameless cantina on some desert world. It has left a time where anything was possible. The good guys were the tough-as-nails boy scouts. The bad guys were vile, menacing figures whose evil plots were always foiled by the good guys.

Science fiction appears to have hit its pubescent years. It is a time of rebellion, anger, and disillusion. It is a time where the new fiction appears to be rebelling against its angry, head shaking parents. Everyone is suspect. Moral ambiguity is the name of the game. It’s a new time for science fiction. It is a fiction that is stuck on the world that has acted as humanity’s cradle for some time. There is an obsession with the here and the now. The individual is king. Move aside great causes! (Unless they present an opportunity for personal advancement, wealth, fame, etc.!)

What will sci-fi’s future look like? What will happen when sci-fi grows up, buys a car, adds ten pounds, and has to argue with kids of its own? What will happen then? How will the “grownup” sci-fi look at itself? Will we have moon bases and starships? Will there be a nostalgic longing for the techno-optimistic days of its long, awkward childhood? How will sci-fi grow up? Will it vote for the road to middleclassdom, where all the houses are made of ticky-tacky? Or, will sci-fi rebel against the cubicle, responsibility, and mundaneness of its adult years? Will we see cyberpunk again? Will we see an escape to those boundless frontiers, where every particle of our imagination is put to the test?

Published by

El Portal

Eastern New Mexico University’s literary magazine, El Portal, offers a venue for the work of writers, artists and photographers. ENMU students, national, and international writers are welcome to submit their original, previously unpublished short stories, plays, poetry and photography. No entry fees are charged. Cash prizes are awarded to first-, second- and third-place winners in each category (only ENMU students qualify). El Portal is published each semester at Eastern thanks to Dr. Jack Williamson, a world-renowned science fiction writer and professor emeritus at ENMU who underwrote the publication. El Portal has been published since 1939.