Anyone who reads my blog knows I’m very into science fiction, but I have to admit that I’m having a devil of a time finding new science fiction stories to love. For the past decade I’ve been getting most of my sense of wonder thrills from rereading science fiction books I first discovered in the 1960s. I occasionally stumble across a new SF novel that rekindles the old thrill, somewhat, like Hyperion (1989), Snowcrash (1992), Red Mars (1993), Old Man’s War (2005) and Spin (2005), but life wasn’t like it was in my teens when I read several mind blowing SF books a week.
Has my sense of wonder fuse blown out?
Have I discovered all the great science fictional concepts?
I was page turning thrilled by The Time Traveler’s Wife (2003) but it was written by a literary writer, Audrey Niffenegger, and its appeal did not deal with time traveling, but a very fascinating romantic relationship. I’ve read many books and watched many movies about time travel and that far out idea is really tired.
And I’m burned out on alien invasions too. (I mean, be honest aren’t you too?) Ditto for Star Trek save-the-world space opera. And just how boring have all those after-the-collapse stories gotten? I’ve been in the mood for a great robot yarn, but the film I, Robot, although fun, wasn’t sense of wonder thrilling, and neither was WALL-E, but I loved it.
Thinking about it, the most exciting SF I’ve enjoyed in recent years has been the film Gattaca (1997) and the recent version of Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009), and neither of these sense of wonder thrillers were for traditional reasons. Vincent Freeman’s epic struggle to compete with genetically selected super humans was emotionally uplifting. And even though I’m an atheist, the idea of a race of robots, the Cylons, trying to exterminate the polytheistic human race because of the Cylon’s belief in monotheism was just too delicious not to love. However, as much as I enjoyed the series, it had little traditional sense of wonder. I was very disappointed it did so little with the psychology of the Cylons.
Am I jaded over science fiction, or have science fiction writers lost their mojo? The last science fiction novel that came up with a fantastic new H. G. Wells level concept was The Life of Pi by Yann Martel in 2001.
Now most people are going to scream at me, “WTF!”
I know, I know, most of you ladies and gents think The Life of Pi is a literary fantasy. That’s because you want to believe in Pi’s tale, which is a fantasy. We all want to believe in his fantasy, the fantasy of God, and all the other fantasies we love. When you accept the realistic ending, you accept science, and The Life of Pi becomes science fiction. A science fiction novel that kills science fiction.
And that might be why my thrill is gone. I want a new science fiction fantasy to believe in, like space travel, time travel, mind downloading, meeting far out aliens, mind travel, teleportation, immortality, and so on.
I can’t help but believe I’ve written this blog post before.
My mind is going, but the desires stay the same.
JWH – 12/16/9