On science fiction

Originally written in response to what I thought was a rather silly ‘bonus question’ in the 2007 Locus poll. Further thoughts on definitions in this later post.

I think SF as an engine for innovation is dead, for reasons of culture and market — that the SF community now desires reiteration and recursion — the toolbox is no longer being expanded, and that adding tools would, in all likelihood, now destroy the box. This is not a good or bad thing, just a thing
Matthew Cheney

Science fiction: A twentieth-century literary movement, largely American, that grew out of the contradiction between late-Victorian inventor-worship and the destructive potential of technology as embodied by mustard gas, the machine gun, and the atomic bomb. It gained strength in the early years of the Cold War, when science was one of the war’s major fronts, but likewise weakened as the American victory in the so-called ‘Space Race’, the lessening of tension between the US and USSR, and discontent with the ongoing war in Vietnam combined to reduce enthusiasm for both the Cold War and for ‘Big Science’.

A revival in the 1980s, spurred by alarm over the rise of Japan as an industrial and technological power, again lost steam with the collapse of Japan’s ‘bubble economy’ and the near-simultaneous rise of the Internet, which inaugurated a new period of perceived American technological leadership. In the twenty-first century, as climate change and radical postcolonial insurgency replaced superpower confrontation and technological advancement as major sources of societal anxiety, science fiction became essentially a niche form of primarily historical interest, kept alive by a small community of specialists, antiquarians, and historical reenactors, but of no broader contemporary relevance.

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