More on the "Death" of Science Fiction

A recent article/commentary in Discover suggested that science fiction, if not dead, was certainly dying, and one of the symbols the author used was the implication that the prevalence of middle-aged [and older] writers at the Nebula/SFWA awards suggested a lack of new ideas and creativity. Needless to say, as a moderately established writer who is certainly no longer young, I find such an “analysis” not only irritating, but fallacious, on two counts.

First, age, per se, is no indicator of creative ability in science fiction or any other literary form, and it never has been, contrary to Bruno Maddox’s apparent assumptions. If one looks at the record of the past, Robert Heinlein was 52 the year Starship Troopers was published and 54 when Stranger in a Strange Land came out. At 31, Roger Zelazny wasn’t exactly a callow youth when Lord of Light was published. Arthur C. Clarke was in his early thirties when his first novel [Against the Fall of Night] was published as serial. William Gibson was 36 when Neuromancer was published. Even today, the “hot new” SF writers, such as Jo Walton, Alastair Reynolds, Charles Stross, Ken MacLeod, and China Mieville, while not old by any stretch, are in their late thirties or early forties.

Second, those talented and even younger writers who have not yet been recognized widely are often at the stage of having stories and first and second novels published. They are not generally not exactly the most prosperous of individuals, or they have demanding “day jobs” and tend not to attend in as great a proportion the more expensive and distant conventions and conferences. Nonetheless, they exist, even if most weren’t at the Nebula awards.

Science fiction may not always get it right, but the writers are still in there pitching, with far more ideas than Mr. Maddox, who seems to equate experience and flowery Hawaiian shirts with a lack of creativity and inspiration.