Thursday, April 24, 2008

Reading Old Sci-Fi

I bought Wastelands, a collection of "after the bomb" stories edited by John Joseph Adams. There are stories from Orson Scott Card, Steven King, Ophelia Butler, George R. R. Martin, and plenty of others.

Some stories are relatively new and some are old. It has been a long time since I read science fiction that was written a few decades ago.

One story that stands out as "old school" has two characters exploring a new, unknown place, casually chatting about their own society's distant history. Sorta' like this. "Hey, don't step on that. You know that the Mayflower Compact was important in U. S. historical development, but the Constitution is, overall, our current governing document."

I pictured a currently set story in which people speak in that manner.

"Jonah, get up, it's time for breakfast. Breakfast is our first meal of the day. I am going to make you a turkey sandwich. Nowadays, we often eat animals. Turkey is a bird--this one was raised for food, in fact. And it was fed on grains grown in large fields. Then it was cooked in a process using heat and packaged and sold to us. The turkey slices look nothing like a real turkey. Oh, and the bread . . . "

I cannot fault authors who wrote stories 30 years ago for writing stories in the way that . . . people wrote stories 30 years ago. Surely, 30 years from now people will look back at our stories with amusement at the way we now write.

Perhaps in 30 years, people will read today's stories and say, "See how almost every word of dialogue is meant to advance the story. People never talk like that! Nowadays we write in the same way that people speak, with sentence fragments and 'uh's,' and non sequitrs all over the place, and endless needless repetitions. Isn't it distracting how in those old stories, the author attempts to manipulate the reader through every twist and turn instead of slowly raising the story up around the reader in a truly natural way, like stories do today?"

I can hardly wait!

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