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Some classic Science Fiction is really bad?

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Some classic Science Fiction is really bad?
Post by TFLYTSNBN   » Mon Jul 29, 2019 5:26 pm

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I just reread Arthur C Clark's THE CITY AND THE STARS for the first time in may be 40 years.

The underlining concepts were fantastic, but the actual story was profoundly boring.

It occurs to me that the standards for a successful author were lower in the past simply because readers could be fascinated by new concepts. Now that the basic concepts of Science Fiction are well developed, authors have to write stories that would be successful if they were jusy popular fiction set in contemprary times.
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Re: Some classic Science Fiction is really bad?
Post by Weird Harold   » Mon Jul 29, 2019 7:59 pm

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TFLYTSNBN wrote:I just reread Arthur C Clark's THE CITY AND THE STARS for the first time in may be 40 years.

The underlining concepts were fantastic, but the actual story was profoundly boring.


Not so much a difference in quality as a difference in emphasis. 'Golden Age' authors simply didn't care about plot and character as much as they did about the 'gimmick.'
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Re: Some classic Science Fiction is really bad?
Post by Fireflair   » Mon Jul 29, 2019 10:51 pm

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As was implied, you have to remember the era these authors were writing in. The pulp authors of 50 and a 100 years ago had a very different audience to cater to. They were often churning out stories for the masses as cheaply and quickly as they could. Many books that were heralded as great stories way back when really do not hold up now. We're too exposed to the ideas some of those stories represent in much improved formats.

Many, if not most, of the tropes common in science fiction and fantasy writing today came out of the 'Golden Age' so there has been a lot of time to refine those tropes. We also don't have as much of a sense of amazement over the SF wonders that authors create now as was felt then. We are, again, simply already exposed to many of these ideas unlike people of the 30's and 40's.
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Re: Some classic Science Fiction is really bad?
Post by Dilandu   » Tue Jul 30, 2019 12:41 am

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Fireflair wrote:As was implied, you have to remember the era these authors were writing in. The pulp authors of 50 and a 100 years ago had a very different audience to cater to. They were often churning out stories for the masses as cheaply and quickly as they could. Many books that were heralded as great stories way back when really do not hold up now. We're too exposed to the ideas some of those stories represent in much improved formats.



Exactly. Lets not forget, that science fiction was born out of popularization of science concept, during the literacy boom of mid-XIX century. The average level of literacy in Western Europe jumped from (approximately) 25-40% to 55-80% and more (in 1890s Britain it was almost 98%)

A millions of new reders appeared, who were interested in modern scientific discoveries, but weren't professional scientits. To appeal to such new auditory, the concept of science fiction - initially, basicall, a demonstration of modern scientific ideas, tied with some more or less relevant plot was borne. It was Jules Verne era.

The idea that fiction could also explore new social concepts, predict changes in society, was created much later. The Wells era in fiction started only about 1890-1900s.
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Re: Some classic Science Fiction is really bad?
Post by isaac_newton   » Tue Jul 30, 2019 10:22 am

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TFLYTSNBN wrote:I just reread Arthur C Clark's THE CITY AND THE STARS for the first time in may be 40 years.

The underlining concepts were fantastic, but the actual story was profoundly boring.

It occurs to me that the standards for a successful author were lower in the past simply because readers could be fascinated by new concepts. Now that the basic concepts of Science Fiction are well developed, authors have to write stories that would be successful if they were jusy popular fiction set in contemprary times.


I think also some of the writing was just plain dreadful - even if the concepts was fantastic and the story was exciting. For example there is some truly cringe worthy romance in some of those!
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Re: Some classic Science Fiction is really bad?
Post by TFLYTSNBN   » Tue Jul 30, 2019 5:10 pm

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isaac_newton wrote:
TFLYTSNBN wrote:I just reread Arthur C Clark's THE CITY AND THE STARS for the first time in may be 40 years.

The underlining concepts were fantastic, but the actual story was profoundly boring.

It occurs to me that the standards for a successful author were lower in the past simply because readers could be fascinated by new concepts. Now that the basic concepts of Science Fiction are well developed, authors have to write stories that would be successful if they were jusy popular fiction set in contemprary times.


I think also some of the writing was just plain dreadful - even if the concepts was fantastic and the story was exciting. For example there is some truly cringe worthy romance in some of those!



Most SF reflects the predominant sexual mores of the era during which it was written. Wells and Verne depicted romance that was Victorian. Later authors, not so much.

One interesting example is the romance between Captain Roderick Blaine and Sally Fowler in THE MOTE IN GOD'S EYE. Niven and Pournelle intentionally portrayed a future society that was far less libertine than the 1970s. The scenes of the two concealing the fact that they were having premarrital sex after they became formally engaged were... interesting. This was a reaction to the Seccession Wars that had devastated human populations. Women were STRONGLY encouraged to reproduce and discouraged from engaging in endeavers that could get them killed.

Contemporary culture hadn't changed much when Niven and Pournelle wrote the sequel THE GRIPPING HAND, but the culture of the Empire of Man had become far more libertine. This coincided with rather shocking reduced vigilence and a Navy that was struggling to deploy Light Cruisers rather than Battlecruisers to the blockade.
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Re: Some classic Science Fiction is really bad?
Post by Relax   » Tue Jul 30, 2019 11:46 pm

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Fireflair wrote:As was implied, you have to remember tSNIP.... They were often churning out stories for the masses as cheaply and quickly as they could.

Uh, what the Hell??? This has not changed any. Heck they aren't even printing anymore. Selling as ebooks. No dead tree version.
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Re: Some classic Science Fiction is really bad?
Post by Weird Harold   » Wed Jul 31, 2019 1:35 am

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Relax wrote:
Fireflair wrote:As was implied, you have to remember tSNIP.... They were often churning out stories for the masses as cheaply and quickly as they could.

Uh, what the Hell??? This has not changed any. Heck they aren't even printing anymore. Selling as ebooks. No dead tree version.


eBooks are a fairly recent innovation. From 1960 to 1990, or so, dead-tree editions ruled the roost; pulp novels and anthologies were a hard sell.
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Answers! I got lots of answers!

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