Edward Lear
Continuing with the discussion, McCalmont lists a couple or three things he thinks have gone wrong with science fiction as a field. First, a conceptual blockage. This is the problem that technological changes are moving so fast that no one can really keep up with what’s going on. Much of what you can imagine is already in development somewhere, and you’d better check before you put it out there as science fiction.

Next, McCalmont blames the “New Weird,” a recent trend to blur the boundaries of speculative fiction subgenres like science fiction, fantasy and horror. I think this is fun myself, but I have to admit he’s right about the effects. Blurring the boundaries removes the requirement to actually research the science behind what’s happening. For example, John C. Wright did this in “The Plural of Helen of Troy” from this year’s Hugo packet. He used a science fictional framework and then introduced fantasy memes to carry the story. This is laziness, according to McCalmont. It may produce a creative, interesting story, but it does nothing to help us grapple with the future.

McCalmont’s third point is about nostalgia, the trend to steampunk and alternate histories, for example, where the writer avoids dealing with the complexity of present and future by going back to the past. Again, I think these are fun stories myself, but McCalmont is right this takes up energy that might otherwise go to thinking about the future.

His fourth complaint is about a “humanistic” approach in current practice that subverts the differences of race, culture, gender and sexual orientation, channeling everyone into the same acceptable framework of ideas, style and subject matter. I can see this is something the awards criteria might do. If the public, meaning those individuals nominating for awards, prefer a particular type of story, then this tends to become dominant. Editors buy that kind of story in order to maximize their chances of getting awards, and writers write it because they want to get published. This means anyone writing anything different gets completely marginalized.

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