The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Talking Monkeys, Sentient Robots & Evil Scientists

Posted by BigWords on July 5, 2009

I’ve been reading a lot of science fiction recently, and it is becoming very clear that anything written in the last twenty or so years is coming closer to futures rather than fiction. The general consensus seems to be one of:

“If it’s impossible, then it isn’t science fiction.”

Which is, of course, wrong.

Having a certain appreciation of classic (i.e. old) SF, I kinda like the dumb, improbable, off-the-cuff adventuring which marked a period in history right after the first world war through to Neil Armstrong landing on the moon. Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers showed that the laws of physics needn’t be adhered to in order to craft a riveting adventure, and the various Rocket Men serials proved impossibility was fun to watch. The only times that talking monkeys, sentient robots or evil scientists are acceptable these days is if the story is parodying, homaging or stealing the ideas.

If Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, Futurama or any number of computer games (the MDK games come to mind) were played straight, rather than for laughs, then people might be more receptive to the weird and wonderful places SF Sci-Fi could return to. There are recent (if not entirely successful) examples of retro-futuristic fiction in film and in print, though none have managed to avoid the tongue-in-cheek, and some even seem to be intent on burying the classic style under a mountain of special effects and bad acting (Sky Captain, please stand up).

The publications of Atlas Comics (Marvels’ immediate predecessor) had the best left-field ideas in the business, and Marvel Boy was one of the first pre-Silver Age characters I read as a kid, in black and white reprints printed on cheap paper. The rapid success of the revised superheroes killed off the wild space cowboys and simian detectives, enfolding everything in a spandex-wearing conformity which never quite held my attention as much. I’ve read a lot of comic-book characters over the years, but the comics I kept were the ones which defiantly stood apart from the rest of the industry.

Looking for the absurdist and the irreverent in nearly any medium is asking for trouble. The people who like things ordered, and stories to make sense, seem to have driven wild imagination to the edge of nowhere. Where is the fun? Where is the surreal adventuring? Maybe I’ll try my hand at something which throws back to the good ol’ days, but who would buy a SF book that doesn’t stick to the realm of the possible? Is there even a market anymore?

Talk amongst yourselves while I fire up the jetpack…


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