In an NPR article, Jacob McMurray, senior curator at the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle, says:

“A lot of books in the ’50s and ’40s don’t hold up at all now because, either the scientific advances that they’re talking about just never happened, or these sort of cultural things that were happening at the time are so different than what’s happening now that it seems absurd,” he tells Liane Hansen. “I think a lot of the stuff from the ’60s and ’70s, when authors were trying to focus on social aspects of humanity, I think those books hold up really well. You know, a lot of the science fiction that’s happening in the ’80s and ’90s today is less fantastic, sort of focused on scientific technologies that are happening today.”

Hmmm…interesting. I might disagree with Mr. McMurray but I’m not sure of his intended meaning of “don’t hold up”. If he’s referring to the science aspects of the books, sure, some of it was off the mark. Although science fiction writers are often hailed as oracles forseeing technology decades in advance, in reality that is rarely the case.

However, if the statement is to be taken literally that the book as a whole does not fare well over time, then I would say “Nonsense!” Many Golden Age books are still considered classics even to this day. So what if the science is a bit off? Golden Age is more than an era of sf – it’s a flavor. Perhaps it’s just not a flavor that suits everyone’s tastes. Wrong predictions can (and should) be taken with a grain of salt in Golden Age science fiction.

(See also the addendum to my review for Philip K. Dick’s Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said.)

Filed under: Books

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