io9, an online science, speculative fiction, comic book, etc. news magazine (http://io9.com/)posts a regular feature called “Space Porn” in which they bring to their readership’s attention spectacular photos of space. You can see one of the photos above.
They also update on recent publications, movies, etc. And that’s what got my ire up today.
War In Space Porn.
Mind you, I’m not picking on the WRITERS of the stuff, though they share the same blame that the people who harvest and treat the leaves of the coca plant before sending the end result into the rest of world to be turned into cocaine share. They are suppliers of the drug.
The drug is War In Space Porn.
I have dabbled in the works myself: currently reading Jack Campbell’s first LOST FLEET book; the first half of Peter Hamilton’s NEUTRONIUM ALCHEMIST; David Weber’s ON BASILISK STATION and OFF ARMAGEDDON REEF; all of Lois McMaster Bujold’s MILES VORKOSIGAN books; Kevin J. Anderson’s first book of the SAGA OF THE SEVEN SUNS; and of course, I’ve read HG Wells’ WAR OF THE WORLDS more times than I can count.
It is here that I will plant my flag and possibly irritate all kinds of people.
Wells’ WAR OF THE WORLDS held to the appellation of science fiction being “a literature of ideas” because he was among the very first to explore the idea of aliens invading Earth and starting a war. Everyone who came after him, with few exceptions (Jerry Pournelle’s THE FOREVER WAR) steered a course that made War In Space pornographic. In this case, I’m going to use the definition from dictionary.com: “noun…writings, drawings, photographs, or the like, especially those having little or no artistic merit.”
It's my opinion that excluding Wells, Pournelle and a few others, the others are feeding a market (which I visit on occasion) in which War In Space has become pornography. I for one am ready to go back to reading the literature of ideas.
Examples of SF as a literature of IDEAS abound: Nancy Kress’ BEGGARS IN SPAIN; Frank Herbert’s DUNE (just the first book); Tobias Buckell’s CRYSTAL RAIN; Robert Sawyer’s CALCULATING GOD; Robert L. Forward’s DRAGON’S EGG; Bruce Bethke’s HEADCRASH; DOWN AND OUT IN THE MAGIC KINGDOM by Cory Doctrow; and China Miéville’s PERDIDO STREET STATION. This is a tiny slice of the work that challenges and makes us think.
STAR WARS fed the frenzy for more and more War In Space porn -- can you name a single Idea that came out of those movies? STAR TREK and BABYLON 5 (while they often serve up War In Space porn) occasionally turn out a literary idea like "Are artificial life forms property or free beings?" and "What exactly IS belief and faith?"
Yet the real Literature Of Ideas is overwhelmed by War In Space porn. I for one, am tired of it. I for one, will cut way back on my porn and start to support the literature of IDEAS that science fiction can be.
While I am certainly no fan of ATLAS SHRUGGED or ANTHEM, what Ayn Rand has to say in her essay, “What Is Romanticism?”, can easily be applied to a call to turn from War In Space porn and return to A Literature Of Ideas: “One can observe the misapprehended element of truth that gave rise to that early classification. What the Romanticists brought to art was the primacy of values, an element that had been missing in the stale, arid, third- and fourth-hand (and rate) repetitions of the Classicists' formula-copying. Values (and value-judgments) are the source of emotions; a great deal of emotional intensity was projected in the work of the Romanticists and in the reactions of their audiences, as well as a great deal of color, imagination, originality, excitement and all the other consequences of a value-oriented view of life. This emotional element was the most easily perceivable characteristic of the new movement and it was taken as its defining characteristic, without deeper inquiry.”
Anyone else want to join the crusade?