If you were to start asking people who their favorite science fiction writers are, chances are you would get answers like Issac Asimov, Herbert Walker, Phillip K Dick, Robert Heinlein, or another author from the era often referred to as the golden age of science fiction. Even though a writer will pop up every once in a while, their books don’t seem to ring as true and stand the test of time like the great science fiction writers have. The greatest science fiction writers have challenged our perceptions and in some cases even changed our history. Ray Bradbury’s cautionary tale Fahrenheit 451 seems to become more of a reality with every new technological innovation we see. Yet for all this new technology, new theories that we are holograms in a computer simulation, and new scientific discoveries, the great science fiction storytelling that we saw in Bradbury’s time seems few and far between.
Given our ever increasing knowledge and advancements, it seems science fiction should now be thriving and bigger than ever. Today we are living so many of the things that past science fiction writers could only dream about. Surely there are plenty of half decent science fiction writers out there who have great ideas inspired by these revelations popping up all around us. And the amount of science fiction we see submitted to the Uprising Review suggests that there are good ideas out there. So why then aren’t we seeing great new science fiction work today at our local bookstores?
There is probably no one answer to that question and at this point, I’m really just hoping I can do this topic justice though I am certain I will barely scratch the surface. In Phillip K. Dick’s work he didn’t just write science fiction. The technology and the worlds of his books were merely window dressing to explore the human experience. By and large, that’s what seems to be missing today.
The gatekeepers of publishing are too obsessed with making sure something conforms to their own made up standards regardless of the quality of the work. Writers who don’t include enough diversity in their books are overlooked, writers with too much diversity are falsely accused of crimes against a culture. Nihilism seems to be the new standard in science fiction and nothing against that narrow and I daresay unpopular ideology is allowed to break through the mold. The literary community is all too happy to push such standards that tie into their own political beliefs and turn away anyone who disagrees. These gatekeepers don’t care about literature, they only care about themselves and furthering their causes. They insist that everyone aught to fit into their box and anyone who doesn’t is vilified or silenced. But science fiction is a genre where ideas and questions of the human experience are paramount. It doesn’t fit in that box that only sees one ideology.
Of the science fiction writers I have talked to on the Uprising Review Podcast, we all seem to agree in some form or another that publishers and other literary gatekeepers are stifling science fiction in particular. But I don’t see how any writer can truly be creative when they’ve got a literary community breathing political correctness down their necks. The irony is that the corporate censorship that has seemingly become deep-rooted in publishing is akin to something straight out of George Orwell’s 1984. It’s time that the literary community takes a stand against the politics in publishing that are warping the fiction being produced. Fortunately, some are slowly waking up. Small publishers are taking a stand against this type of under-handed censorship and self publishing has allowed for writers to take their ideas directly to the people. I am optimistic that organizations like Superversive SF and PulpRev will continue to encourage free expression and the free exchange of ideas that is necessary for creativity to grow. Only in that type of environment will we see a new golden age in sci-fi.