Digging back through the previous post, I had to ask myself what it was that seemed to have gone missing from SF&F as of late — what it was that I looked for when I had my "400 Bad Books In One Year" experience to prepare for my current dive back into SF. I think I know what it is now: the sense of wonder.
The sense of wonder is a slippery thing. It can manifest in one work by a creator but not another, or across an entire creator's oeuvre. Because it's a sensibility, a way of treating the material rather than any particular element, it's even harder to pin down.
I get it from 2001: a space odyssey, from Star Wars ('77, not '99) and from Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Minority Report, but not from A.I. or War of the Worlds. I don't get it from any of the three Transformers films, which for all of their wide-gauge images are completely devoid of curiosity or empathy, and come on more like a boisterous puppet show designed to keep the kids quiet for an hour.
I get it from Hayao Miyazaki and Ralph Bakshi and Christopher Nolan, but not from Quentin Tarantino or, sadly, Ridley Scott. I get it from Tarkovsky and Godfrey Reggio, from Ingmar Bergman and Akira Kurosawa, from Derek Jarman and the Brothers Quay, from Stan Brakhage and Alejandro Jodorowsky and John Woo, even Alfred Hitchcock and Chan-wook Park and Sogo Ishii. But not J.J. Abrahams, not Gore Verbinski, not Zhang Yimou (I wish I did), and definitely not Michael Bay.
I get it from Philip K. Dick and Theodore Sturgeon, Thomas M. Disch and the earlier Heinlein, but not the later Heinlein (paradoxically enough). I get it from Osamu Tezuka and Kentaro Miura and Larry Marder, but not Daniel Clowes or Frank Miller. I get it from Viriginia Woolf and Anne Tyler, and even Jean Rhys (where it comes off most often as self-revulsion), but not Doris Lessing or, oddly, Margaret Atwood. I get it from Dostoevsky, but not Tolstoi; from Dumas and Dickens and Daniel M. Pinkwater and even Robert Musil, and often enough from dos Passos, but not from Franzen or David Foster Wallace or DeLillo, and not nearly often enough from Pynchon.
I get it from The Who but not The Stones, from Coltrane and Miles and Ayler but not Wynton, and in all the wrong ways from Keith Jarrett. I get it from Toru Takemitsu and Jerry Goldsmith, but for some reason not from John Williams (at least, not anymore).
And the one thing I still don't get is why.
But I'm working on that.
Other Lives Of The Mind