THE OVERWHELMING SENSE ONE GETS, working through so many stories that are presented as the very best that science fiction and fantasy have to offer, is exhaustion. Not so much physical exhaustion (though it is more tiring than reading a bunch of short stories really has any right to be); it is more as though the genres of the fantastic themselves have reached a state of exhaustion. In the main, there is no sense that the writers have any real conviction about what they are doing. Rather, the genre has become a set of tropes to be repeated and repeated until all meaning has been drained from them. ... Asimov’s [robot] stories can still entertain, and [Elizabeth] Bear’s story ["Dolly"] is much the same, but to find that one of what we are told are the best stories of 2011 is ploughing a furrow that is more than seventy years old is somehow dispiriting.
There is much meat in the article, not least of which being the insight that a story needs to be more than just called SF to be SF. I also nodded at the notion of how SF is simply falling back on the tropes of fantasy as a way of evoking a future where "things are so different that there is no connection with the experiences and perceptions of our present."
This was something I myself mused over in the early days of writing Flight of the Vajra. I had to split the difference between the future I wanted to talk about and the present that I was writing for; if I leaned too far forward, I'd run the risk of losing everyone. I'll leave it to the reader to determine if I struck that balance.Read more