Has Science Fiction lost touch?

Increasingly this is a question I ask myself: has science fiction lost touch? More precisely, has science fiction lost its relevance?

The Golden Age of science fiction saw giants writing not about the actual science of the day, but of science that might or could be. The main question of the stories from Asimov, Clarke, Bradbury, Wyndham, Sturgeon and van Vogt (to name but a few) was What If? These writers dared to imagine, dared to push the boundaries of science as we knew it and say, what if we could create an artificial intelligence, what if we actually were able to meet aliens, what if we were able to replace lost limbs with living prosthesis? What if…?

From those minds sparked the Promethean birth of many of the electronics, medical advancements and sociological changes that weave into the fabric of 21st century life.

But those days have faded. Not since Ellison, Herbert and Le Guin have we seen anything truly original or daring. The science fiction writers of today are wired into the marketing departments of the Big Six publishers, bashing out clones of tired ideas and dystopias. Why? Because it’s a safe commercial sell. The minds that once dared to dream now dream of dollars. The altar of vision has been replaced with the altar of commerce. We do things this way because this is the way it’s always been done, and the bottom line must forever increase.

And nowhere is that mentality more prevalent than in one of the bastions of short science fiction: Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine.

How can I dare to state such heresy? Easy. Take a look at their writer’s guidelines.

We do not accept simultaneous or electronic submissions.

I had to re-read that last section: electronic submissions. No electronic submissions.

It boggles the mind. It gives one pause to check the title of this magazine. Indeed yes, the title includes the phrase Science Fiction. How then can it be that one of the bastions of short science fiction does not accept electronic submissions? To say electronic submissions is still a new technology would be ridiculous in the extreme. And if this is a magazine exploring science fiction, how can they not embrace one of the fundamental tools of the 21st century?

They don’t even have a Facebook or Twitter presence!

And further, they plainly disregard the fact we are right in the middle of the greatest environmental experiment of human existence, and so perpetuate the use of paper, and fuel to ferry that paper, and fuel to return or recycle that paper, heedless of the carbon footprint they create.

The publishing heads of Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine plainly remain in a vacuum from the 1990s. They are 20 years out of date, and decades beyond that antiquated.

Has science fiction lost relevance? For me, yes.

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3 Comments

  1. Perhaps. I'm of the opinion anything new and fresh is coming out of small houses. There's a collection of short fiction by Susan Forest soon to be released by Five Rivers I think fits this bill.

    Would welcome any reading suggestions you might have.

    I think, however, the main thrust of my post today was a poke at Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine. In this day and age how can you not accept electronic submissions?

  2. I think the intent of the rule is simply to place a barrier to submissions. F&SF already gets more subscriptions than they can read – and a large proportion of them are not worth reading at all. Making it easier for writers to submit would probably worsen their signal to noise ratio significantly. If you want to submit a story to F&SF, you're going to have to jump through some hoops. Perhaps less dedicated writers won't bother.

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