The March/April Intertzone has a short interview with Bruce Sterling in promoting his latest novel, The Caryatids (haven’t read it yet, but sounds intriguing). Here’s one question: “Couldn’t it be argued that SF itself is a long running ‘War on Wonder’? Is our tolerance for spectacle increasing with each passing year — we’re demanding more eyeball-kicks for the bucks?” To which Sterling replies: “If that were the case, why would anybody read Verne, Wells, Orwell or Huxley? Yet they do.”
Now, I’m not all together certain I understand either the question or the response. I think the point is that people who watch SF-inspired movies may not read SF because it isn’t as exciting. Well, maybe, but those folks don’t read in the first place. I suspect readers are, for the most, disappointed in most cinematic SF, Battlestar Gallactica, notwithstanding. Of course, I’m guessing that’s the case based on my own perception as a reader of SF.
But as far as Sterling’s response goes, I wonder if people still read Verne and Wells. Orwell and Huxley are typcially assigned in school (and I once assigned The Time Machine to an eighth grade English class), but do people still read these guys for entertainment, let alone to consider their ideas, outside of academia or people who really care about SF as a genre and seek to be knowledgeable about its historical development?
And my guess is that most people who went to see the Tom Cruise version of War of the Worlds (a flick I never bothered with) didn’t pick up the source material. Or, if they did, wouldn’t have finished.
Or am I just being a snobbish elitist?