In my recent review of Laurence Manning’s The Man Who Awoke, I ran a giveaway for a copy of the book, in which the winner would be determined by who best answered the question “Why is pulp era science fiction and fantasy still relevant today?”
I had intended to respond to the entries to generate some discussion, as well as posting a reminder. Then Murphy stopped by for an extended visit, and none of those things happened before the deadline.
However, we had two good entries. The first was from Anthony Simeone. Here’s an excerpt from his answer:
In genre fiction above all other forms of literature, writers act as living lenses, through which we can see the world in a different way. That is one of the great blessings of the passage of time and death: we get to see the world afresh with each passing year, and through each new person that walks the Earth. Fiction, the written word, are telepathic messages sent forward in time for us to experience and enjoy. Ultimately, they are voices from the void of the past, without which the years behind us would be tragically silent.
The other entry was from Daniel J. Davis. Here’s some of what he had to say.
If Hammett brought crime out of the drawing room and into the alley where it belonged, as Raymond Chandler says, then the pulp SFF authors did the same thing with the fantastic genre. They gave piracy, rebellion, and high adventure back to the cutthroats and criminals who live on the fringe of society. They took us out of Rivendell, and put us on the mean streets of Lankhmar. They showed us the underside of these fantastic worlds, with all of the grit and grime attached.
It’s an influence that’s gone far beyond the pulps and into pop culture at large. If the golden age of sci-fi is responsible for Starfleet Academy, tricorders, and the Prime Directive, then the pulp era gave us the Mos Eisley cantina, obese gangster-slugs, and roguish space smugglers.
Both men sent in well thought-out answers and it was really hard to decide between them. Thank you, both, gentlemen, for participating. You can see their full responses in the comments of the original post.
I’m gong to have to go with Daniel. In the end, it was the invocation of Hammett and Chandler that did it for me. That quote from Chandler is one of my favorites and seeing it applied to fantasy and sf puts a new spin on some old tropes.
Daniel, if you’ll drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with your mailing address, I’ll get the book out to you.