I’ve been enjoying James Wallace Harris’ blog Auxiliary Memory. Recent topics include A History of the SF Best-of-the-Year Anthology, a cover survey of the Del Rey Classic Science Fiction series and, a particular favorite of mine, his review of Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg’s The Great SF Stories 1 (1939). I think one of the reasons I enjoy his blog is that, like a few of us here at Black Gate, James particularly enjoys classic SF stories, which is kind of a speciality interest these days. Although James seems to worry more about declining readership than I do.
There are a handful of blogs that reflect a love for old science fiction short stories. That suggests we are the keepers of a very weak flame. I see many of the same names posting comments at these sites. Are we the fans of a dying art form? I don’t think science fiction is dying out, but I do think new science fiction gets most of the attention… There are more anthologies than ever collecting the best short science fiction of the year, including one from the prestigious Best American Series. And there’s plenty of places that publish new short science fiction. I believe the readership is smaller today than we I was growing up, but the science fiction short story is still going strong despite the overwhelming popularity of media science fiction.
Yes, new science fiction gets most of the attention — and that’s because it is blessed with talented newcomers producing terrifically exciting new work, like Lavie Tidhar, Linda Nagata, Sarah Pinsker, Kelly Link, Yoon Ha Lee, Charlie Jane Anders, C.S.E. Cooney, Rich Larson, Aliette de Bodard, and many others. And that’s exactly as it should be. There’s a word for a genre that focuses too much on the past: Dead. Science Fiction is not dead, it is very much alive and thriving. That’s takes nothing away from the great old SF we enjoyed decades ago — it’s still there waiting for readers of a new generation to discover. But first we have to win over that new generation of readers, and it takes modern writers to do that.
You can read the complete text of James’ rambly but entertaining post Remembering Old Science Fiction Short Stories here.