But I Like the Genre’s Tradition of Hokey, Hopeful Earnestness…

Okay: it’s been a week so if you followed Battlestar Galactica you’ve had plenty of time to see the finale, so there are spoilers that follow but you’ve been warned.

Last Saturday in the New York Time there was an article that looked back (with some decent insight) on the run of Battlestar Galactica. You can find it here.

But it wouldn’t be a review of a sci-fi (or is that syfy now?) genre show if the reviewer didn’t take a swipe at the genre as a whole. The reviewer writes:

But the show could not break with the genre’s tradition of hokey, hopeful earnestness. Landing finally on a pastoral facsimile of Earth, the human-Cylon partnership vows to start anew with pledges not to let science outpace soulfulness. One hundred fifty thousand years later, a city of neon stands on the green terrain — as well as the assumption that we won’t make all of the same mistakes over again.

I guess that’s why I’m a fan of science fiction but…I kinda like the genre’s “hokey, hopeful earnestness.” Why is that ‘serious’ literature need be bleak and depressing to be ‘real’ or ‘meaningful’? Why can’t serious literature examine ways in which things could (and should) be better in the human experience? Why not give us something to strive for rather than show us simply how things are?

It also makes me suspicious of whole arguments and sets of opinions when any reviewer uses Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Left Hand of Darkness” as an example of the SF genre. It’s a great book and one of the few SF works that have gained mainstream literary respectability…but it did come out in 1969. When it is touted as an example of what SF is I think: “Yes, but has that reviewer ever read anything else in the genre? Have they read anything that came out SINCE 1969?”

– S.

2 thoughts on “But I Like the Genre’s Tradition of Hokey, Hopeful Earnestness…

  1. I can honestly, and without hyperbole, say that posting BSG spoilers on your blog makes you worse than Hitler.

  2. I’m not sure it’s fair to criticize “Left Hand of Darkness” because it’s 40 years old. It sets a standard. It may not be the “cutting edge” of the genre, but it has withstood the test of a time. Books like those make great measuring sticks for everything that comes after.

    Fritz Leiber’s stories about Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser are measuring sticks in fantasy. They are extremely old now, but they are also on their own level. They have *deservedly* withstood the test of time, so it makes very good sense to use them as a standard for the fantasy genre.

    Hundreds of thousands of writers have written fantasy stories since then. Some of those writers were “cutting edge” at the time of publication. Others opened their own avenues to greatness.

    But most of them wrote inferior works which have been just-as-deservedly forgotten. They could have done worse than learning from Leiber’s exceptional examples of story-telling. And they did.

    It’s reassuring that an older classic is being used as a measuring stick for the genre. It shows a mature and thoughtful analysis which is not easily distracted by the latest shiny objects.

    Admittedly, some of those shiny objects are pretty distracting 🙂

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