Where Has All The Wonder Gone?

docWhile having a discussion about pulps with my daughter the other night, I had a sort of revelation. Science Fiction has gotten boring. Reptitious-boring. As in, I’m tired of seeing the same old thing, year after year. I want something new.

Think back to those heady days in the 1930s, when Amazing Stories, Doc Savage Magazine, etc. etc. were filling the stands with stories of weird adventures, fantastical places and unimagined creatures. Fans were being bombarded with new and exciting.

Today, we keep getting the same old thing, over and over. We are numb to what Science Fiction shows us. Vampires? Werewolves? Mummies? Old hat. We’ve seen them so many times the wonder is gone. When a story comes along, instead of marveling, we try and figure out what is different about it or what it’s a rip-off of.

Decades of imaginings have made we fans numb to the strange. Kind of like how anti-video gamers claim children will become numb to violence from seeing it so often. We just don’t get to see something new and exciting anymore. Worse, non-fan, general audiences ooh and ahh about things and our knee-jerk reaction is often to rattle off all the previous projects it resembles and sigh in dissapointment. Like Avatar–or Dances with Fern Gully as some have described it. Not original, just a mashup-rehash of what we’ve seen before.

And it’s not just Scifi. Vampires used to be big and scary, but we’ve seen and read so much of them the only way to make them new and different was to make them sparkle. Good grief. Even zombies aren’t scary anymore. Like the characters in The Walking Dead, we fans just don’t get scared when we see zombies on screen. Or if we do, it’s not because the zombie is frightening, it’s because we worry a favorite character is about to die. Zombies are so un-scary, people routinely dress up as them, for mass walks, or even marathons.

zombieThese days, horror scares come from things leaping out of hiding, or we rely on disturbing, grotesque acts to make us nauseous and frightened. Science Fiction suffers the same unoriginality. After becoming numb to the bright, utopian future featured in franchises like Star Trek, we fans moved on to dystopian, post-apocalyptic visions of the future. And now they’re routine and repetitive.

We need something new.

Yes, old can be new again, as things are recycled with better special effects or mashups to grab our attention, but its still old, repeated stuff. I want originality. I want something I’ve never seen or read before.

And I don’t buy that everything has been done. Originality could still be out there, lurking just below the cookie-cutter mentality so many authors seem to have. A mentality that is infuriating when I hear something is new, only to discover it’s not exciting.

Take for example Weston Ochse’s Seal Team 666 novels. I haven’t read them, but I did read they’re being made into a movie. The concept may sound original, Navy SEALs battling the supernatural, but is that really original, or a twist on something old? Soldiers fighting monsters? Been there, done that, with a little series of movies in the 1970s that featured a monster you may have heard of: Godzilla. In fact, the whole monster-fighting subgenre is pretty well used-up now, thanks to the likes of Supernatural, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the X-Files.

We need new monsters. We need new heroes.

Some folks might think Fox’s new show Almost Human is something new and wonderous. Not really. I can think of three previous attempts to do a cop-and-android TV series that didn’t make it. Not everyone will remember those old, short-lived shows and TV Pilots, but I do. And that takes the wonder out of Almost Human for me. Yes, it has cutting edge special effects, and in several episodes, some robot-penile jokes, but that’s just not enough for this middle-aged fan. I want something new. And wonderous.

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1 Comment

  1. Hi, C. E.,

    I couldn’t agree with you more about the unimaginative fiction (short fiction mostly, from my point of view) inundating many of the magazines today. Many of the editors are younger and therefore what they receive seems new and fresh to them, when as many of us know who’ve been there and done that–it’s very old, full of a sameness, and ultimately boring.

    Many of the cookie-cutter stories all take the same views on political and social issues, the stories deal with small subjects, and we see the boundaries between Good and Evil blurred beyond all recognition (i.e. much moral and ethical ambiguity). Sometimes in Life there are definite grey areas, but the younger crowd these days (in far too many instances at least) seem to equate the grey area in some instances with there being NO black and white, Good vs. Evil boundary. Perhaps this is why we see fewer attraction to characters like Doc Savage, the Shadow, or any other hero or heroine who is unarguably Good, and who battles elements of unarguable Evil.

    Anyway, thanks for your article. Glad to know there’s a kindred soul out there–and one willing to speak his mind about these issues.

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