Thursday, March 01, 2007

Because Everyone Else Seems To Be Poking Beehives Today

Why is the SF short story so gloomy lately? (Or am I just coming across the gloomy stuff?) I feel like I've read a lot of short SF over the past couple of months, and it's all dipped in woe and torment. If it's not the post-Peak Oil die-off, it's everyone getting eaten by their toasters. I'm only one reader, but the Wristy McSlashalot act is getting tired from where I sit.

Is this really what the SF short story as a whole looks like today, or a selection bias in favor of "serious" stories by Year's Best editors? Is it a continued post-9/11 malaise, Iraq War seepage, or what?

You know, I'm not asking for fluffy bunnies and daisy chains. I'd just like the default image of the future not to be the one in which I and my children are slaughtered for cheap pathos. (See this old post for context.)


Anonymous said...

Honestly, I think it's because it's easier to plot stories like that. You don't have to figure out as much. Disasters are obvious, but triumphs and that other thing -- what? the qualified existential perserverance success? -- is harder to see or to justify.

Paul Weimer said...

Lucy has a point--

A short story gives you very limited space in which to introduce anything, and since its easier to describe disasters and dystopias in a small space, that is what short stories can focus on.

At least, modern SF. Old style SF with cardboard characters could have short stories which were upbeat, but such stories would not work with today's readers.

"As you know, Andrew, the Hyperregulator provides us with..."

Anonymous said...

"Old style SF with cardboard characters could have short stories which were upbeat [...]"

This is a subset of what was around before the New Dismal. Yes, there are stories like Milton Rothman's "Fusion" but there are also stories like "Flowers for Algernon".

Simon Haynes said...

Visiting from SF Signal, and I thought I'd mention Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. It's not always happy-happy ha-ha but it does focus on the lighter end of the scale. Usually. Depending on what kind of subs we receive.

(And as the author of three SF Humour novels I'm all for a bit of levity in the genre.)

Luis F Silva said...

Gloom and disaster are grey, dark scenarios which don't seem to need a lot of depiction to come about (wrong assumption, BTW), so that it's easier to place the reader in a suffocating ambiance... less words used up for it, and a short story doesn't have a lot of room for wordage... disaster scenarios also provide easier, readier endings (the Big Flash, even the Quiet Whisper kind of thing)...


Laurie Mason said...

I agree that there's a lot of gloom and doom, but there's also a lot of humor too. Ian Watson's "St. Louisa..." story in MYTHIC comes to mind.

Jonathan said...

Because it's easier to be taken seriously, if you write 'serious' stuff. Because writing upbeat, or light and adventurous short stuff is hard. Because people who are writing non-gloomy stuff are turning it into novels. Because the SF 'system' rewards it.

I would say, though, there has been a trend in small press anthos of late, to fight this a bit.

Jonathan said...

Oh, and I overlooked the possibility that the darker stuff sits in your mind more clearly, a year after you read it, so it ends up in year's bests.

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