I've been worried for a lon, long time that SFF is getting overly whiny. It used to be that the genre was an exploration of ordinary (and occasionally extraordinary) people doing extraordinary things with strong convictions and firm values (loose morals and dash worked, too). This went down really well and got lots of people interested.
Over the last 40 years or so, the trend has been towards guilt, self-questioning and - especially - use of the genre for political expression. Of course, any form of literature is necessarily an expression of the author's views, but back in the day, the plot and the ideas were more important than the agenda. And now that we live in a world that is more sensitive to certain issues, it seems that writers are using it as an excuse to really
start preaching at us. This is especially obvious in short fiction...
Readers, of course, went elsewhere. In large droves. They moved to doorstop fantasy novels (does anyone really care whether orcs and their ilk are discriminated against? Trollocs, likewise, are just generic enemies), to other genres, and to other media.
As the flag-bearer of "soft" SF, Asimov's
has long been one of the guiltiest parties here. In fact, I once read an issue of Asimov's which was so bad that I vowed to avoid it forevermore. It had a buch of turkeys and a story about cancer and hummingbirds which was so marginally genre that the only possible criteria for inclusion is that no other literary form is quite as whiny as SFF, and therefore it must be SFF.
I didn't avoid Asimov's
forevermore, of course. I bought the August 2012 issue
, and actually read the thing. It started off OK, with a Silverberg Majipoor story - perhaps a predictable way to open an issue. The next story, though was a 100% dyed-in-the-wool whine and sob called "Corn Teeth", and my heart sank. Was I in for another disaster?
It turns out I wasn't. A little post-apocalypse, some alternate history and a bit about the Irish had me humming along and feeling hope for the genre for the first time in a while (this, combined with the rumors of a new, non-ploticized alternative to the SFWA coming along seem to point to a brighter future). Favorite tale has to be “For I Have Lain Me Down on the Stone of Loneliness and I’ll Not Be Back Again” by Michael Swanwick.
Anyway, I will be less reticent to pick up this mag in the future.