Old vs. New

The other day I saw that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt just bought a two-volume collection of letters, journal entries and whatnot, written by Philip K. Dick. They also bought the rights to 39 (!) of his backlist books.

Clearly, sci-fi has a future. And ironically, a big part of this future seems to be its past.

This got me thinking… surely having a solid understanding of classic speculative fiction isn’t necessary to enjoy contemporary spec fic, but I’m not sure anyone can argue that it wouldn’t be wonderful for new readers to see where modern books’ DNA comes from. (Or maybe someone CAN argue with that! I can certainly argue with the awkward grammar of that sentence. Yikes, self.)

I wonder how many kids today will read something like Bradbury’s The Veldt before they read Feed? How many kids knew Minority Report and I, Robot were pages to turn before they were scenes to watch?

Seeing this new interest in Philip K. Dick gets my heart racing – is this a trend in the making? Will more classic spec fic be brushed off and introduced to new generations? I think that leads to the biggest question itself – will it matter? What do you think? Can you enjoy contemporary spec fic without having read any of the older works that inspired the genre? Or have we moved so far beyond the Amazing Stories generations, that those works don’t hold up like they use to?

(Full disclosure, it tortures me to even write that last question.)

What say you, sci-fi fans?

K.A. Holt had a much longer, more intelligent sounding post written about this subject, but WordPress ate it and now she’s grouchy.


Filed under K. A. Holt

2 responses to “Old vs. New

  1. I love the old classics, but I grew up devouring them. Many of them are very dated. I’m thinking Asimov’s Lucky Starr series here. As SF, it’s not only dated but very offensive to many people. But as a snapshot of 50s culture, it’s absolutely brilliant. Some SF will rise to classic status, most should probably stay buried in the attic as an old paperback.

    And I can’t stand WordPress anymore. *sympathies*

  2. Not long ago, I would have jumped whole-hog on the “the classics are critical” bandwagon. But then I read an award-winning book by a classic fantasy writer whom I hadn’t read at all when I was in school (though I was aware of then)… and I must say that while there was a concept in it I thought was fabulous, the book as a whole struck me as full of clichés. Now, I realize that this book may have been the SOURCE of the clichés, but now that they’ve become overused tropes… it still felt full of overused tropes, and I was pretty disappointed overall.

    So while I do think there’s a canon that needs to be read by any series fan or author of the spec-fic genre… it’s probably a smaller canon than I might once have calculated.

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