Posted by M. Asher Cantrell on Jan 6, 2014 in Apex Publications Blog: Matters of SF, Fantasy, and Horror | 7 comments
Science fiction from the fifties is its own special flower. World War II was over, the Atomic Age was at its height, and the Space Age was just beginning. Writers like Asimov, Bradbury, and Clarke were envisioning strange new worlds where space travel was commonplace and robots were important everyday tools.
Those dreams slowly crumbled, however, as the world lost interest in the space race, nuclear energy grew increasingly unpopular, and we settled into a war that, instead of being won relatively quickly, had become a quagmire. Science fiction got darker, and within a few years, cyberpunk and post-apocalyptic stories became the norm instead.
But I think we’re due another surge of fifties style sci-fi. That unbridled enthusiasm and endless imagination that permeated the science fiction in the past needs another round, and I’ll tell you why…
3) Robots Are an Actual Thing Now
Our everyday technology has started to quickly catch up with that of 1950s science fiction. Look, we don’t have humanoid robots doing our chores yet (though we do have Roombas), but it’s not far off, either. Google has been slowly grabbing up robotics companies (most notably Boston Dynamics, the creators of Big Dog) for a few years now, and they’ve already widely demonstrated self-driving cars and head-mounted computers. Tell me that’s not straight out of Asimov.
We can talk to our devices, communicate instantly with anyone worldwide, and we have Star Trek-esque tablet computers. Soon enough we’ll all be wearing one-piece space suits everywhere we go. Okay, maybe not, but we could if we wanted to.
2) We’re Getting Our Lust for Space Travel Back
For the first time in decades, we’re getting interested in space again. China just landed on the moon for the first time, the first country to do so (unmanned) since the U.S. and Russia quit bothering to do it back in the seventies. This has led to talk of the space race reigniting, although presumably without all that cold war stuff along with it. We’ve also got private spaceflight companies doing things like docking their craft to the ISS, the first time such a thing has ever happened.
Even pop culture is getting into the act. Cosmos, the TV series of legendary astronomer Carl Sagan, is making a comeback with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson as the host. If that doesn’t make you excited, then, well, you’re not as nerdy as I am, I guess.
And speaking of nerds…
1) Retro Nerdism is at its Height
The stereotypical “nerd”, with pocket protector and thick framed glasses, was born in the fifties, but it’s far from dead. It’s straight-up chic now (er, minus the pocket protector). Not only that, but love of all things retro is at an all-time high, and we’re slowly working our way backward. Eighties and nineties music, film, and video game influences are common, and some media is reaching back into the sixties and seventies as well. And then there’s the force working from the opposite end: retrofuturist fantasy. Take steampunk, which gets its inspiration from the Victorian era on up through the Roaring Twenties. And it’s now showing some signs of giving way to dieselpunk, a World War II styled take on the World of Tomorrow.
Assuming we continue in both directions equally, we’ll hopefully see a convergence right in the middle of the twentieth century: The golden age of science fiction. No hokey spaceships or terrifying alien abduction stories, but honest-to-goodness hope for the future and a love for technology. Maybe all we need is the people willing to create it.
Ashe was born in Nashville, TN and received a B.A. in English/Writing from Middle Tennessee State University. He now lives near Nashville in an apartment that is smaller than the inside of many automobiles. He has been featured on sites like Cracked and Mental Floss, and his first book, The Book of Word Records, is available now from Adams Media and can be found in all fine (and coarse) bookstores.
You can contact him (work offers welcome) by e-mailing email@example.com or, if you’re lucky and within about a 100 yard radius, you can try shouting his name loudly.