|Published in 2011, |
Ernest Cline's debut
novel isn't very good.
(Image via Goodreads)
You can see this trend in Hollywood’s endless remakes and reboots of popular franchises. You can see it in the continuance of the Retro Hugos and from those who evangelize the works of long-dead authors. We are bombarded by it via pastiche re-writes and homages.
Fandom’s focus on the past isn’t always a bad thing – today’s works exist in dialogue with those published in the past, and certainly there’s enduring value in some of the classics. And yes, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
However, there is a subtle – but significant – difference between genuine appreciation for works from those who wrote before us and an ugly, toxic nostalgia that displaces the creation and appreciation of new works.
|Red Elf needs an editor badly.|
(Image via VintageArcade)
Ernest Cline’s 2011 debut novel tells the story of an online gamer in a dystopian future on a quest to solve the greatest online puzzle of all-time. In the world of the book, a 1980s-obsessed trillionaire has left an incalculable fortune to whoever completes a pop-culture challenge. Against this backdrop, the protagonist finds love and success amidst a cavalcade of references to Star Wars, Goonies, Indiana Jones, Back To The Future, Gremlins, Thundercats, Ghostbusters, Dungeons and Dragons, Jem & The Holograms, Snorks, and the like.
Personally, I found the book loathsome and will be forever grateful that Hugo voters did not include it on the ballot in 2012, despite the massive hype it received when published.
|'member The Powers of Matthew Star?|
(Image via Southpark.cc.com)
|For people in the 2040s to be obsessed|
with Family Ties would be like someone
in 2018 being obsessed with
The Morey Amsterdam Show.
(Image via Youtube)
The British statesman Clement Attlee aptly described fascism as the sound of the future refusing to be born, because axis leaders called upon their nations to remember a mythical past and to fight against progress.
I would suggest that there is a direct link between lapsarianism in our appreciation of literature, and this yearning for a version of the past that never really existed.
I would not suggest that Ernest Cline shares any ideology with fascists, rather that his work draws upon a similar intellectual tradition. It is to his credit that he has taken these political ideas in the direction of apathy, rather than regressive political action.
|Funny thing about the movie ... I don't|
remember Tracer from Overwatch
being popular back in the 1980s.
(Image via Kotaku)
The fact that nostalgia is itself a moving target also means that works whose appeal is based solely on a cavalcade of pop cultural references are unlikely to have enduring value. Imagine trying to decipher Ready Player One without being steeped in the cultural moment that produced it.
It’s long been said that the Golden Age of science fiction is twelve, this being a common age at which many people discover the genre. But I’d like to make the suggestion that the golden age of science fiction should always be the future golden age that we imagine, and aspire to build.
It's fine to look into the rearview, as long as we keep an eye on the road ahead.