Why Are so Many of the Great Writers in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Falling into Neglect ?

BAYLOR

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#1
And even though ive only listed on three genres, It's a problem that happening in all the genres across the board . Even literary classics are not immune to this. Many of the younger generation seem to have relatively little knowledge or really much of an interest in the great writers of yesteryear . Why is this the case and what can be done about it ?

Thoughts ? :confused:
 

farntfar

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#2
I would suggest that many of the themes of classic works are now merely the tropes of newer books.
The older books offer no surprises to young readers.
That they were the original is of no interest, at least until the readers become older themselves.
 

AlexH

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#3
New stuff will always appeal and be pushed, whatever the medium. Otherwise we wouldn't be reading anything other than the Bible in Latin. The market is becoming more and more saturated meaning there's more choice, so there are bound to be less readers of some of the great writers of the past. Many are still republished though, so I see certain writers "falling into neglect" as a natural progression. A very select few will get to be "immortal" like Tolkien, Rowling etc.
 

OHB

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#8
I agree with Parson. There are a lot of fads going on right now (vampires, zombies, dystopias, etc.), but I doubt anyone will remember them 50 years from now. The classics will still be remembered, which is why they are classics. They're obscured by the fads right now, but once those fads die down, the classics will shine through again.

I, for one, read a lot of sci-fi/fantasy/horror written in the 1800s, though I'm probably in the minority there.
 

pyan

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#9
The future technology of a lot of 'classic sf' having been equaled and superceded by modern technology may have something to do with it. What was the 'wow' factor in stories from the 40's, 50's and 60's is now the 'meh' factor - and often the story, characterisation and writing are not enough to support the loss.
For example, at the start of RAH's classic juvenile 'Between Planets' (1951), the protagonist is alone out on the prairie on his cow-pony, when his phone rings. I can still remember the jolt that that gave me reading it in about 1965 - but an 11-year-old of today would pass straight over the predictive idea that Heinlein put there without even noticing it.
 

Randy M.

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#11
Well, and then there's the attitude problem: Ooooooold fogeys keep suggesting these oooooold books. How can they be good if they're that old? Besides, it's like reading a foreign language. I mean, 23 Skidoo? What's that about? And Ford is in his Flivver? Huh?

Oddly, thinking back, watching old movies as a kid kind of prepared me for books from early in the 20th century. I at least had a little context for what a cloche hat was, and a Model T, so I wasn't completely floundering when faced with something no longer in use and referenced. Maybe something like Stranger Things will prepare the now young for works from late in the 20th century.

Just to note, Moby Dick was a "lost" classic until the Lost Generation took it up as a classic. Poe was also lost to us for a time, but the French championed his work and that helped keep him alive for later generations to reassess.

I guess this is just a long-winded agreement with Parsons: There's an ebb and flow. I was lucky to start reading s.f. when there was a flow -- for example, the Del Rey Best of... story collections and reissuing of many of s.f.'s foundational works.

Randy M.
 

AlexH

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#12
I must admit I can see the point in abridged versions of the likes of Moby Dick. Older stories can be a difficult read, and sometimes just frustrating in how much waffle there is. I'm mostly speaking with experience from short story reading, so I imagine novels are worse for that sort of thing. A lot of modern writing has the benefit of being more concise.
 

Venusian Broon

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#13
I must admit I can see the point in abridged versions of the likes of Moby Dick. Older stories can be a difficult read, and sometimes just frustrating in how much waffle there is. I'm mostly speaking with experience from short story reading, so I imagine novels are worse for that sort of thing. A lot of modern writing has the benefit of being more concise.
But there are plenty of modern writers who write 'a lot of waffle' although not in the same style as some of the 19th Century authors.

It just takes a bit of acclimatisation, I find, when reading any sort of style. I'm, as a reader, very easy going and virtually always look for the positives in anything I'm reading, so I find I'm more than willing to settle into the beats and idiosyncrasies of any book.

Seems a shame that a reader would only look for a particular style. It would be like only eating pizza, crisps & coke and pushing away the experience and tastes of all other foods and drinks :)

Back to OT, I agree with Parson regarding fads, but also I think books have half-lives. Most will just fade away - there's too many books and stories out there. It takes excellent writing and (probably) a great deal of luck that Classics remain over time.

Getting serious into SF in the 1980s/90s even then I thought that a great deal of the big novels suggested by the community that were essential reading in that genre were pretty outdated and not relevant (Sorry Heinlein fans! :)).
 

Randy M.

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#14
If you're interested in how the genre got to be what it is from what it was, Heinlein's essential. Beyond that, I'd still argue his short work is pretty entertaining, but otherwise it's a hard sell. Ditto most of his contemporaries.

Randy M.
 

picklematrix

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#15
My crackpot theory of the day: younger people advertise the books the enjoy more so than their elders, and for that reason, books that appeal to youngsters have more of a presence online, and have more YouTube videos and blogs made about them.
I mean middle aged people can blog and stream just as well as their younger counterparts, but most of the big book tubers are YA readers, as far as I can tell.
This results in certain types of books being all the rage, and drowning out some of the classics. Specifically, the YA range is predisposed to spreading line wildfire online.
Some of these current favourites will last and become classics in their own right, while many will be forgotten.
 

Venusian Broon

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#16
If you're interested in how the genre got to be what it is from what it was, Heinlein's essential. Beyond that, I'd still argue his short work is pretty entertaining, but otherwise it's a hard sell. Ditto most of his contemporaries.

Randy M.
I agree with my SF Historian hat on. But on a personal view, of the 'big 4', ACC and Herbert seem to have better 'legs' going into the future. But that is just me :)
 

Boaz

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#17
I think of the works of Tolkien and Lewis as classic. Poe, Verne, Twain, Cooper, and Hugo are the writers of the 19th century that I like. But Dickens, Conrad, Tolstoy, Chaucer, Dante, More, Boethius, Tacitus, and Suetonius don't excite me. Or as John Bender once said, "Mo... lay... really pumps my nads." I'm sure Lysander and his Spartans might have thought that Homer and Herodotus would be revered for all time. Some few will always find the greats... Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Dahl, Wilde, Kafka, Austen... and others will move from Burroughs to Krantz to Ludlum to E.L. James to Stephanie Meyer.
 

Toby Frost

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#18
I don’t think older SF is being “forgotten” and I don't think that the youth of today should know better. I do think that readers want different things, especially in terms of character, and older SF may not suit their requirements.

Firstly, a lot of older SF, while remembered fondly by those who encountered it the first time around, doesn’t hold up very well. Not just, as Pyan says, because its technological innovations are old hat, but because it’s not very well written, or is written in such a way that only the SF parts of it are especially strong. When I read Dune, I was surprised at the depth of the characters and the setting compared to other classic SF (likewise Titus Groan compared to other fantasy, but that’s a less fair comparison). Compared to Dune, something like, say, Foundation, whilst not badly written, feels rather flat. It’s clearly the 1950s transposed to a future setting, which was fine back then, but feels clunky now. That’s not to say that it’s bad, but that it fulfills different criteria. I think it’s unrealistic to expect modern readers to get the same thing out of Clarke, Asimov or Heinlein as people did when they first came out.

The focus of SF – at least the edgy sort that wins awards – seems to have changed. It appears to be less about predicting tech as exploring modern-world experiences in SF terms. The question seems to be less “What would it be like if we had the power to do X?” or “What will X be like in the future?” as “What is it like to be X kind of person in SF terms?” A tech-based SF only really needs characters to work the tech and repair it. The tech is, in a way, the most important character. A character-based SF requires deeper characterization, but it can entail more navel-gazing.

Some of the trappings of older SF – the psychedelic drug-taking of PK Dick, or the Japanese Zaibatsus of early Cyberpunk – feel dated. While the core of those styles – Dick’s sense of unreality and alienation, and Gibson’s noirish attitude – remain applicable, it’s harder to get into those authors where part of their setting feels retro at best.

However, really incisive books – not just books that predict a technological advance or instill a sense of wonder, but those that say something really important about being human – will survive. There are loads of things wrong with 1984, but it is still the best analysis of the psychology of a dictatorship that I have ever read, and I think it’s that which will make it relevant in the future.
 

Parson

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#19
Good discussion! I would also like to say that for a work to be a true classic time is necessary. And I don't think anything less than a generation can even begin to discern classic from popular. Sometimes (though rarely) the two don't even line up. I think Philip K. Dick might fit that description. A lot of his stuff was not all that popular when first written, but as time goes on his legend grows. I doubt that things like the Miles Vorkosigan saga will hold up as well, but when first published they were very popular indeed.
 

Ogma

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#20
It's the sheer volume of books being published, the focus on the new. The market has become self-driven, segmented and codified to the point that readers never have to read outside their comfort zone. Like apocalyptic fiction? There's a huge number of them with a thousand different flavors set in the here and now.
It takes effort to read the classics. It takes a suspension of disbelief and a willingness also to ignore worldviews that you don't necessarily share. Modern readers simply don't have to make the effort if they don't want to. Plus, to be blunt, that gap has widened for younger readers compared to my generation.

I read a lot of classic fiction. I enter into each story with an open mind and give it every chance to hook me, to give me some spark of enjoyment, and I've discovered a lot of great books, favorites, but there are some books and stories that I find simply impossible to connect with. The premise or the execution is just so dull, I can't even find any marrow in their bones.

Also some 'classic' SFF & H were never really that widely read to begin with. Their reputations depend on the influence they had on other authors or a really committed small fandom.
 

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