It Came From Pulp Words To Pop Visuals

rickyjames writes, Quality science fiction has left its original pulp literary roots behind to become primarily a visual medium, according to Entertainment Weekly’s “New Classics: 1983-2008” lists. Roughly a half-dozen SF entries are found in both the TV and Movies lists, with The X-Files at 4th place and The Matrix at 12th. Neuromancer made the Books list, at 26th. I’m sorting this as “Ask the Bureau” because it spans so many categories, and because I’m going to ask people what they’d include or exclude from the lists if they made them.

7 replies on “It Came From Pulp Words To Pop Visuals”

  1. Timeshredder says:

    Putting Aside….
    …Whether Entertainment Tonight’s judgments agree with my own, the first book on their list, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is a post-apocalyptic near-future tale (though one of those books mainstream reviewers don’t consider SF ’cause, like, they’re good). Graphic novels Maus, The Sandman, and Watchmen, all made the list, though their genre may be in dispute.

    Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is about comics and contains an element of fantasy.

    • Timeshredder says:

      Re: Putting Aside….
      The Handmaid’s tale is a near-future dystopia and won the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Practical Magic is fantasy/magic realism.

      • rickyjames says:

        Re: Putting Aside….

        The Handmaid’s tale is a near-future dystopia…

        As is the number one book, The Road. In today’s over-shocked world, I submit that near-future dystopias no longer qualify in the public mind as SF. We don’t get to claim 1984 or Brave New World as classic SF anymore, either. These are all now a form of pessimistic political satire.

        Speaking of Cormic McCarthy who wrote The Road, do not miss his book No Country For Old Men. Brilliant, brilliant literature. It, er, made a GREAT movie, too – proving the point of my other main post below…

        • Timeshredder says:

          Re: Putting Aside….

          The Handmaid’s tale is a near-future dystopia…

          As is the number one book, The Road. In today’s over-shocked world, I submit that near-future dystopias no longer qualify in the public mind as SF. We don’t get to claim 1984 or Brave New World as classic SF anymore, either. These are all now a form of pessimistic political satire.

          I mentioned The Road in my first post. These books are still SF (speculative), whatever the mainstream may claim.

          And yeah, I liked No Country….

  2. rickyjames says:

    Written Words Vs. Scenes
    I meant to say in my posted writeup that "only" Neuromancer made the books list to represent SF in New Classic books, in contrast to "numerous" SF entries for Movies and TV as New Classics. And note that Neuromancer only barely made this list since it was published in 1984.

    Basically the Books list is saying an infinite number of SF writers at an infinite number of typewriters haven’t been able to turn out one single novel in the past quarter century that the general public views as a Literary Classic. That’s really, really sad, particularly since we’re now actually in the 21st century that was the focus of so much previous SF. We are in the future now; where’s SF 2.0, much less the flying cars?

    Not that I disagree with such a pessimistic assessment of modern literary SF. Neuromancer truly IS a true work of literature that nothing since matches, even while introducing every geekboy’s dream, Molly Millions. You know her better from the movies – d’oh! see the theme here? – as Trinity.

    IMHO, the only SF novel in the past quarter century that even deserves to be considered as a Literary Classic is Snow Crash – and it’s really too hip and genre-oriented to really resonate with the general public.

    This trend of turning away from the dense, thought provoking written word towards fluff eye-candy video continues. I read scary articles on this all the time, like the ones here and here. IMHO this trend will ultimately end up in a lower public intelligence level just as our civilization faces its greatest challenges – truly a science fiction story, except that we’re living it.

    Maybe this is just the worries of a guy with overly fond memories about the excitement he felt as a kid at weekly trips to the library decades ago before the internet. I always wondered what futuristic high school English classes would teach as follow-ons to Falkner and Hemmingway as follow-on classics – ANYTHING had to be better than that stupid Silas Marner I had to grind thru in English class.

    Maybe the answer is that high school English has moved on from Cliff Notes to videos, and there are no real literary New Classics at all. Or worse yet, students that even care about the loss.

    • Timeshredder says:

      Re: Written Words Vs. Scenes
      However, I might suggest American Gods as a recent fantasy classic and Red Mars as a recent SF classic.

      You raise some worthwhile concerns, separate of the list.

      • rickyjames says:

        Re: Written Words Vs. Scenes

        You raise some worthwhile concerns, separate of the list.

        In this vein, the Wiki article for Snow Crash has a very telling point I have often thought about as the key to the death of the SF novel…

        "Rorty’s Achieving Our Country uses Snow Crash as an example of modern culture that "express the loss of what he [Rorty] calls "national hope"…the problem with Snow Crash is not that it isn’t true – after all, it’s a story – but that it isn’t inspirational." This lack of inspiration is offset by something else Snow Crash and other works like it offer: "These books produce in their readers the "state of soul" that Rorty calls "knowingness," which he glosses as a "preference for knowledge over hope"; this preference for knowledge "contribute to a more fundamental failure to appreciate the value of inspiration – and hence of literature – itself."

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