SyntaxHighlighter

2012-03-24

Do times ever change?

Currently I am reading the 1952 Science Fiction anthology Tomorrow, The Stars, with short stories by such notable authors as Isaac Asimov, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., and Lester Del Ray.  The forward is by Robert A. Heinlein and provides an interesting view of the emergence of this genre:
Science fiction has only recently become popular and is not yet fully respectable.  Until the end of World War II it was, in the opinion of most critics, by definition "trash" and so convicted without a hearing.
It is hard now, with the prevalence of Science Fiction all around us in books, movies, and online, that these writings were once nothing more than filler for pulp magazines, and Mr. Heinlein goes on to explain his thoughts on why speculative science fiction was not accepted until after the war when things predicted in writings such as radar, atom bombs, and giant rockets came into being.



Reading these stories, it is actually surprising when you realize that all of them were created almost 19 years before we actually landed on the moon.  This was the beginning of the fifties, and for us here in the 21st century we tend to look back at that time with a bit of nostalgia.

And here is why I threw Billy Joel's image from his We Didn't Start the Fire at the beginning of this post.  The first story by Jack Finney called I'm Scared deals with strange events regarding time--a woman pestered by a dog two years before it is born and she adopts him, a man shot with a gun several days after the gun had been put into evidence by police, and a man dressed in Civil War attire killed in 1950 traces back to a man who disappeared in the late 1800s.

Sure these sound familiar.  We have seen variations on these themes in the Twilight Zone, X-Files, Fringe, and so many other movies and television shows.

Yet the character's reasoning in I'm Scared (which was penned in 1951) for why these events are happening:
Haven't you noticed, too, on the part of nearly everyone you know, a growing rebellion against the present?  And an increasing longing for the past?  I have.  Never before in all my long life have I heard so many people wish that they lived "at the turn of the century," or "when life was simpler," or "worth living," or "when you could bring children into this world and count on the future," or simply "in the good old days."  People didn't talk that way back when I was young!  The present was a glorious time!  But they talk that way now.
Here we are 61 years later, and how many times have you heard one of those phrases mentioned in conversation?

One day people will wax nostalgia about the good old days when there were only 300 cable channels, to get online you needed a computer and a place with a wi-fi connection, and there were only 6 billion people on the earth.  (One of the stories in the book mentions the world population at 2 billion by the way.)