I have enjoyed science fiction since I discovered it in 7th grade at the school library. It made my reading come alive. From their I eventually launched out into other genres but science fiction replaced Dr. Seuss in my life. I would like to say I never looked back but that is no longer true.
The glow began to dim when the science based fiction began to be replaced by fantasy based. Some was well done but much became a case of deus ex machina solutions presented by the freedom to make up your own magic spells. Then, as more women began to be published the macho space opera started to be touchy-feely emotional dramas. Eventually I went back to reading some of the stuff I started on and was frustrated because I was reading with a mature mind rather than someone emerging out of childhood. I found that there was a lot more occult assumptions and sexual innuendo than I saw first time through. I became grateful that I had not seen it the first time or I would have turned out a different person. Whether you think that is good or bad doesn’t matter.
I am now being force into ever greater suspension of belief in order to read modern science fiction. It started with what I called the “Star Wars Effect.” I could overlook the X-Wing fighters doing WWI bi-plane rolls in a vacuum because I liked the special effects and enjoyed the story. I had a hard time reading the books because The Force became the old deus ex machina routine that was totally inconsistent and just pushing Eastern religion down our throats.
I am now facing another disenchantment. When I first heard about the fine tuning of the universe I was able to go on with my enjoyment of aliens from outer space and establishing colonies in other solar systems. I was able to deal with the cognitive dissonance because I enjoyed the stories. That tension is getting harder to maintain. I ran into it reading a book by Eric Flint and coming across this statement,
“That much was true, he had to concede. Out of all the extrasolar planets found to harbor significant life, one-half had a biosphere that was, astonishingly, compatible with Earthly...lifeforms.” pp. 32-33.This book was written in 2015. At that point there was already a growing pool of scientific knowledge that made such things nonsense. In his book Is Atheism Dead?, Eric Mataxas recalls how Carl Sagan used to say there were only two requirements for life on other planets. I can remember hearing Sagan saying “billions and billions” with that accent of his. The problem is that by 2015 science was discovering hundreds of requirements in order for life to exist.
Metaxas then says,
“Eventually, the conditions science reckoned necessary for life had risen so high that the idea that life existed anywhere at all - as it obviously did on our planet - seemed more and more miraculous, and then even outlandish. It didn’t make sense that we existed.” p. 40I won’t say my life has been shattered. I will say that the writing has to be better for me to be able to get into the story. I can still suspend belief enough to enjoy Honor Harrington or Prince Roger but that is because of the author’s skill. We just both agree to ignore the impossible. A similar thing used to happen every week when my family would watch Perry Mason. Each week he would get the guilty party to break down and confess. We went to bed happy. Now I know that the confession would have not been admissible in court. The same can be said about a lot of modern cop shows.
Flint, Eric and Spoor, Ryk E. Castaway Planet. New York: Baen, 2015.
Metaxas, Eric. Is Atheism Dead?. Washington, D.C.: Salem Books, 2021.
homo unius libri