I’ve been reading a lot of science fiction literature lately. Like many geeks, I’ve spent years enjoying it in small doses in movies and on TV, but going right to the source of the genre, so to speak, has been an enlightening experience. I’ve been very surprised at how much of the material in Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” has been (flatteringly) ‘adapted’ over and over again for the last 25 years. And a read of Joe Haldeman’s “The Forever War”, a Vietnam-era classic, makes one feel as though war is the same no matter what year it is. But the age of originality in science fiction isn’t over.
Joe Haldeman, has been an active writer for 30 years. His recent work “Camouflage”, which was written just over five years ago, is a strange tale. I don’t think I’ve read, seen, or heard anything quite like this one. If “Interview With A Vampire” were crossed with “Cocoon” you’d still need to add a bit of “An American Werewolf In London” and a touch of “Jaws” before you had the whole store. This story featured a megawatt space laser, piles of hashish, a hammerhead shark biting a hole in a boat, an arm being severed by a shotgun blast, and multiple cases of sexual deviancy. He hasn’t lost his spark.
Stephen King is another fantastic science fiction writer. While he’s considered a horror writer by most, a great deal of Stephen King’s writings are in the style of the great H.P. Lovecraft, a man who’s work is equally as haunting as it is full of ingenious scientific descriptions of the paranormal. I would contend that most of King’s reputation as a horror writer comes from his ability to develop atmosphere in a story as exemplified by the 1980 short story “The Mist”, in which a military project opens a gateway to another dimension, unleashing unspeakable things into our realm.
Another fine example of King’s science fiction work is the 1986 novel “It”, about an alien intelligence which preys on the youth of a sleepy town, driving those which witness its true form to madness. Speaking of aliens, the 1987 novel “The Tommyknockers” is about an alien spacecraft buried beneath the seemingly benevolent soils of a quiet Maine town. And speaking of Maine, the 2001 novel “The Dreamcatcher” is about a species of aliens which intends to destroy humanity through its water supply after crashing their ship in the backwoods of King’s home state. The theme here is that Stephen King is still publishing science fiction works which most fans would consider relevant to the genre, most recently with his thousand-plus-page epic, “Under the Dome”.
It’s worth mentioning that H.P. Lovecraft is the grandfather of American Horror. He also happens to be, in the opinion of the writer, the grandfather of American Sci-Fi. The list of people who consider him an influence is like the list of people in the music world that call The Beatles an influence. Do yourself a favor and read his work *DURING THE DAY* unless you have the uncanny ability to turn off your brain right before you go to sleep. I guarantee you’ll never have a reason to feel comfortable in the dark again.
Contemporary science fiction is alive and well! Sure there’s a few Solaris remake in our future, and there’s probably going to be another Ghostbusters movie some day. I’m sure “The Forever War” will make its way to the silver screen eventually as well. But there’s original work to be had out there on the shelves of your local kindle! The rumors of the death of Sci-Fi (if there are any…) are greatly exaggerated.