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>Looking forward

>We saw Star Trek this weekend–I don’t know what the Trekkies thought of it (I was more of a Lost in Space guy) but I really liked it. It made me think about Farah Mendlesohn’s article we published in March, where she complained of the dismal scenarios conjured by most contemporary YA SF, more Children of Men than Star Trek. Why can’t the future be fun?

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Lisa Yee says:

    >I’m not a Trekkie (or Trekker). Saw it twice. (Once for fun, once for research.) Loved it.

  2. Anonymous says:

    >What on (off?) Earth are you researching, Lisa Yee?

  3. Lisa Yee says:

    >I plan on blasting off into space in search of an alternative universe, so I needed to know what to wear.

    Also, I’m working on a MG novel about a kid who is a major Trekkie.

  4. Anonymous says:

    >Interesting. None of my business, but — why not make up a series for him/her to be a fan of? Get one obscure thing wrong with a Trekker and you’re cooked.

  5. Lisa Yee says:

    >I considered making up a new series, because I know that you don’t mess with Star Trek. However, this character comes from another book I wrote, and he was a Trekkie there, so I ultimately decided to keep him as is. (I am preparing to get skewered.)

  6. Anonymous says:

    >Ah. Well, you could find a fan to vet the ms. for you. Finding minute errors in someone else’s depiction of the series (the films, the novels, etc.) would be a dream come true for the right sort of person. They’d probably pay you. But you may know all of this already. Sorry if this is all presumptuous!

  7. >Oh, Lisa, it sounds delicious. I’d offer to vet it for you if only for the fun of reading it ahead of time, but, alas, I’m only a Trekkie, not a Major Trekkie. — Jeannie Birdsall

  8. Lisa Yee says:

    >I do have a Trekkie who’s able to answer my inane questions. Plus I’ve watched the original series, read the books, and seen the documentaries. The book also has Batman and Star Wars kids in it, and I have sources for those too. However, it’s fairly certain I will mess up somehow.

  9. Anonymous says:

    >Lost In Space?
    Really? Oh, Roger!

  10. Anonymous says:

    >In response to the question: Why can’t the future be fun:
    The future can’t be fun because within the last several decades we have come to realize that it most likely will not be. In the past when Lost in Space and the original Star Trek were created many of the global problems that plague us now were unknown or just theories. Now children learn about the issues that they will be confronted with in their lifetime: global warming, pollution, disease, over-population, etc. Children’s futuristic literature must reflect these disasters, otherwise it is too unrealistic.

  11. Jason M. says:

    >Not to get too heavy about it, but..

    I think perhaps the reason “the future can’t be fun” is because we have reached a critical point where the consequences of techno-science can no longer be ethically ignored. We don’t need to demonize it outright, but it doesn’t make sense to glorify it in “shiny” ways either.

    It is particularly frustrating for me that Farah Mendlesohn doesn’t seem to take into account the greater context such works are created in, and the fact that many of those “bright, shiny” works often carried xenophobic undertones typical of the Cold War. Many, also, were in fact very much cautionary tales and presented critiques of scientific endeavors.

    Of course, I’m generally unclear as to why Mendlesohn chooses the generation of “any science fiction reader over forty” as a standard for such nostalgia in the first place. There was earlier SF, of course, tracing even back to 17th-century Utopian novels. Cyrano de Bergerac’s travels to the sun and moon were pretty fun, right? Or are we too far removed from that context? Because today’s generations of young readers seem pretty far removed from the context Mendlesohn holds up as the gold standard. Or perhaps I should say “absorbed by” rather than “removed from.” At any rate, it seems too much like the sort of generational put-down Mendlesohn rightly condemns. I mean, was your future REALLY so much better than theirs? Because it doesn’t particularly feel like it’s turning out as advertised.

    I don’t know, perhaps I’m missing something here. I certainly don’t mean to make a rant, but having read Baudrillard’s essays on SF and (especially) the general work of Paul Virilio has made me perhaps overly cautious of “bright, shiny futures.” These are pieces of our contemporary mythology, not just products in a vacuum. They do have effects on the world beyond themselves.

  12. Roger Sutton says:

    >I am really a stranger in a strange land when it comes to contemporary SF, but when I read a lot of it (late sixties/early seventies) we were equally confronted with dire warnings about the future (nuclear war, overpopulation, pollution) yet SF was looking at ways to solve those problems, yes? Or, at how civilization could be remade following catastrophe. Is contemporary SF for adults as doom-laden as its YA equivalent?

  13. Jason M. says:

    >First, I’d like to say I was perhaps too harsh in saying that SF can’t be fun any more. There’s a problem, of course, in assuming that a doom-laden novel can’t also be a fun one. I had a friend tell me she wanted to punch me in the face for lending her Lem’s “Memoirs Found in a Bathtub.” She was frustrated and depressed by it, but when I asked her if she laughed she said, “Of course, it’s hilarious.”

    But I am certainly not advocating or even justifying such bleak works as are cropping up nowadays. I think over-reacting to the perils of science can be as dangerous as painting science in purely optimistic colors. I’d just like to see more critical thinking in general. If you’re going to write SF, please have considered science seriously on some level. You can still make it fun for the reader.

    My main problem with Mendlesohn’s article was that she seems to so thoroughly compartmentalize the genre that it no longer needs to speak to or about science. It seems irresponsible to me.

    As for contemporary adult SF, I suppose some of it is doom-laden and some of it isn’t. I don’t know how to weigh adult against youth categories.

  14. Anonymous says:

    If you haven’t already, you might consider having someone fill you in on the basics of other related series, basic scenarios and important characters, etc. Any current Trekkie would know about Star Trek Enterprise, Voyager, Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, whether he/she liked them or not. One never knows when a character might have a random thought about the holographic doctor…

  15. Lisa Yee says:

    >Hi Irene, we must be thinking alike. Yes, I do have a couple of die hard Trekkers and such helping me out with the lore. Thanks for the thoughts!

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