Thursday, April 21, 2005

Rampant Pessimism

Author Charlie Stross has a good essay on the state of sf on his blog today. Basically, it looks at a growing sense of pessimism in American sf and places the cause on 9-11 and the political climate that developed in its wake. Given a couple of years for authors to create their books, plus another year or so for the publishing process, it makes sense that books written in a direct reaction to 9-11 would start hitting the shelves this season.

But the reactions aren't limited entirely to sf. The critics of Salon recently ran a set of reviews of novels by Ian McEwan, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Frederic Beigbeder that all focus on 9-11 and its after-effects in different ways. While I doubt any these will become the definitive 9-11 novel that precisely describes all our fears and confusion over that day, it's good to see works of art finally making the attempt. And no, I'm not counting Spiegelman's In the Shadow of the Towers; despite my admiration for him, I found it pretty ineffectual and dissapointing.

While pessimism seems to drive all of these works to one extent or another, it's the first real sign I've seen in the publishing world towards healing the deep wounds those plane crashes caused when they ripped into our psyche. A nice change from the countless books of theories and scare texts that still fill the display tables at the local books stores. While I don't expect reading these works will transform and heal a nation, they should prove effective band-aids to at least help us on the way.


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