December is Science Fiction and Fantasy History Month—Pass It On and Celebrate by Stewart Sternberg

December is Science Fiction and Fantasy History Month. Since when? Since now. However just declaring it to be so doesn’t make it so, but one has to begin somewhere. Hopefully  writers, editors, bloggers, and their fans will take up the cause.

What is the purpose for designating a month to the history of Science Fiction and Fantasy?  Isn’t there more genre in film and on television than ever? Isn’t the fiction market dominated by genre?

Perhaps, but as lovers of science fiction and fantasy, we owe it to ourselves to promote quality work and to ensure that the young have a cultural perspective, understanding the traditions and tropes of this corner of the literary world as well as  a broader understanding of literature in general.  Is it a necessity? No. Is it important to us as a culture?  Yes. Consider the political and cultural influence of science fiction and fantasy, and how it has helped us vent our angst, voice our identity, and celebrate our optimism. It has touched into a primal need to escape and redefine a complex world into a more manageable paradigm.

I think this idea of Science Fiction and Fantasy History Month first hit me when I read this email posted on http://www.latinoreview.com/

This movie [The Wolfman]was a complete waste and I feel that it offends ALL Twilight Fans around the world, that including myself. For one, it was a COMPLETE remaking of the Wolf Pack from the Twilight Saga: New Moon. It gives the werewolves a bad name and makes them look like some deformed mutation of a rabid dog. I actually started to like werewolves after seeing Jacob Black and all his awesomeness on the big screen at the movies. That was until I saw your crappy remake of what you call to be a “were wolf”. I don’t see how you live with yourself for making it the way you did. If I made this movie, I would be ashamed to even admit that I owned it. How can a werewolf be killed with a silver bullet?

Reading this rant,  I rolled my eyes, but it occurred to me that for many younger audiences, The Twilight series might be their first and only exposure to such staples of fantasy as vampires and werewolves (and I include horror in the sci-fi and fantasy realm). While many will argue fans of Twilight are actually fans of romance more than fantasy, the argument can be made that if it is a starting point for some, they may seek other, more ambitious work. But only if we keep such work alive, grounded in the past as well as the present and future.

Some will disagree, celebrating the new with  delight bordering on fetish, arguing it is the only way to reach out to young readers. They may claim the world is better for not being forced to read the work of a handful of “Old White Men.” While I agree it is important for fiction to be inclusive, it’s also important to understand its roots and influences. And while the history of those who created science fiction and fantasy isn’t always an demonstration of multiculturalism, the visions of these men and women helped frame social commentary and stimulate discussion on all manner of social issue.

I worry who will read the work of Robert E. Howard, Joseph Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Donald A. Wollheim, Usula K. LeGuin, Anne Maccaffrey, Arthur C. Clark, Gene Wolf, and JRR Tolkein, Robert Bloch, Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, Leigh Brackett and their ilk some twenty years forward. The only way to influence the future of literature is to continue to promote the work of the past which we feels best represents that which made science fiction and fantasy such an important part of our culture and identity.

So spread the word, perhaps put a button on your blog or tweet that December is Science Fiction and Fantasy History Month.

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