“If I could dig down deep in my heart / Feelings would flood on the page / Would it satisfy ya, would it slide on by ya / Would ya think the boy’s insane? He’s insane / I said I know it’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it” – It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll, written by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, 1974.
Back in the hallowed days of nascent hippiedom, our popular culture evolved as young people began to develop a more political worldview. For better and for worse, these sentiments touched upon all aspects of the arts, and the world of science fiction was just sitting there in the center of the target. A lot of great stuff came out of that, material that continues impacting upon society to this day.
People began deploying the term “speculative fiction” to differentiate the contemporary stuff from the traditional space opera, although that epithet was used in similar vein by Robert Heinlein back in 1947. Be that as it may, the concepts associated with speculative fiction go back to the roots of storytelling and was well-deployed by writers such as Euripides and Shakespeare. Out of this movement came many of the 1960s generation of S-F A-listers: Judith Merril, Harlan Ellison, Michael Moorcock, Ursula K. LeGuin, Norman Spinrad, and many, many others.
Of course, such labels never truly work. Using music as my reference point, can you cleanly define the differences between the various forms of American roots music — blues, country, folk, bluegrass, jazz, rock and roll? Really? Then where does Ray Charles fall into that mix? Similarly, there are many labels on the foreheads of the sundry strands of science fiction: fantasy, horror, apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, horror, blah blah blah. I know. It’s only rock and roll to me.
These days, the term “speculative fiction” has become a warning. Here’s what we know for certain about COVID-19:
1) As of April 29th, it has affected over three and one-quarter million people worldwide — that we know about. If we actually tested people in the United States, that number would be much higher. Continue reading “Weird Scenes #086: Speculative Reality”