Editorial – February 2023: Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be…
Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be,
it needs a geek perspective.
With all that is going on and mankind might be lucky to see the next century unless we sort out the planet’s ecology problems, let alone stopping world-wide wars, why should I think there is a need to discuss nostalgia again? I mean, there might not be nothing left to be nostalgic about for the survivors.
Partially, its because the younger generations have less regard for something that happened twenty years ago, let alone even further back. Nostalgia and history is dying out from neglect and needs the occasional editorial reminder.
There used to be jokes in time travel films about unlikely events that would happen but not taken seriously by people from the past coming to the future. Take the 1984 film ‘The Philadelphia Experiment’ where time traveller sailor David Herdig questioned if America would really have a film star as President? Now, we can expect youngsters to wonder who Ronald Reagan was. Again, that might also be a problem caused by current society or the educational systems we have today.
With so much media diversity, few are watching the same as anyone else and, if they are, go from watching one episode a week of a series to binge-watch the lot in one go. A demonstration of impatience if ever there was one. The diversity might expand choice but it cuts down on people sharing what they watch in case they are nasty enough to give away spoilers. I tend to raise an eyebrow when someone says they don’t own a television and just pull info as and when needed off the Net.
None of which is helped by the algorithms focusing on what you want to see then a wider spectrum as it studies your choices. Ergo, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, chances are you’ll see even less because the algorithm will think you don’t need it. If ever there was a form of self-censorship without realising it, then meet your self-censor. I continually confuse the ones looking at my choices. Relying on your computer to be your surrogate memory isn’t really that much of a good idea.
The loss of history also means we are going to lose people with a desire for nostalgia, both going hand-in-hand. Oh, we’re bound to have a small minority who might do so but that number is bound to diminish each generation. After all, how many children follow their parents interests?
History works in many different ways. It allows us to recognise certain patterns and be wary of it happening again or recognise the consequences if it does. It gives a sense of belonging as a group with shared memories. If there are fewer shared memories, where will it lead? What about people, like, well, like politicians using this forgetfulness to sell you the same old things again and again or your future generations simply because they owe it to you forgetting past deeds. OK, actually, some pollical parties actually do that simply by figuring that they think a new set of people will have a different creed, forgetting what their party actually represents.
How effective will future geeks be in such an environment remains to be seen. Hopefully, some of us will be alive to see how they get on, assuming at least some of them have a nostalgic bent. In some respects, I suppose we should be lucky geeks don’t run in families that much or there wouldn’t be enough of us around. The motivation of being alone when young and ill that stirs the geek instinct is gone with the mobile phone or the amount of contact has gone up. Whether something will replace it and get the same result remains to be same.
Considering the main ingredients are isolation, illness, boredom and imagination, there aren’t many ways to get the geek ingredients any other way unless they have an intense interest in something that can expand and take in more things. There has to be an element of cynicism and the ability to intelligently question any and everything. I compare the me now to the me then and I think I had to learn not to be too naïve.
Have I missed anything out for being a basic geek here? If you’re just into, say ‘Star Trek’ or ‘Star Wars’, other franchises are available, then the geek evolution hasn’t happened enough yet. Don’t confuse a singular obsession with being a geek. Just because you carry a lot of detail about a particular subject doesn’t qualify you as a geek. Your range tends to expand according to your taste. Science Fiction is such a wide field that no one can be absolutely expert in all of its aspects any more unless extremely old or a total insomniac, simply because there aren’t enough leisure hours in the day and night. There’s also a matter of personal taste and some material is just avoided.
To be a geek, we tend to look at everything across many subjects, seeking out details including the history. I suspect part of the interest in SF is because it encases so much on levels of imagination. From story to production. We can build our own niches within it but its still all down to imagination. If that is stifled by too much else to do, then it won’t grow. Again, spot the subliminal, nostalgia is stimulated by looking at where things come from. It’s in the nature of knowing how things work as much as where it comes from.
The Internet supplies a lot of information, but there is also a lot of misinformation stirred into the mix from people who can’t tell the difference. We geeks tend to double-check, usually from alternative sources, especially the original material when we can get it and certainly not to entirely trust reviews alone in our choices. If people forget to do that then we will all be manipulated by the few. There are words for such manipulation, often associated with rogue nation dictatorships. Even with reviews on SFC, we have a reputation of being honest and independent which has probably served you in good stead when you’ve bought something we’ve reviewed.
Everything has a history. Understanding it also helps to understand flaws and where they came from can give a fresh interpretation. It can also be the means to counter-check recent books as to how accurate they are. Those of you who follow my reviews have seen me come down like a ton of bricks on inaccuracies and that comes from my own background knowledge and research. Accurate knowledge is always power even if it scares people, mostly when they are found out. When it matches with what we know about science or our own genre of Science Fiction, I can have a field day. Even with science, it doesn’t often need higher level degrees, just a comprehension of the knowledge and the ability to ask the right questions.
When it comes to our genre, we might look at old films as primitive compared to the digital age but they wouldn’t be here without them and can still hold up pretty well. Pretty much the same as books really. The early SF authors were just as experimental or questioning as we are. We are built up from them. If, for example, Asimov hadn’t taken a dislike to rampaging robots without reason, he wouldn’t have developed his three robotic laws and, although we think they would be hard to implement today, robots obey orders…even if they might be disruptive and potentially unstoppable doing so. A lot of the old stories still work today, mostly because society might have changed but the emotional mindset hasn’t. Try some early SF books and see if I’m right. There’s plenty of them out there.
Then again, a secondary worry right now is people aren’t reading enough books. Yes, there has been a switch back from digital books to the original paper variety but no indication how old the books are that are read. However, those of you who keep up with publisher’s catalogues are aware that, at least for this spring, the number of SF books coming out is reduced. Really reduced. There’s a lot of reasons, including covid slowing down writing in its onset which proves, if nothing else, it takes at least 2 years to get a book out. Even so, such a gap tends to allow other things to fill the gap and, especially with the young, not go back again. So why not look to older books?
A lot of them are out there and, thankfully, not all of them cost an arm or leg. Our sense of nostalgia and obvious backlog of books gives a chance to catch up, as witnessed by some of the old books reviewed recently here. There’s still a lot of good books out there and discovering them, regardless of age, that brings a kinship to them. It’s the appeal of Science Fiction that has been effective for coming up to two centuries now. If you don’t understand nostalgia, kinship for the earlier books should work.
With the way things change today, there isn’t going to be anything to hang our reality on. There is always a need to have something stable to hang on to. We’ll miss something when its past but if we keep reminders around, nothing ever truly dies. Science Fiction should and must not become a casualty of this lack of interest.
Thank you, take care, good night and here’s to nostalgia.
A Zen thought: Cynical is a nice colour.
What Qualities Does A Geek Have: To view the past as if it’s the present.
The Reveal: The world isn’t out to get you, only the people who inhabit it.
Observation: Looking at the 1978 film ‘Alien’ again, has anyone wondered how Jones the cat got into the undercarriage bay? After all, he ran from the corridor, through a closed door to get there. If he’d gone through the vents, he would surely have met the alien.
Observation: Continuing with ‘Alien’, Jones the cat has to be there for other than being a pet but also a rodent deterrent. If he hasn’t cleared them before hibernation then allowing for the two years flight time, they could have potentially awoken to a spaceship full of rats. No doubt in the future, they might have found a different way to control rodent population in space but its an interesting dilemma.
Observation: While I’m in the ‘Alien’ mood, the ‘space jockey’ is also a lot larger here than the Engineers in ‘Prometheus’, so we could be seeing a different size sub-species. Does that remind you of a particular hunter predator?
Observation: There’s an interesting flaw in the 1951 film ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’ when that happened. Outside of a few places like hospitals and aircraft in flight, everything electrical, one presumes this includes clockwork timepieces, and other transport, although no road vehicles shunted, stopped. So in the elevator, how could Helen Benson able to read her watch and know the time everything worked again was 12:30pm? Like everything else, it would have stopped at 12pm. Of course, Gort could have jumped everything to the right times. All right, so Klatau told her half an hour had passed but she didn’t have time to wind her clock on. Good thing those computer and mobile phone thingies weren’t rife back then.
Observation: I don’t know how widespread this is across the world but I’ve seen different companies promising zero net emissions by 2040, some 17 years into the future. So what makes 2040 so special other than the fact that not many of us will be alive that far into the future to check?
Observation: There’s something odd about unicorns. When you consider that other animals have two of most things, including horns, why shouldn’t the unicorn? OK, it means a name change but that’s mythology.
Feeling Stressed: See what happens on ‘Fornite’ when you get the message NAME and can’t get into the main game. Enquires are on-going with Epic.