13 June 2006

Age and Nostalgia

Brian Bieniowski makes an interesting point in the comments to this post, and it's one that is, I think, worth opening up for discussion. Talking about Dave Itzkoff's column, he says,
His column seems too calculatedly ageist for me to take very seriously, as though his essential conceit is that we still shouldn't be trusting anyone over the age of thirty. It is too easy to diss nostalgia when it's your elders' nostalgia. Within the Itzkoff Retirement Home, 2040, where everyone reminisces of the days of internet fiascos and flame-wars, I can imagine the furious youth flaming the sepia-toned Ben Rosenbaum and Christopher Rowe short-story collections, and all that old-fogey blog crit nobody reads anymore.
This reminded me of a conversation I had with a writer friend some time back, when he said he looked forward to the day when he and I would be like the old guys on "The Muppet Show" who booed everything and hated everybody. "Nobody's writing anything worth reading anymore!" we'll cry. "Not like when we were in our prime!" ("Remember when we all had our blogs and hadn't had our brains uploaded into the Bush-Clinton Imperial Library yet? Oh, those were the days!")

I would like to disagree a bit with Brian that it's all about younger up-and-coming writers, though. There is a generational difference within the SF community in certain ways, in that a lot of the younger writers did not rise up through fandom, and their influences include more weird pop culture than they do Asimov or Heinlein, but there is also a segment of younger readers and writers who are interested in the traditional core of SF, and there are also a lot of writers working their way toward their own retirement homes who are not simply trying to rewrite the stories they wrote when they first got published. I don't care a bit about the age of a writer, because their age doesn't tell me anything about how they write or what they're interested in. The writers who interest me are the writers who surprise me, and surprise can come from a writer of any age, just as a writer of any age can be derivative and unimaginative.

What I try to fight against in myself, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, is the ossification of perspective -- I don't want to end up twenty or thirty years from now thinking that the only type of writing that is interesting is the kind of writing that was exciting in 2006. I hope that I will change enough as a person and a writer, and that the world of writing and the world at large will change enough in that time for me to discover new types of stories to appreciate and new ways of appreciating them. If not, I can't imagine any reason to keep reading and writing.