Sci-Fi Classics Resonate With Young

I have one last follow-up on the topic of science fiction, Ray Bradbury and the “Big Three” authors Heinlein, Clarke and Asimov.

I’d wondered if young people in their teens, 20s and 30s were reading the classics, and whether the stories and their themes still resonate today. The answer is a resounding “yes.” All your emails were thoughtful and enthusiastic, but three stand out.

Elizabeth Spencer, a 27-year-old Air Force captain at Hickam, thinks young people are just as fascinated with the genre as ever. But she makes the point that the experience and the literature is different today, because of technology.

“I think younger generations have been raised in unique and rapidly expanding environments. Our current media bombardment of print, television, film, Internet and gaming universes stretches young minds thin.

“As any sociologist will tell you, the mass availability of knowledge in our evolving society places demands on the young adult to be well-read and well-versed in just about everything – this has called for streamlined and time-condensed knowledge gaining sessions that unfortunately do lead to losses of the heart and soul of many works.

“Screen adaptations of classic tales, and re-imaginings of classic sci-fi themes, have made these stories easily accessible and easily absorbable in shorter time periods. For the modern youth, that is often all their schedules will allow (and yes, the critical thinkers among us do note the intrinsic irony of this problem, as we are becoming the technological slaves those very stories warn us about).

“These generations don’t so much read science fiction as live it.”

Susan Trout, 24, of Waipio says, “I just read (with great pleasure!) your article on the late great Ray Bradbury. In your article you asked if the younger generations continued to appreciate the works of science fiction writers from the ’60s and ’70s – I can answer that question, at least with regard to my circle of friends, with a hearty YES!

“I grew up on Bradbury, particularly The Martian Chronicles, which continue to be a favorite of mine, then quickly progressed to Asimov, Heinlein and Frank Herbert’s Dune. Thanks to my father, also an avid science fiction reader, I discovered such underrated gems as Alan Dean Foster’s Midworld (which gave me a pretty good belly laugh when I saw Avatar – it’s practically word for word!), and Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination. As for contemporary authors, I wholeheartedly suggest the work of Neal Stephenson, William Gibson and China Meiville.”

Susan, thanks for the recommendations. I’ll look for these authors and can’t wait to read their books.

Finally, here’s a response from young Nikki Oka: “I’m a 17-year-old, and my favorite books are from the 20th century. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Sinclair Lewis’ Free Air, The Great Gatsby, Fahrenheit 451, George Orwell’s 1984, Lost Horizon by James Hilton – they are all considered “retro,” but for me they are easy to read and reread because they don’t FEEL dated.

“True, not all of them are sci-fi, but they are books I reach for with much enthusiasm, regardless of the date of their publication. Even Shakespeare still fits in modern society (my favorites are Twelfth Night, Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream) because of the situations, not the settings.

“Human nature repeats itself in a most curious fashion, time after time again. It doesn’t take a book published decades and even centuries ago to teach us that.”

Thanks to Nikki, Susan and Elizabeth and all who took the time to write. Not only am I stunned at the number of fellow sci-fi geeks out there, but I’m also reminded yet again of the passion and intelligence of people who truly love to immerse themselves in a good book.