karen_w_newton (karen_w_newton) wrote,

The dangers of time travel: visiting the past vs. living there

Time travel is a much-used trope in spec fic. It's been done enough times that it's hard to do well and still be original. In some ways historical fiction provides a very limited kind of time travel— at about the same level the Stereopticon allowed people to see places they had never been. The TV show Mad Men, on the other hand, is so well researched and the production values are so high, that it's almost like a trip back to America of the past, circa 1962.

And what Mad Men shows us is that, in spite of some amazing women's fashions, in many ways 1962 was not a nice time. Maybe looking back people can see things they miss from that time, but the levels of racism and sexism prevalent in society then are shocking to those who never knew them first hand. The 21st Century may not be free of either, but it has at least made it impolite and unwise to let such thoughts and feelings show.

Or so I thought until a tweet directed me to a blog post lamenting the decline of science fiction because of, as near as I can tell, girl cooties. There were a ton of comments, several of which agreed with my sentiments precisely enough I felt no compulsion to post a comment myself. Still, I was a little stunned that someone would a) feel this way, and b) be willing to tell the world that he felt this way. To me, this sentence says it all: "Science fiction traditionally is about men doing things, inventing new technologies, exploring new worlds, making new scientific discoveries, terraforming planets, etc."

I added the emphasis on the word men, because that is this guy's point. It is men who do worthwhile things, and he doesn't mean date, fall in love, get married, and have kids. No, he means manly accomplishments like building stuff— and also blowing it up.

Maybe he should watch Mad Men and pretend it's contemporary? He might feel less threatened.

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Tags: culture and society, science fiction

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