According to the Times Online, the French government has allowed some very special trees, with a connection to WWII soldiers defending France, to be chopped down:
The beech trees of Saint Pierre de Varengeville-Duclair forest bore a poignant testimony to the D-Day landings for more than six decades. Thousands of American soldiers stationed there after the liberation of Normandy spent their spare hours with a knife or bayonet creating a lasting reminder of their presence.
There’s an intriguing commentary at Fantasy Magazine, regarding the mainstreaming of science fiction on TV. Writer Jeremiah Tolbert describes a work friend who loves Lost, but hates science fiction. OK – How many fans of Indiana Jones (even before the recent movie with its UFO underpinnings) thought of the blockbuster in fantasy terms?
Maybe this trend has been going on longer than we realize…
People who enjoy science fiction, fantasy, etc., do not necessarily participate in the organized “fandom”, or acknowledge themselves as “fans”. That’s probably always been true, but for different reasons. Common wisdom is that fandom’s camaraderie was necessary in drier times, when plenty of people enjoyed speculative books, movies, etc – but weren’t supposed to talk about it with enthusiasm. It always pains me to read novelist and teacher John Gardner’s commentary about science fiction and mystery in On Becoming A Novelist, his 1983 swan song, suggesting that such work is inevitably third-rate.
But now? One late ’90s study (if I can dig it up…) claimed to show that about half the American public considers themselves a “Star Trek fan”. Love it, hate it, Trek is here to stay, and has a large presence in our public consciousness – and that’s even while the series is in a lull. Who knows what other “speculative fiction” is going to last? (Safe bet: Harry Potter.)
Last month, I happily stumbled upon Justine Larbalestier’s site for her book The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction – which analyzes how Golden Age SF stories reflected or tweaked gender differences. It was easy to share her passionate fascination with the letter columns in early pulp magazines – several letters are excerpted on the site. These magazines were inexpensive and read by a broad audience, and you get the sense that most readers did not limit themselves to just “genre” entertainment, or interests. Maybe when they finished reading a John Campbell story on the tram home, they took their dimes and watched Humphrey Bogart gun down Leslie Howard in The Petrified Forest, and later, back at home, listened to Fred Allen on the radio.
Likewise, one advantage Lost creator J.J. Abrams has is his ability to move from a science fiction story, to a dramatic show for young adults, like Felicity, or an action-adventure like Alias or Armageddon. Gene Roddenberry and influential writer Gene L. Coon had that versatility, though most people only remember their work on Star Trek. Do other speculative TV creators today have that same flexibility? Maybe not. Or maybe they don’t mind.
But many “great” SF writers of the past did not necessarily limit themselves to one genre, either seeing their written work on a continuum of topics and styles, or needing to branch out for economic reasons. Isaac Asimov wrote mysteries and nonfiction science; Fredric Brown wrote mysteries; survivor Harlan Ellison wrote ’50s pulps about juvenile delinquents, and media criticism in the 1970s; Alfred Bester became a travel writer and then editor of Holiday; L. Sprague de Camp wrote historical fiction.
I’ve heard a little scuttlebutt that some speculative fic writers would love to cross over into other fields, but that there’s more external pressure to limit themselves to one genre. Not everyone gets to be Stephen King (even Stephen King’s publisher apparently had to explain who “Richard Bachman” was, to help sales).
Anyway, it goes against the traditional view of small, influential groups of male fans like the Futurians, let alone the hoary old “fans are slans” bit, when you read a letter by a nurse in 1939, stating that she likes to read the pulps and share them with her girlfriends and coworkers. Thousands of people in Depression America went to see fantasy movies like King Kong, Lost Horizon, and Topper, and they didn’t worry whether anyone thought they were “geeky” or strange for doing so… Which is more proof that this mainstreaming is nothing new.
I think what’s really happening today is a mainstreaming of fandom – enthusiasm is OK and even encouraged – and that has a lot to do with the Internet. No matter what you love, you can find a blog or a site about it (hopefully this one, reader, is one of your picks!).
Another interesting tidbit to consider… some people who do participate in more organized fandom or are just passionate about a show or series, seem drawn to the non-speculative elements of their favorite fiction. They fall in love with the characters, or the premise has special resonance for them. Example: fans of Star Trek who are more intrigued by the friendship of Kirk and Spock, or a romantic pairing between two characters, and who are interested in fan stories that have less action/adventure or speculative content. You’ll now find that in fans of shows like Battlestar Galactica, Buffy, Firefly, Heroes, Stargate, etc. A college buddy was a rather passionate fan of The X-Files but mainly because of star David Duchovny (well, I’d have to admit it was a good reason for me to tune in, too…ahem).
Fandom may continue to change, but it’s doubtful that science fiction’s mainstream popularity will go away anytime soon.