Editorial License: It Was Twenty Years Ago Today
by Ernest Lilley
SFRevu Column ISBN/ITEM#: 0411EL
Date: 11/15/04 / Show Official Info /
Twenty years ago today. Hmmm. Oh yeah. 1984. Heck of a year for William Gibson to pick to publish Neuromancer (See Review). Actually, it was a pretty good year, and the reissue of Gibson's seminal cyberwork got me thinking back.
1984. That sounded ominous. Where was Big Brother? We looked around and found the world much too hip to be a George Orwell dystopia. Thus does SF mold the future. Big Brother was out there, sure enough, but he'd read the book too and knew what not to look like. I think more than any other event, the passing of 1984 drove home the reality that the future isn't something you can really expect.
Still, it was quite a year. Nothing like today. Ray Charles came out with a new album. Now he's come out in a new movie. U2 was doing pretty well, even though they didn't have an iPOD commercial to their name.
It was a pretty decent year for SF film, and special effects. The Last Starfighter was the first SF film to use total CGI for the space sequences, and though it looked great at the time...it looks like bad anime now. But there were movies like Starman, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, Dune, Ghostbusters, Electric Dreams, The Search for Spock and...The Terminator. If you want dystopic films, there were some good ones, and one of my all time favorites, The Repo Man. "The life of a repo man is always intense." So were the 80s.
Gibson wasn't the only one to come up with a terrific book in 1984, though I confess I haven't checked the Hugo nominees for the year. Brin brought out the second Uplift novel, another of my favorites: Startide Rising. You could even read a new Heinlein novel, Job: A Comedy of Justice, though I'd pretty much sworn off RAH by then, preferring to remember him as he was when I was younger. Fred Pohl took us back to Gateway with Heechee Redevous, and there was even one of my absurd if not quite guilty pleasures: The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai.
There isn't really a lot of point to this ramble, except to note that time seems to have stopped around 1984. Yes, there have been lots of new technologies, most notably the internet, but right around the mid-80s things stopped evolving and started just changing randomly. That's post-modernism for you. No direction means anywhere is as good as anywhere else. For the last twenty years we've been running around in circles, and while it's been fun (at times) I think it's time to grab the wheel and go see what's over the horizon.
Orwell warned us away from one future, Gibson at least tried to warn us away from another, though it looked so cool we went there anyway...but I think the time is ripe for us to take another shot at picking a future we want to live in, blending the lessons learned with the hopes we started out with and not being quite so afraid to accept at least working definitions of terms like "right" and "wrong"...and to lean towards "right".
Things are happening around the world, and it's time to choose what kind of future we want and build it with our own hands. The Boomers generation has dreamed long enough - it's time they left a legacy for the next generation to build on. They may not gain the stars, but that's no reason not to offer them to generations to come.