Letter from the Editor
About 2012 Arts Issue
The trouble with space travel is that its history consists of a long string of crushing disappointments. When Apollo 11 touched down on the moon, the world rejoiced — for a time. After a while, the mundane reality began to set in: th
ere’s nothing to do in space. We mucked around a bit in the lunar rover and then left, never to return. It is the constant dilemma of the early adopter — sure, you may have a new holographic telephone, but who will you talk to?
The realization that progress was actually crushingly banal may have been responsible for the space opera revolution that began with “Star Wars” in 1977. Our unfulfilled stellar ambitions had to find a new home, and so they turned to the arts for sustenance. Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust,” Asimov’s catalogue of sublimely thoughtful science fiction novels, shows like “Star Trek: The Next Generation” — all fantastic examples of what the genre was capable of, and all emerging from the post-moon landing era. Not everything from that period was a “Blade Runner” or an “Empire Strikes Back,” but at least there were spaceships.
While sci-fi never entirely vanished, it lost its place in the cultural spotlight for many years. In the span of less than a decade, we went from “Terminator 2” — still among the best action movies ever made — to “Battlefield Earth,” a film of such baffling stupidity that it approached greatness from the other direction. Films like “The Matrix” provided only momentary relief. In the end, it took advances in real-life technology — whether in special effects for film and television, synthesized sound for music or easy Internet distribution for books — to bring science fiction back to life.
But this year — as illustrated in the following pages — we can at last say it with some confidence: science fiction lives again. The great storytellers of our age now have a cosmic canvas on which to paint their masterworks. And if they’re not all tours de force, at least there will be spaceships.