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The Golden Age of Science Fiction

Back when I was growing up in rural America, I didn’t realize what a remarkable time period I lived in. My dreams always leapt to the future in far flung galaxies or excavated in the past amid ancient or fantastical civilizations.  I practically lived in the library where I had free access to these worlds through the pages of books.  Yet I always longed for the days when I could afford to buy my own copies, when books would be as free and plentiful and accessible as the air I breathed.

Fast forward to the 21st century when all my dreams seemed to come true: books are plentiful and accessible thanks to e-readers and publishing platforms like Createspace; however, the writers have changed.  Back in the Golden Age of science fiction, writers wrote series of books, not books of series. They created marvelous worlds and characters and spun countless episodes of adventures like an ongoing television series.

Today, however, writers take one story, pump it up with useless backstory, bland dialogue and wasted pages of description in order to stretch the one story over a dozen books. And I am left back in the exact same desert as before—unable to satisfy my thirst for imaginary worlds and larger than life characters.

But back to the Golden Age of Science Fiction.  In the decades leading up to the 1970s, science fiction had a positive outlook—even the most thought-provoking stories left the reader with a gleam of hope at the end, a chance that humanity could learn from their mistakes and move forward into a glorious age of space exploration.  Even the cautionary tales, the woeful predictions of gloom and doom were offset with stories detailing the best humanity had to offer. There was also a slew of juvie lit (not necessarily about high school kids), but written for high schoolers that showed we could overcome our base nature and rise to join the vast and glorious civilizations that spanned the galaxies.  It was a time for encouragement and enthusiasm to explore the cosmos and every kid wanted to be a huge part of it.

At least, those of us who read science fiction.

I miss those stories. Even going to the library today finds precious little on the shelves worth my time and investment. Oh, I know Tom Corbett, Andre Norton, Ray Bradbury, and the Heinlein juvie novels were formulaic – that’s what made them so great! In spite of the peril and danger we knew our heroes would succeed. In a world fraught with real dangers and problems, losing myself in an uplifting story was a sorely needed form of escapism.

I think we’ve lost something vital with today’s version of science fiction. We are breeding a generation that has no imagination, that expects aliens to plot the destruction of humanity (and thus expects humanity to plot its own demise), that hasn’t the gumption to reach outward to the stars because of all the obstacles that must first be overcome. Today’s science fiction does far more to defeat the exploration of space than to entice young people to boldly go where no one has gone before.

With our passion for “realistic” stories we have lost not only a piece of our history, but a piece of ourselves. And a society that lacks imagination, can never prepare for the future.

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Door Into Summer

Some may recognize the title of this blog as that of a novel by Robert Heinlein; one of my favorite novels, BTW. However, this blog isn’t about the novel or even science fiction; rather, it is about actual doors.

I love architecture and there is nothing more basic in architecture than a door. You can tell a lot about a house (and a person) by the doors leading into the building or into various rooms.

Doors have character. Doors can be inspiring. Doors can lead us into adventure, romance, success, and love. Doors can also hide, shelter, and surprise. I am reminded of the 1800s in England when families spent Christmas Eve decorating the tree and hiding it behind closed doors until Christmas morning. Doors have strength. Sometimes a plain, blue, wooden door can defend against more hordes than the latest technology.

I love surfing Pinterest for intriguing and unique doors. Some are wooden, some are carved, some are colorful, some are ruined, but all have that intangible something that proclaims “art!”

Doors can welcome and doors can also shut out. As individuals, we have “doors” in our personal lives. Sometimes those doors stand wide open, saying “come in and sit a spell.” At other times, our doors are firmly shut against the world, against hurt, against life. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to open the doors of one’s heart and invite someone in. It takes even more courage to keep the door open in the face of hurt or adversity, to let someone know, “I invited you in and in spite of everything that’s happened, you are still welcome; you are still part of my life.”

So what do we do about the doors we inadvertently slammed shut and long to open back to the light and life, but fear to? Sometimes we can’t do it with our own strength. Maybe the door is wedged because of bitterness or desperation. Maybe the door is swollen shut because of pride or anger. In those cases, it takes someone from the outside, someone who has taken the time to find the right key to our hearts, to open those doors and help us start living again.

Doors are not to be feared; rather, doors are to be embraced and utilized. They enclose heat and warmth and light, shut out the bitter cold and wild elements, provide beauty, and most of all shelter us from the harshness of the crueler elements of life.

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