“Christmas,” said Doctor Drinkwater as his red-cheeked face sped smoothly toward Smoky’s, “is a kind of day, like no other in the year, that doesn’t seem to succeed the days it follows, if you see what I mean.” . . .
“I mean,” Doctor Drinkwater said, reappearing beside him, “that every Christmas seems to follow immediately after the last one; all the months that came between don’t figure in. Christmases succeed each other, not the falls they follow.”
—John Crowley, Little, Big
This has been quite a year, he said with some substantial understatement. I am writing this less than a week after the Newtown massacre, the fifth mass shooting in the US in the last six months. Two months ago, a late-season category 1 hurricane collided with an early winter storm at spring tide and did an estimated $100 billion in damage to New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut; entire towns along the ocean shore were drowned, or burnt, or left empty for months. The American government is on the verge of implementing austerity through a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes, racing to copy the second-stage recession that is busily destroying the entire social safety net of the United Kingdom.
I have long felt that one of the underdiscussed reasons that “science fiction has lost the future” is that the biggest problems facing the world—in the west, in the emerging economies of China and India, in Africa and South America—are political, not technological or scientific. This is not to say that scientific discovery and technological advances don’t have roles in solving the problems, but that discovery and advance can’t change the world in isolation from the political structures of the world.
The creators of science fiction are not, generally speaking, any more politically savvy than the average person. For every [feel free to insert a name here—oh, what the hell, let’s say Bruce Sterling again] Bruce Sterling, trying to grapple with the simultaneous rise in global temperature and advent of 3-D printing, there’s a gold-bug arguing that fiat currency is the ultimate cause of all mankind’s woes. If science fiction is going to continue to play a role in the world of ideas, it has to get a lot smarter about the interplay between scientific and technological change and the processes by which change spreads throughout the world, and what forces promote and retard those changes.
Well. Just had to get that off my chest.
You might not be able to tell, but I’m quite a sentimentalist about Christmas. I have various rituals (mostly revolving around music) and I’m a sucker for Santa Claus, the great secular god of good for goodness’ sake whose day we celebrate. I love the lights—I live in neighborhood where holiday decoration is an open sport. The shopping I can do without; it’s one of my points of pride that I never buy anything other than lunch on Black Friday. But I do buy gifts for my nearest and dearest and for anyone for whom the mood strikes. Christmas, the end of the cycle, is the pleasant shutting down of the inevitably overwrought year.
And then immediately after comes the Big Reset, the accident of the calendar which still encourages us, liberates us, to begin again.
Bookkeeping matter: If you had a subscription to NYRSF through either the IAFA or SFRA and haven’t received your issues in a while, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. We know that there are still a fair number of former subscribers who haven’t migrated to Weightless Books.
Hey, have I mentioned recently that we have nearly every print issue of NYRSF still available? Check out the index and drop me a line and let’s make a deal.
On that note, have a good one. See you in the new year. Stay warm and dry and above all, don’t get killed.
—Kevin J. Maroney and the editors