I reread my post on Asimov’s and realized that in my guns blazing critique I left out my main problem with the magazine. The stories, for the most part, are well written, and beyond my amateur writing to technically critique. But, and this is a massive but. They are boring. The worst thing a story can do is bore me and I had to force myself to finish most of them.
I became a fan of Science Fiction and Fantasy a bit different than a lot of people. Narnia and Lord of the Rings were not my opening introduction. For me, the gatekeeper of strange new worlds was Conan the Barbarian and Dungeons & Dragons. I devoured SFF in the form of 90s pulp television like Hercules, Xena, and the animated Conan show. I loved going back to the gritty SFF of the 80s; Conan, Heavy Metal, Robocop, Total Recall, Alien, Predator, and other great pieces of fiction.
Some of the fondest memories of my childhood are reminiscent of the opening to Stranger Things. My brother and our friends spending countless hours lost exploring damp dungeons and putting vile creatures to the sword. Fantasy was dark, mysterious, yet romantic and heroic. Worlds filled with dark dungeons, treacherous mountains, exotic jungles, and grotesque alien beasts.
The Fantasy and Science Fiction we loved was far from the boring slice of life tripe I come across nowadays. None of our favorite tales involved some boring putz pining about the woman that left him before coming to a forgettable unresolved end. It was fun, action-packed, and filled with adventure.
The type of stuff I enjoy is still easily found everywhere. From recent movies, tv, videogames, and anime. People love it, evidenced by the millions who attend Comic Cons and the huge fandom for 80s style action adventure. Where it’s conspicuously missing is where it should be found front and center. Mainstream SFF magazines.
If you are looking for adventure, heroism, mystery, and wonder, the last place you will find it is between the pages of today’s major SFF magazines. Instead, you will find dull, depressing, pointless character pieces that lack agency, action, and plot. It would be fitting if Asimov’s changed its name to Ambien’s because from cover to credit the whole thing is soporific.
But there is Hope. Good, action packed, adventurous SFF is out there and a revolution is brewing. Indy magazines like Cirsova are pushing for a pulp revival. Bloggers all over the place are commenting on the topic like Misha Burnetts post The Five Pillars of Pulp Revival.
Science Fiction and Fantasy stories need to move past the post-modern literary quicksand it has become mired in. We need to expel the failed Creative Writing MFA carpet baggers and their slice of life, preachy, dull, writing. It’s time to bring back adventure, action, and romance to the genre it most belongs in.