Wednesday, February 01, 2017

on aging, 2/1

One of the most variable aspects of aging is its resulting change in perspective. Frankly, it's weird enough to be a matter of science fiction.

I was wandering around our awesome coffee shop/used book store last week. I walked through the sci-fi section to browse. I didn't, however, find very many authors I recognized. At first, I thought it was just because I live in a smaller town. After some reflection, though, I realized it was because I'm old.

When I think of sci-fi, I think in two categories: classic and contemporary. However, these categories are not givens. What is contemporary for me is obviously not contemporary nowadays. I get that. But why was there no classic science fiction?

I scanned the shelves and couldn't help but be struck by the absence of Clarke, Besser, and Niven. Weren't these the authors of the science fiction greats? I browsed some more before I realized that there was also no Verne, Wells, or Burroughs either. While these were also sci-fi greats, it dawned on me that it's not like I'm intimately familiar with Buck Rogers or anything, even though I should be.
Classics, I realized, are relative. I knew that taste was definitely a factor, yes, but it didn't really occur to me that classic science fiction would also be relative to age. As I walked up and down the aisle of unfamiliar genre fiction, I realized I should've figured this out a long time ago.

No Philip K. Dick. No Heinlein. No Bradbury. I was surrounded by the familiar smell of used paperbacks, enveloped by texts of a familiar genre, but still, my familiar touchstones were nowhere to be seen.

This, I realized, is what it likes to get old.

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