Many of us think of Science Fiction as a young literary form, still vibrant with the flush of new ideas and optimism about what stories can do. Even the most brutal, gloomy, nihilistic distopia can still thrill with bright new language, vivid ideas, and a genuine love of busting out of the storytelling box. I don't necessarily refer to avant-garde post-narrative constructions that aren't even recognizable as stories—we like to leave that to the academic mainstream. I mean finding new things to do with stories!
But Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror—the speculative fiction trio—are not really all that young anymore. They're getting to that age where many of their best friends are passing on. Sure there are a few younger generations at the height of their powers keeping the community young and full of good raw energy. But it seems like not a month goes by without some sad news filtering in.
This is not a surprise revelation, I realize.
Most people probably knew that the form wasn't young anymore way back in the sixties, when "New Wave" writers felt the need to rebel against the elder generations. Or maybe when that patriarch of the golden age, John W. Campbell, died in '71. It may have come home in a more personal way to most readers when Heinlein and Asimov died ('88 and '92).
But these days the ranks of First Fandom are thinning, and some of the great names of even the New Wave are starting to show up with a year to the right of the dash in their biographies.
Science Fiction has documented itself pretty well, so we don't need to rely on oral tradition to remember what things were like back in the pulp era, or in the New York clubhouses of the Futurians, or at the early conventions...but that era is slipping away from living memory.
The Internet Review of Science Fiction, perhaps belatedly, is introducing what we hope will not be a monthly feature, the obituary column. We began this unofficially back in March with Steven Barnes' eulogy to Octavia Butler, but now we're making it official.
We are extraordinarily fortunate to have Kristine Kathryn Rusch's sensitive memories of Robert Sheckley as our first formal obituary in IROSF. While it is true that Mr. Sheckley died in December, we generally consider significance to be more important than timeliness.
The goal of this column is to remember the most important contributors to the field with articles by those who knew them well. This is an opportunity for reader participation, however, as your editors may not always know who knew them well. For example: a couple of months ago one of my personal favorites, Stanislaw Lem, passed away. If you have an idea as to who might be well qualified to speak of Lem's life and works, please speak up in the forums.
Of course, remembering people after they are gone is important, but so is celebrating the new and the active. On that front, I think you will find the current issue bursting with life.