The Year Is 2196 and Science Fiction Is a Thing of the Past

Trumptober 37, 2196

Mr. Wasimov:

I have now read your manuscript, “Saturn Daylight Five,” which I thank you for transmitting my way. While you display a great aptitude for penning compelling characters and natural dialogue, unfortunately I found that the plot of your purported science fiction novel simply is not feasible, inasmuch as every circumstance, major or minor, that presents a challenge to the protagonists can be solved with the most common of modern tools.

In the opening chapter, for example, when your adolescent hero, Fallon Starr, oversleeps and as a result needs to get from his home to his high school in short order so that he won’t miss his final exam in xenomixology, you have him disable the speed governor of his hoverjalopy. I understand that this is to establish early on his facility with hypermotive technology, but it isn’t a believable solution to that particular problem. More likely, Starr would either teleposit directly from his bedroom to his classroom (or, if his family has only one telepositor, from wherever in their home they keep the unit) or use his personal chronograsp to stop time for everyone else. As it happens, I found it necessary to do both of those things this morning, myself, in order to arrive punctually at a mandatory staff meeting. (It wasn’t worth it, between you, me, and my Dictawave.)

Not long after this first instance, Starr is introduced to the romantic interest, Luna Doone. Something tells him that she’s very sad about something, and Starr wonders if maybe Doone has a broken heart. I realize that I’m perhaps being too literal here, but if Starr genuinely believes that this fetching young lady is suffering with a cardiac injury, or any other physical ailment, rather than try to find out about it through the grapevine, he would have put on his X-Ray Speeks, which would have revealed immediately — and audibly — any condition that might have rendered Doone less than ideal as a mate. After all, isn’t that why each of us is issued a pair? To keep the human race alive and well?

The abduction of Fallon’s plucky kid sister, Ruby, by the villainous android-reptile-people of Adrastea is problematic for two reasons:

(1) The kidnapping provides the impetus for Fallon and Luna to venture off-planet to retrieve Ruby, and indeed much of the novel recounts their attempts to find the girl, but why wouldn’t Ruby activate her cerebrocortical loco-signaller at the first sign of danger? As an unemanicipated minor, she would have one. (There is no evidence that the Starrs are technophobes or neo-Amish.)

(2) Ruby’s captors bear an uncomfortable resemblance to the lizard-robot-people of Amalthea, with whom humans have had a mutual non-aggression and non-defamation treaty since 2143.

Much later, when Fallon, Luna, and the nearly-rescued Ruby are surrounded by the angry, advancing hordes of seductive Venusian Flytramps, the trio formulates and executes an elaborate escape plan… but Luna could have used that time to reproduce asexually, repeatedly, providing our heroes with a small army of disposable Luna-clones of their own! For better or worse, you can’t ignore the result of thousands of years of evolution and advances in women’s rights for the sake of fiction.

Finally — and I’m afraid that even if you were able to address all of my other concerns, this one would remain and render the novel unpublishable — why would Fallon bother to struggle to remember his xenomixology lessons in order to concoct a perfect Spiral Arm Swizzle to serve the monarch of Pulsar Prime in the climax of the story when he could have just asked Google for the recipe? Even deep under the surface of that alien sun-world, he would have immediate access to all the information stored in the nebula.

Please believe me, Mr, Wasimov, when I tell you that I admire the work you’ve done here. Regrettably, however, it would seem that the age of science fiction as our forebears knew it is behind us. Nonetheless, I expect that you could easily use your talents to write something formidable in a different genre. (Have you considered penning a Western? There is still much material to be mined from the ongoing exploration and settlement of the farthest reaches of the Milky Way.) Whatever you choose to write next, I hope you will contact me again, telephasically, telepathically, or otherwise.

All Glory to Ggodd,
Chester del Rey-Gunn