Friday, January 27, 2017

The New Golden Age

We live in the new Golden Age of the imaginative arts. That's not a minor thing. Someday, assuming civilization stands and scholarship is able to maintain the records of our culture, some Humanities professor is going to be explaining that the most notable key characteristic of the arts of the 19th and early 20th centuries was the increasing use and expansion of imagined, fantastic, futuristic, and supernatural elements, in everything from the practical forms of advertising and publicity to mainstream to the fine arts. Year by year it has become more and more difficult to imagine any description of trends in culture that fail to mention the move from the realistic and observational to the surreal and imagined.

A flood of imaginative arts, from Fantastic Beasts...

Someday I intend to write about that expansion--the slow domination of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and similar tropes throughout much of the so-called "modern" world. Right now, though, I just want to talk about what that amounts to on a daily, practical level.

Among the other things David and I hope I will be doing is reviewing--books, TV shows, movies, you name it. I knew I was a bit out of touch--you get busy and the genre material races past you like two-year-olds at the Kentucky Derby--but I figured I would spend a few days reviewing what was new out there, or what had been out there awhile but not yet caught my full attention. Then I'd pick a few likely choices.

Ha-ha. I'm forced to admit I will never catch up--never fully take in the floods of material showing up. Even with Hulu and Netflix and a range of other streaming services, I am dubious I am going to catch up with the primary fantasy fiction in movies, much less the stuff on TV. A look at the science fiction, fantasy, and horror fields suggests I am again out of my depths--and I am not a slow reader. I can watch shows about devils (Lucifer, Sleepy Hollow, Supernatural), zombies (The Walking Dead and more), artificially intelligent android life (Westworld, Humans), several different versions of "fairy tales are real," (Grimm, Once Upon a Time...) science fiction, and beyond...

The truth is, it's going to take me a little while to decide how I want to structure this. I want this Friday column to be about the imaginative arts--about the images, the narratives, the music, the animation, the entire vast field of creative dreaming. As a writer, a not-all-that-capable artist, and a lover of the genres, I want to talk about what we have done, what we can do, about how we judge art and how we share it. It's going to take a while, though, to decide where I want to start, and the fact that I'm living in such a wealth of material only makes it more challenging. I don't know whether to start with Pokemon or Pan's Labyrinth; with Fantastic Beasts or web comic funnies. The range and the richness overwhelms me.

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