You don’t read Golden Age SF for the Science

SFSignal: Does Golden Age Science Fiction Suck?
Over on SFSignal, John tackles an issue that the curator of the SF museum mentioned on an interview on NPR.


Jacob McMurray said:

“A lot of books in the ’50s and ’40s don’t hold up at all now because, either the scientific advances that they’re talking about just never happened, or these sort of cultural things that were happening at the time are so different than what’s happening now that it seems absurd,” he tells Liane Hansen. “I think a lot of the stuff from the ’60s and ’70s, when authors were trying to focus on social aspects of humanity, I think those books hold up really well. You know, a lot of the science fiction that’s happening in the ’80s and ’90s today is less fantastic, sort of focused on scientific technologies that are happening today.”

I agree with John’s assertion that it depends on what you mean by “Holds up”. In terms of the science in the stories, no, that doesn’t hold up. We didn’t wind up in the Jetsons world. On the other hand, the computer I write this on, right now, is far more advanced than anything in Golden Age SF.
On the other hand, I, myself, do not read something like, say, The Witches of Karres for its predictive science. Too, Asimov, Heinlein, Vance (whose fiction really invokes the Golden Age no matter when he wrote it) and many, many others. It’s the writing, stupid. Milieus, characters, plots, and ideas.
You don’t read Golden Age SF for the Science or just the Science. There are other virtues to be found.