As someone who posted after me pointed out, this is one of an emerging genre of books that posit famous historical personages as secret warriors in the fight against the undead. Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer is a famous one. There are others including Queen Victoria and even Sarah Palin, though I hope the latter is satire of some sort.
My problem isn't with the individual books, but that they are viewed by the world at large as science fiction or at best fantasy. And we should all be aware that to those outside the fan base for those things, there isn't a difference.
But the question this really begs is have we expended all of our ideas to the extent that the only way forward is endless remixing and rehashing of what we've already done?
I have a folder full of ideas that argues otherwise. But if every author has one of these folders (and they do) then why does it seem like it?
While I was thinking about this, I stumbled across a thought-provoking essay by astrophysicist and novelist David Brin on how to define Science Fiction and while I don't agree on every point, it clarified a lot of what I've been feeling about the state of science fiction.
The lack of originality is one part pessimism and one part laziness. Because if you believe there are no new stories to tell, or if you believe that telling an imaginative and uplifting story is trite, then why not be lazy?
"Let there be no mistake—this is the giant fault line down the middle of science fiction’s broadly varied and tolerantly diverse community of authors and readers. The notion that children might, possibly, sometimes,learn from the mistakes of their parents, avoid repeating them… then forge on to make new mistakes all their own, overcoming obstacles on their way to becoming better beings than ourselves."On this point, I concur with Dr. Brin: we live in a time when optimism is treated as though it were a contagious disease. When the hope that (as Dr Brin says) our successors might learn from our mistakes and not repeat them seems anathema to us. Year after year, we are hammered with stories whose key element seems to be complete failure of human society to learn and improve.
David BrinWriting for the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologieshttp://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/4947
And I get that too. I watch the events that are happening in the world. As a student of history, I see the cycles of human experience repeat. And it saddens me.
But it does not make me a pessimist.
Howard Carter is an homage to the greatest stories of Sci Fi's past, but it is more than that. Its story rests on the refutation that cycles are unbreakable. Its stance is pointedly and fearlessly anti-fatalist.
Because I am, at heart, an optimist. I'm a cynical one sometimes, but an optimist nonetheless.
There are dystopian stories that need to be told. And science fiction does and should have a role to play in warning us of the future consequences of current trends. But I feel deeply and personally that we took a wrong turn somewhere when we decided that science fiction had to stop positing positive futures. Not that dystopian stories should not be told, but by making it cliche or trite to posit any advancement and dwell solely on the inevitability of decline, we've shot ourselves in the collective foot as a literary movement and as a society.
Though much of it is dystopian, Steampunk is an expression of this, a point that I think Dr. Brin misses. That by re-imagining the past as more enlightened and inclusive than it really way, we've turned our optimism inside out and sent it back in time and into alternate universes. When we were told we're not allowed to imagine that mankind can be better, we started imagining how mankind could have been better.
I don't think these strange genre fluctuations and mash-ups mean we've run out of ideas or that we've reached the end of our creativity. I think it means we're running against a wall and I see it as a sign of frustration on the part of authors at the constraints imposed upon them. I see them as a way of saying, 'If we can't go forward, we'll go under, over, or around'.
But then... I am an optimist.