As a writer, there’s something sobering in realizing that all of us creative types will eventually face the ultimate form of cancel culture: Death. And most of us will lose.
Almost all the Modern Masters of Science Fiction and Fantasy that I read in my teens — Jack Vance, Poul Anderson, Fritz Leiber are now classed largely as Dead Writers Who Are Really Good, Too Bad Kids Today Don’t Read Them. While changing styles and problematic stuff are part of that — I like Vance’s work but a lot of it is sexist — I think another factor is that these writers are dead. Not that people don’t read dead authors but there’s also a strong draw to people who are putting out stuff now, not decades in the past.
For every Robert E. Howard or H.P. Lovecraft who remains a name long after their death there are dozens of writers who don’t. Some are known for a single story, some just fade. Seabury Quinn was the number one writer at Weird Tales in the 1930s, bigger than Howard or Lovecraft. His works are still available in paperback but he’s no longer a name to conjure with.
Or look at this page from the back of an Ace paperback from the 1960s:I know a lot of these names — Leigh Brackett, Murray Leinster, Marion Zimmer Bradley, etc. — but I’ve never heard of Putnam or Glasby (I could look them up easy enough but that’s not the point). They were published, had at least a small measure of success but now? Crickets.
This doesn’t stop me from writing but I do find it sobering to think that most us and our works will be, in the end, dust in the wind.
#SFWApro. Cover by Jack Gaugan.