“I imagine that almost any male would at least occasionally wish he had biceps as hard as chrome steel and could wield a fifty pound sword as though it were a bamboo cane and could use it to drive vile caitiffs to the chine…Oddly enough, I shudder at such things…Heroes date back much farther than Conan, you may be sure. They are as old as literature, and the most consistently popular one are notable for their muscles and not much else…Gammas destroy everything they get their hands on, because they are primarily motivated by negativity. They have no desire to build or improve, they harbor the desire to get even for past wrongs both real and imaginary.
It took the ancient Greeks to come up with something better. In the Odyssey, however, the hero is Odysseus, who is an efficient enough fighter but, in addition, he had brains…In this battle of brains and brawn, however, the audience is never quite at ease with the victory of brains…Clearly, the readers are expected to feel that it is noble and admirable for the hero to pit his own superhuman strength against the lesser physiques of his enemies, and also to feel that there is something perfidious about a magician pitting his own superhuman intelligence against the lesser wit of his enemies.
This double standard is very evident in sword-and-sorcery, in which the sword-hero (brawn) is pitted against the sorcery-villain (brain), with brawn winning every time. The convention is, furthermore, that brawn is always on the side of goodness and niceness (a proposition which, in real life, is very dubious…Nevertheless, I consider the typical sword-and-sorcery tale to be anti-science fiction; to be the very opposite of science fiction. It is for that reason that you are not likely to find anything of the sort published in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine.”
Sunday, February 19, 2017
How science fiction became gamma
It was because Isaac Asimov was a spaghetti-armed nerd who hated and envied stronger men whom women liked better than him: