I’ve been reading a fair amount of James Tiptree Jr, lately, whom I am starting to think is perhaps a great SF author. She certainly warms my inner Schopenhauer, as the outlook of human existence that emerges from her stories is at times similar to, and almost as unremittingly pessimistic, as that irritable German’s was.
Actually, I have noticed that I gravitate a bit more towards some of the more pessimistic SF writers (like Vance), and I think I know why: there is a bit of a loss of humanity, or at least a bit of shallowness, required to sincerely take up the secular, Roddenberry-esque optimist attitude. The pessimists, are, ironically, not as far down the road of despair. They still have desires and longings which transcend the satisfactions of technology and social reform.
Take, for instance, Tiptree’s story, “With Delicate Mad Hands”, about a mistreated woman who thinks she is insane – she has a voice in her head. But the voice turns out to be the call of a far-away alien who loves her. What struck me was how this realization is couched in terms similar to a religious conversion:
Know that she – Carol-Page-Snotface-CP-Cold-Pig – had walked all her days and nights embraced by love. Alien love, at first for a little-alien-among-the-stars, but soon, soon for her alone.
She had never been alone.
She, Carol-Page-Snotface-etcetera was the Beloved…and always had been.
I am also a romantic at heart. And while pessimism isn’t itself romantic, but it can emerge from that attitude as a sort of side-effect, or perhaps as a vice.