Earl Kemp's Who Killed Science Fiction

Per George Santayana's famous comment that "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," I would like to point out that the continual hand wringing over whether or not short science fiction is dying is almost five decades too late. In 1960 Earl Kemp asked the top science fiction authors a series of questions, the first of which was "Do you feel that magazine science fiction is dead?" The results were published as Who Killed Science Fiction, which went on to win the 1961 Hugo Award for best fanzine.

Two years ago Earl Kemp published an updated and unexpurgated online version of Who Killed Science Fiction. It's an amazing experience to read through the responses from authors like Robert A. Heinlein, Philip José Farmer, Isaac Asimov, Alfred Bester, Ray Bradbury, and Marion Zimmer Bradley. One highlight is the interview with Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., who states that "Anybody who announces that he is a science fiction writer is announcing that he is in damn bad company financially and artistically." Kemp's updated version of the publication then gives Vonnegut's second thoughts about those harsh words, as he states in a letter to Kemp that "My own contribution to Who Killed Science Fiction? was irresponsible, and I'm sorry for it."

I challenge everyone who moans about the coming death of science fiction short stories to read through this amazing piece of SF history. I think you'll find that many of the arguments and issues being raised today are the same ones being raised back then, which leads me to suspect that forty years from now people will still be writing and publishing SF short fiction--and moaning about the genre's coming death.

(As a side note, Earl Kemp still publishes a monthly e-zine. Check out the back issues here.)