Yesterday, I mused about the production of O’Neill’s Strange Interlude that I saw over the weekend. The production must have affected me more than I thought, because I find that I still have things to say about it.
As I mentioned, the play was written in 1923 and produced in 1928. The action in the play starts somewhat after Armistice Day (the main character has had time to have a nervous breakdown and to begin recovering.) The play then moves forward in time, some 2o-odd years. Therefore, Strange Interlude is, in some ways, genre fiction — near-future science fiction. (Except for the fact that it’s not particularly pre-occupied with science…)
O’Neill accomplishes his future writing by keeping things general. When he wants to show a wealthy couple, he places them in a lavish Park Avenue apartment (betting that the luxe address of the 1920s would continue to be so through the end of the 30′s.) He displays “privilege” by placing his characters at a regatta, without naming specific schools who are rowing.
Of course, O’Neill misses some things. He does not hint at the Great Depression, which would have had a serious impact on his wealthy characters. He cannot be aware of the rise of German nationalism, which might well have had echoes in a play about Freudian analysis, the lasting effect of World War I, etc.
Near future SF is a dangerous business. We can read Orwell’s 1984 (written in 1948) and be amused by the various “misses”. Clark’s 2001 has come and gone, of course.
What near future SF do you think has been successful? What is laughable, in retrospect?
Mindy, perhaps through musing about Strange Interlude…