I tend to buy lots of used books when I find them - at used bookstores, at thrift stores, at charity sales. This kind of makes me the opposite of Carlo, who has a new-book fetish and must own only perfection. I really don't mind if the cover is scratched and a little torn, if some pages are dog-eared, if the spine is creased and cracked. I'll put up with aesthetic deterioration for the price difference relative to new books. New bookstores, such as Chapters, are still dangerous for me - I also have a book fetish (or perhaps just an obsession), just not as specific as Carlo's.
Currently, I'm reading a book I found at a Value Village; a collection of short stories by Arthur C. Clarke titled "Tales of Ten Worlds". Used books are rarely new books; I cannot keep up with the latest works, and own almost nothing by younger authors. So you might say I have many "classics". Or not, I actually don't care much for the work of Asimov or Bradbury, for example.
Anyways, lots of these stories, short or novel-length, contain many cliches. By themselves, these cliches are mildly irritating, at worst, and can be freely ignored except where the story hinges on them. The cliches I really tend to notice are those that depend on the author and reader being of a particular time period. One of the short stories in this book, "Hate", for example, hinges on the discovery at the end of the story (spoiler warning!) that a hidden character is actually female. The twist at the end comes from the main character's casual murder of a person inside a submerged space capsule, who one is meant to assume is male - and therefore, presumably, it's somehow much worse to murder a woman (she's also described as "beautiful") than a man.
Other stories provide the familiar moral of "old ways can serve when new-fangled technology inevitably fails" - like "Into the Comet", in which the failed computer is replaced by the entire crew of a spaceship working with hastily-assembled abacuses.
Most of these short stories, in fact, seem to be built on assumptions about how the world works that have since become obsolete. Women are more valuable and more timid than men, humans and animals are strictly separate (there's a story about an uplifted chimpanzee), hedonism invariably leads to destruction, and so on.
I've met these themes in other works from this period - most of the stories in this book were written between the years 1959 and 1970. As I said, once or twice in a book, these cliches are excusable - but sometimes an entire volume is like this.
Have we really come so far in attitudes in 50 years? Are there many septegenarians who still think this way, who are surprised and shocked when the motorcycle helmet comes off to reveal long dark hair?
Recently, the Globe and Mail ran an article about the rapid pace of social change in Spain. Apparently, the country has gone from stereotypical-conservative-Catholic to very liberal (gay marriage and massive immigration) in about 15 years. Canada itself is one of a handful of countries to legalize gay marriage, and has remarkable support for immigration, so one might think of us as being on a "leading edge".
So why did so few of the great Science Fiction authors of 50 years ago fail to anticipate these changes? Few of the technological changes presented in these books are particularly correct - no moon colonies yet, to take the most obvious example - so perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that they failed to consider social innovations.
Bah, I'm just rambling on about the failings of Science Fiction as a predictive art form - that's not what it's really for, so I should stop whining. But if I can't whine here, on my own personal (free) blog, where can I whine?
*I wanted to post a picture of Tales of Ten Worlds, but I couldn't find one of the cover I have.