Sturgeon's Law

by Brad Kay

The late great Theodore Sturgeon, who is on the short list of all-time master science fiction writers, responding to an interviewer who asked, "But ninety per cent of science fiction is crud, isn't it?" said: "Sure, 90% of science fiction is crud. That's because 90% of everything is crud."

Now known as "Sturgeon's Law," this maxim applies to every field of endeavor, at any time in history. Ninety per cent of everything is crud! Or crap. Or shinola. We labor under the illusion that a certain era was somehow more enlightened or artistically elevated than the present because only the ten or five or one percent of it that isn't crap has filtered down to us. Shakespeare and Marlowe had a thousand play-writing, sonnet-slinging contemporaries who will never cross our threshhold because their stuff is crap. When Bix was alive, there were a hundred thousand other cornet players in America, most of whom sounded like the guy on "The OKeh Laughing Record."

Real talent is rare. I always pick up home-recorded acetates from the '30s and '40s - made by members of the great unwashed public who dared to put their voices or instruments on record - because no matter how bad you think music can be, it can always be worse. An album of these would prove most enlightening to anyone who thinks the past was some kind of golden age.

Once our tastes are formed (usually between adolescence and marriage), we regard any new trend with suspiscion, because it doesn't fall into our calcified paradigm of "good taste." For instance, I would like to see in contemporary popular music a resurgence of melody, and also wit & humor, both of which seem sadly lacking. This doesn't mean that great popular music can't be made without those elements, only that I probably won't like it. And who cares about me, anyway? The current generation of musical youth is deciding who belongs in their Pantheon. And when they get old, they can grouse about how music was much better in the "Golden Age."

Anyhow, all I ask of a piece of art or a performer is that they SEND me. The style or trend doesn't matter. Lady Gaga doesn't have to remind me of Bix or Peggy Lee as long as her stuff holds my attention or makes me smile, which on occasion, it does.

Brad K

Posted on Sep 17, 2010, 1:18 PM

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