‘Last of the line, that have done its day’s toil’ (Heavy Horses, Jethro Tull
Once upon a time, the pioneer, the frontiersman, was the core of a lot of heroic fiction. These days as often as not, they’re the bad guys, especially in SF. There are exceptions –Laura Montgomery springs to mind – but the fashion especially in trad published sf is such men (and, yes most often they were men, or families, and very rarely women) are the villains.
Likewise the good solid yeomen-farmer hero – Sam Gamgee or Durnik from the Belgariad, has been relegated to being a dumb thug, or comic relief at best.
Now it is often said that social trends are downstream of the arts. I suspect that is only true in a very tiny number of cases, where books or movies change the way society sees the world – and even then they are rooted in the zeitgeist of their time. Most books anyway, are reflective of current fashion, particularly the fashion of the those who buy it. If it is a trad-pub book that’s the fashion of urban far left-wing New York City arts circles… so FARMER IN THE SKY is not going to appeal much to them.
Of course the Wuflu era has driven a lot of people out of the urban environment. I suspect some of them have not enjoyed it very much, and will soon flee back to the cities as fast as their Prius can carry them. On the other hand, I think there are going to be quite a few who don’t -and the situation you live in changes you, and your perspectives. They may have thought they’d change the dumb gun-toting hicks in the countryside, but like it or not, when the wildlife impinges on their lives (even if they’re not farming or homesteading at all, country realities make themselves known. Australia has strict preservation laws on several creatures – passed by urbanites, and ardently supported by urbanites – until the urbanite on a rural escape from covid finds a tiger-snake in the bathroom with her.).
Also, I think reality in the shape of economics is about to start changing the way a lot of us view things. It’s been near on 50 years since fuel rationing and a fair number of other societal situations that are totally alien to most of the population of Western countries. Real food shortages probably go back further. But yes, back in the 70’s the UK govt was asking people to only heat one room. And I remember fuel sales on odd/even number plate days. A lost of the first world relies on abundant and cheap energy to make winter something that isn’t an utter misery that kills people. A lot of the world relies on abundant and cheap food too. When energy and food are cheap and abundant, it’s easy not to appreciate those who make it thus. However, if you’ve read Neville Shute’s very popular post-war FAR COUNTRY, where the rationing in the UK was obviously much on the mind of his audience… and farmers in the ‘far country’ (Australia) are heroes, just for producing food — it’s a question of perspective.
A couple of friends – self-sufficiency-type homesteaders like me – and I were talking earlier today, about a perennially popular type of book/story and the heroes that go with it — there are versions going back generations — of the return-to-the-land type hero. It’s always a story of a lot of growth, mostly of weeds and pests, but also of the character, learning. It’s a battle of wits and ineptitude against the reality of an environment which as much as you may love it (and I do) is out to kill you, or at least destroy your food so you starve to death (I killed a huge fat hairy caterpillar that had eaten half my new rhubarb plant’s leaves today, and wasn’t stopping, either. Rhubarb leaves are so full of Oxalic acid they’re toxic and used in a few natural anti-pest remedies. No one told the caterpillar. Nothing is safe.). You start to understand why people regarded cities – where most of the pests had been eliminated, and ever available store-bought food as so good.
I think rural fiction – maybe even science fiction’s – time may be coming again. Good. I could enjoy reading some with characters I can identify with. Especially the inept ones.