It has a lot to do with what I call the "Wonderment Age" of scifi. This was the time right around WW2, both before and after, when things like going to the moon and Mars, exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations...well you get the picture here. That was the time when such things, while not certainly new, had something of a feeling of wonderment about them. A feeling that anything, and in fact everything, was actually possible when it came to this crazy universe. This sort of feeling seems descriptively absent from more recent writings in the arena. Indeed, when checking out the various new books I see that such a feeling is replaced with a more scientificly accurate and realistic approach to the genre.
Not that there is anything wrong with a realistic approach to scifi -- it has its place out there, and I did find the Gap Series to be particuarlly compelling in its own right. But its that thing, that space, among the books where the wonderment with the whole of the universe used to live that I see missing. Until I heard the Eagle's song come up one more time.
The wonderment isn't gone. It's just changed genres within scifi. It's moved from the serious portion to the more commedy area. HHGG is the perfect example of this transistion. His haphazard and distracted exploration of the books' universe is an evolution of the ideas behind the early wonderment. This character is the written embodiment of human incompassity to effectively deal with the sheer craziness of a complicated, populated, and wonder-filled universe.
No, there may never be another story like "Night Meeting" to capture the sense of wonder about life and living but I can live with that knowing that there is a place that the wonder can pop-up from time to time and still fill people who want to dream of far off places.
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