Science Fiction Repair Shop

My ongoing discussions on the ways science fiction (and fantasy) can be improved -- how "mainstream" literature and fiction can improve it; how SF&F can return the favor as well; and occasional forays into how individual works of SF&F could be improved.

Also in this category will be some writer's resources:

Recent posts in category Science Fiction Repair Shop

Science Fiction Repair Shop: Why The Force Isn't With Me Anymore

I didn't leave Star Wars. Star Wars left me. And not in the way you might think.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2021-03-12 21:00:00 No comments

I finally got around to seeing The Rise Of Skywalker, and there was nothing in it that was worth putting off doing the laundry for. I wasn't expecting any different, really, in big part because everything that bears the name Star Wars hasn't meant anything to me for a long time now. It was me that started walking away first. And not because I'd "grown out of it", but because of how the things it meant most to me changed, and forced me to looked elsewhere for what it gave me once.

(Note: I've probably told one version or another of this story over the years on this blog, but seeing SW IX gave me incentive to retell it once more for everyone who just walked in.)

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Tags: Akira Kurosawa George Lucas Japan Science Fiction Repair Shop Star Wars

Science Fiction Repair Shop: Getting It From Somewhere Else

On how new influences keep every kind of art healthy, including and especially popular arts.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2021-03-05 12:00:00 No comments

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Apropos of totally nothing, I started re-reading William Gibson's Neuromancer -- although at this rate it might as well be a first read, since the last time I read it was ... cripes, before I got married, I think. Even though some of the tech details here and there have aged, the flavor of the whole, the spirit of it, really hasn't aged much. What's a lot clearer to me now than before is the debut Gibson owed to noir, in big part because around the first time I read it I had encountered very little noir fiction, and so had little way to make the comparison. Neuromancer was far from the first time someone thought to juggle together noir and SF, but I think it was the first time someone found the parts of each that complemented the other so well: the cynicism and the moon-eyed romanticism both, just for different things.

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Tags: Neuromancer Science Fiction Repair Shop William Gibson influences science fiction

Movies: Tenet

At the end of the day, it's just a fancy excuse to shoot a bunch of scenes in reverse.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2021-03-03 12:00:00 No comments

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Tenet is one of those movies that thinks it's a lot smarter than it really is. And that's a shame, given that director Christopher Nolan is neither stupid nor untalented. It's just that with this film, he's used his intelligence to talk himself into making foolish choices for it. As a spy story, a Bond installment with the serial numbers buzzed off, it's passable. As science fiction, or even fantasy, it's -- to borrow a phrase from another field -- not even wrong.

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Tags: Christopher Nolan Science Fiction Repair Shop movies review science fiction thrillers

Science Fiction Repair Shop: An Amiable Chaos

How science fiction and fantasy stories live and die by their technical details, for both better and worse.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2021-02-12 12:00:00 No comments

I spent most of this week at work dodging cars (metaphorically speaking) and trying not to get flattened (again, metaphorically speaking). Left me in a state of blear, which in turn made it hard to concentrate on anything creative. Just as well, as right now Unmortal has some "blocking issues" that need shaking out before I can continue. Nothing major, and nothing I haven't faced before, so it's something I recognize when I see it. I know it well enough to know it isn't the enemy, no more than a red traffic light is the enemy. Amiable chaos, but still chaos.

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Tags: Science Fiction Repair Shop Unmortal fantasy science fiction writing

Science Fiction Repair Shop: The Function Of Fantasy, As Per Lynda Barry

Fantasy can be used as a distraction, but its job is to give us new ways to look at what's around us every day,

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020-12-26 22:00:00 No comments

Lynda Barry, who is a treasure beyond compare and has never been given a tenth of what she deserves for it, once appeared on Letterman and said something to the effect that her favorite television was anything that had a cell dividing in it.

I'd known about Barry before, having stumbled across her strip Ernie Pook's Comeek and later on her album The Lynda Barry Experience. A line like that made me think of the likes of Laurie Anderson or even Virginia Woolf: someone with great and gentle attention to the wonderful things, when so much of the rest of the world has no such thing.

She also said this once, in her book What It Is:

There are certain children who are told they are too sensitive, and there are certain adults who believe sensitivity is a problem that can be fixed in the way that crooked teeth can be fixed and made straight. And when these two come together you get a fairytale, a kind of story with hopelessness in it.

I believe there is something in these old stories that does what singing does to words. They have transformational capabilities, in the way melody can transform mood.

They can't transform your actual situation, but they can transform your experience of it. We don't create a fantasy world to escape reality, we create it to be able to stay. I believe we have always done this, used images to stand and understand what otherwise would be intolerable.

Emphasis mine. Her notion complements my oft-quoted line from Václav Havel: "Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out."

Fantasy can be used as an anaesthetic or a distraction, but I don't think that's its real function. Its job is to give us new ways to look at what's around us every day, to shake that up a little, and to let us take something away from that shaking-up.

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Tags: Lynda Barry Science Fiction Repair Shop fantasy

Science Fiction Repair Shop: The Seven Deadly Sins, Over And Over Again

On a narrow, reductionist view of fiction (and not a very good one, for that reason).

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020-12-09 21:00:00 No comments

I'm not familiar with Michael O. Church generally (apparently he has a bad rep in tech circles), and the essay he wrote containing this quote has apparently been taken down, but this bit from it got my attention:

I attended a talk in which Marvin Minsky said he only read science fiction because the entire rest of literature was “the seven deadly sins, over and over again”. Now, I’d be the last to trash science fiction; but I’m not a fan of his view of, you know, the entire rest of literature. Still, this is how techies think. Everything but robots and science is trash, to them. The Singularity is going to happen in 20 years (this was true 20 years ago, and 20 years before that) and after that, the computers are going to produce so much general wealth that we will all be post-scarcity, post-nationalist, post-mortality beings. Given that, all of our art and ethics and religion and politics are so petty, we don’t need them at all. They get in the way. The techie’s argument is: sure, I’ll screw you over today, but 20 years from now you’re going to be immortal because of me.

I think Church is indulging in an overgeneralization here (not all techies are this Philistine), but with a kernel of truth at its center about certain people and their tastes. If memory serves I think I remember hearing John McCarthy, of LISP fame, expressing a similar sentiment at some point: most literature just exists to superficially manipulate the reader's emotions, not to explore ideas. This presupposes the idea that manipulation of the emotions is ipso facto bad, even when we consent to it in a controlled way. Or that the exploration of emotion is inferior to the exploration of ideas, which is also a foolish conceit.

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Tags: Science Fiction Repair Shop fiction storytelling

Science Fiction Repair Shop: Hard, Soft, And Squishy

I don't care if SF is possible, I care if it's plausible.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020-12-04 21:00:00 No comments

A New Edition of Insomnium :: Matthew Buscemi

I refuse to label my work as either “hard SF” or “soft SF.” The term “soft” is used by certain individuals in a derogatory sense, no matter how much others may try to redeem it. What I began to notice about so-called “hard SF enthusiasts” was that they didn’t so much care about “science” in and of itself, but rather, they had a very particular ideas about what scientific developments would occur at what intervals in the future, and anyone who suggested that technology was taking us on a different path (e.g. complete ecological destruction) was deemed “not intelligent enough” to have comprehended the “actual” way technology would develop in the future.

This kind of snobbery always struck me as being exactly that: snobbery, with a side order of gatekeeping. Labels like "hard" and "soft" SF are useful if you're a taxonomist, but when used to beat people over the head, they're pointless.

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Tags: science fiction

See earlier posts for Science Fiction Repair Shop from December 2020
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I'm an independent SF and fantasy author, technology journalist, and freelance contemplator for how SF can be more than just a way to blow stuff up.

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