I don't care if SF is possible, I care if it's plausible.
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.
What's sad about Ready Player One (and Two): the commanding power cultural nostalgia holds over people in bad times is worth exploring. Just not in a story like that.
With Ready Player Two getting savaged by reviewers, since it appears to be arguably even worse than its predecessor, that reminded me of something I'd written down a while back and all but forgotten about.
A reason why I haven't written any time travel stories: I don't think time exists. At least, not in the sense of something we can travel through.
A funny exchange from the other day. I mentioned to someone that I wasn't sure if I would ever write a time-travel story. I cited two reasons: 1) the played-out quality of the concept (you have to come up with something really interesting to do more than just restate "I'm My Own Grampaw!") -- and 2), more problematic for me personally, my philosophy about time. See, I don't think time actually exists -- at least not in the sense of it being some medium that can be traversed.
If I didn't feel before like I was living in a science fiction novel, this year sure clinched that feeling. But not for the reasons you might think.
This isn't likely to come as a massive surprise to anyone, but if I didn't feel before like I was living in a science fiction novel, this year sure clinched that feeling. Not merely because of the pandemic, but because of all the things the pandemic force-multiplied -- the corrosive effects of capital on public spaces; the way we've blithely swapped technology for human potential and come up immeasureably poorer as a result; the way we have all these toys and so few things that actually work. 2020 didn't so much throw us into a dystopian SF novel as it revealed we'd been living in one for quite some time, and only now could we no longer ignore it.
What really got me, though, was the exposure of the distance between the life we were supposed to be leading, and the life we are leading. And with that, I took a good hard look at that feeling: where was it written that things in 2020 were supposed to have been better than this? Who promised us that?
"How come it is easier for us to imagine the end of the world than a modest change in our economic order?" Let me take a crack at this, including how it relates to SF.
Here's a line you may have heard floating around recently (I think it's from the movie The Pervert's Guide To Ideology): "How come it is easier for us to imagine the end of all life on earth – an asteroid hitting the planet – than a modest change in our economic order?" Let me take a crack at this, including how it relates to SF.
When we can't think our way out of it, that is.
Not long ago I bumped into a little book called Structural Fabulation, by Robert Scholes (the Internet Library also has it), subtitled "An Essay On Fiction Of The Future". Scholes wrote it in 1975, when as Fred Pohl and Fred Pohl IV put it in a discussion of SF on film, it was a time when SF was not "out", but still not quite all the way "in". The book is an argument not merely for SF as literature, but for SF as a special kind of literature, one particularly suited to helping us live in our world now that it has been irreversibly transformed by both the scientific and postmodern worldviews. It's something that seems like such a truism now, we don't really talk about what it means anymore, but it seems like high time to dust off the idea and give it another close go-round.
A blueprint for how to do the impossible -- namely, follow up a classic: give it to another artist of vision and stand back.
There was, to my mind, no earthly reason to make a sequel to Blade Runner, any more than there was a reason to make a sequel to 2001: a space odyssey. But they did in fact make 2010: The Year We Make Contact with Arthur C. Clarke, if not with Stanley Kubrick, and it was good although short of great.
And they did in fact make Blade Runner 2049, with screenwriter Hampton Fancher, if not original author Philip K. Dick, and with original director Ridley Scott as producer and Denis Villeneuve in the director's chair. What they delivered stands so comfortably next to the original, and yet with so much of its own to offer, that it suggests a blueprint for how to do such an impossible thing: just give it to another artist of vision, assuming you can find one, and stand back.
This page contains an archive of posts in the category Science Fiction Repair Shop
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