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   Author  Topic: Is science fiction finished?  (Read 1095 times)
Mermaid
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Is science fiction finished?
« on: 2004-09-08 16:50:19 »
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Lucifer dropped this url in the chatroom..

"Science fiction is facing a crisis of confidence," sniffed last month's Popular Science magazine in an article entitled Is Science Fiction About to Go Blind? "The recent crop of stories mostly take the form of fantasy (elves and wizards), alternate history (what if the Black Death had been earlier?) and space operas about interstellar civilizations in the year 12,000 (which typically gloss over how those civilizations evolved from ours)," the piece lamented, adding, "only a small cadre of techno-prophets is attempting to extrapolate current trend and imagine what our world might look like in the next decades."
[...]
It's not just an issue of whether or not the golden age of sci-fi faded with the passing of proponents such as Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and Philip K. Dick, compounded by the fact that Ray Bradbury's only recent contribution has been to complain that Michael Moore appropriated the title of his classic book Fahrenheit 411 for his documentary Fahrenheit 9/11.
[...]
"I would not be encouraging a young person today to be entering science fiction as a profession. I do have a fear that the science-fiction novel is as much an artifact of the 20th century as Victorian literature was of the 19th," said Sawyer. "No matter how hard you yell 'clear' and go for the defibrillator paddle, you still can't get that spark of life going again."


If you were to write sci-fi, what would it be about...do you think it would be a bestseller.

if you think it will indeed be a bestseller, why arent you working on it yet?
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Matt Arnold
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145919418 145919418    nemorathwald nemorathwald
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Re: virus: Is science fiction finished?
« Reply #1 on: 2004-09-09 11:42:42 »
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This diagnosis of science fiction comes as a total surprise to me. "Fantasy (elves and wizards), alternate history (what if the Black Death had been earlier?) and space operas about interstellar civilizations in the year 12,000 (which typically gloss over how those civilizations evolved from ours)" are forms of "science fiction" that I do not read. Whereas "a small cadre of techno-prophets is attempting to extrapolate current trend and imagine what our world might look like in the next decades" is the only science fiction that I do read. I didn't know the cadre was small. Greg Egan and Cory Doctorow are among them (by the way, I invited Doctorow to Penguicon 3.0 in Novi Michigan in April 2005, and he accepted!). The current transhumanist science fiction has a crunchy technological coating and a chewy philosophical center which in my opinion makes this the greatest age of science fiction ever.
-Matt

>Date: Wed, 8 Sep 2004 14:50:19 -0600
>From: "Mermaid" <hidden@lucifer.com>
>Subject: virus: Is science fiction finished?
>Lucifer dropped this url ("http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/TPPrint/LAC/20040908/SCIFI08/TPEntertainment/") in the chatroom..
>"Science fiction is facing a crisis of confidence," sniffed last month's Popular Science magazine in an article entitled Is Science Fiction About to Go Blind? "The recent crop of stories mostly take the form of fantasy (elves and wizards), alternate history (what if the Black Death had been earlier?) and space operas about interstellar civilizations in the year 12,000 (which typically gloss over how those civilizations evolved from ours)," the piece lamented, adding, "only a small cadre of techno-prophets is attempting to extrapolate current trend and imagine what our world might look like in the next decades."
>[...]
>It's not just an issue of whether or not the golden age of sci-fi faded with the passing of proponents such as Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and Philip K. Dick, compounded by the fact that Ray Bradbury's only recent contribution has been to complain that Michael Moore appropriated the title of his classic book Fahrenheit 411 for his documentary Fahrenheit 9/11.
>[...]
>"I would not be encouraging a young person today to be entering science fiction as a profession. I do have a fear that the science-fiction novel is as much an artifact of the 20th century as Victorian literature was of the 19th," said Sawyer. "No matter how hard you yell 'clear' and go for the defibrillator paddle, you still can't get that spark of life going again."
>If you were to write sci-fi, what would it be about...do you think it would be a bestseller.
>if you think it will indeed be a bestseller, why arent you working on it yet?

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He believed in a door. The door was the way to... to... The Door was The Way. Good. Capital letters were always the best way of dealing with things you didn't have a good answer to.
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Re: virus: Is science fiction finished?
« Reply #2 on: 2004-09-09 11:56:59 »
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Rudy Rucker kicks ass.  He wipes the floor with Asimov.
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First, read Bruce Sterling's "Distraction", and then read http://electionmethods.org.
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Re:Is science fiction finished?
« Reply #3 on: 2004-09-12 18:02:38 »
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This is a trend that partly isn't there at all, and partly has been going on since the 1980's.

People are writing hard SF based on state of the art ideas.  Modesty prohibits me from pointing out who one of them is.

But I remember almost 10 years ago reading a piece by Norman Spinrad about how his career was almost over.  As the number of publishers decrease due to consolidation and the whole industry is media-fied, the few remaining publishers don't want to take risks.  They don't want something new, different, and ground-breaking.  They want something proven.  That means a proven formula that they can put a proven name on, like (in the hard realms) Clarke or Asimov, even if those men have nothing to do with the hackworks hawked in their names.

If I have learned one thing since I submitted Passages in the Void to Kuro5hin, it's that people want to read things that are different, and they will forgive you many writer's flaws if you give them rich ideas and something to think about.  But publishers don't care about that; they hate the uncertainty of a new form and the costs of publicizing a new name.  So while they milk the names of people like Clarke and Asimov and genres like sword-and-sorcery, writers doing something different simply can't get started.  Even if, like Spinrad, they've had long lucrative careers and thousands of proven fans, the few remaining publishers don't want to be bothered with them.

It is the period from 1965 to 1980, not the 1930's, that will be remembered as the Golden Age of science fiction.  That was the time of the New Wave and many daring and experimental writers like Alfred Bester.  These guys managed to find publication because there were lots of magazines and lots of book publishers and they were all looking for new talent.  Even K.W. Jeter, whose introductory novel Dr. Adder makes Prime Intellect look like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by comparison, got published in the early 1980's.  Today, though, who would risk a book like Bester's The Stars my Destination with its graphically rendered synesthesia sequences?  My God we might confuse a reader, we can't do stuff like that.

Another thing I've learned from my readers is that if you are pleasing everybody, you are writing crap.  Everything I have written has been enthusiastically received by a large enough group to IMO make it commercially viable, but most of it has to some degree repulsed another subset of the readership.  (The mix is gratifyingly random; the same people who hated story A often loved story B and vice-versa.)  But today's publishers aren't happy with that.  They don't want anything daring or controversial.  Which is how we get two shelves of Star Wars knockoff novels at Barnes & Noble, and maybe two books by Iaian Banks total in the entire store.

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145919418 145919418    nemorathwald nemorathwald
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Re:Is science fiction finished?
« Reply #4 on: 2004-11-24 00:23:16 »
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<i>Passages In The Void</i> is a wonderful story. I enjoyed it very much. Thanks for putting it on the internet for free. Can I send you money?
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He believed in a door. The door was the way to... to... The Door was The Way. Good. Capital letters were always the best way of dealing with things you didn't have a good answer to.
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