136: Adjacent Data

Adjacent Data

"In the preface to William Gibson's Burning Chrome, Bruce Sterling said science fiction writers are like court jesters, able to speak truths without offense. 'We are Wise Fools who can leap, caper, utter prophecies, and scratch ourselves in public. We can play with Big Ideas because the garish motley of our pulp origins makes us seem harmless.'

"Science fiction is able to make indictments against us palatable. We can choose either to accept them as truths or dismiss them as empty fiction. Star Trek, we know, wasn't saying that hundreds of years in the future we'll see racism as a social flaw. It was saying that it should be recognized as such back then in the '60s. Every comment on the Prime Directive, every mention of how the people of Earth solved their society's problems, were not speculation on what the future might bring but arguments that something was wrong in the present."

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Great article! Brings up some interesting points, although I would dispute the idea that Crichton is a sci-fi writer. To me he's just a run-of-the-mill shlock horror writer who happens to write techy stuff. I think calling him a sci-fi author detracts from the genre, because he really doesn't do what the best sci-fi does - he doesn't really point out issues in society. His books aren't anywhere near as relevant as, say M.T. Anderson's Feed, or the movie Gattaca. Basically, Crichton is a writer of 'penny dreadful' books where a monster kills off various characters - a literary version of the slasher flick.

The tags (for italics) are messed up on the first page.

Nice article. Makes me consider what I should write.

Good piece.

If you want to read the bible on Dystopian futures, Olaf Stapledon's 'Last and First Men' is probably the greatest. 2 billion years of humanity evolving, adapting, and dying out. It doesn't even have a main character. Just the species as a whole.

A very nice essay, but I wish the world it reflected was the one we were living in. It seems to me that science-fiction is a genre in trouble; perhaps not as much in TV and movies but definitely in books and games. Fantasy seems to be overwhelming sci-fi in those two venues.

I wonder how much ties in with the sentiments expressed in one of the comments to the "My Own Private Outer Space" article. On a personal level, science doesn't seem very interesting to most people these days. I was 9 when we first walked on the moon, and the space craze gripped myself and my friends like nothing since. It didn't matter that WE weren't going to be astronauts. Just the fact that a deed was being done was exciting. And reading science fiction just felt like peering into the future back then.

These days, sometimes reading science fiction just reminds me of how badly we've lost our way. It tends to promise a future that we'll never actually reach at the pace we're keeping currently. And people are so unconcerned with what progress we do make. The sentiment seems to be "It doesn't impact me directly, so it isn't of any interest." I find it all rather sad.

You have to read 'Feed' by M.T. Anderson. It's as relevant as SF gets.

pasmith:
A very nice essay, but I wish the world it reflected was the one we were living in. It seems to me that science-fiction is a genre in trouble; perhaps not as much in TV and movies but definitely in books and games. Fantasy seems to be overwhelming sci-fi in those two venues.

Fantasy's purpose isn't all that different: replace technology with magic, and aliens with orcs and elves, and you're making the same sort of commentary on present society that science fiction is.

incoherent:

Fantasy's purpose isn't all that different: replace technology with magic, and aliens with orcs and elves, and you're making the same sort of commentary on present society that science fiction is.

Eh, I don't know that I buy that. Fantasy seems a bit trashier than does sci-fi. Don't get me wrong; there's plenty of science fiction rubbish, and yes, you could argue for Lord of the Rings as an allegory for World War II, but I don't see social commentary on par with Phillip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov in the field of fantasy. Do you have any recommended fantasy reading with something to say about humanity?

m_jim:
Do you have any recommended fantasy reading with something to say about humanity?

The Lions of al-Rassan, by G.G. Kay. It's a fantasy retelling of the Spanish Reconquista, from all sides. The other books in his Sarantium line are good too; people who're people and not cardboard cutouts in armour.

-- Steve

 

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