Friday, August 4, 2017

Days of Future Pest

When most people think of science fiction, they think of film and TV. This expensive realm recycleds a dozen or so plots. Humanity meets evil (or nice) aliens in space. Evil (or nice) aliens invades earth (sometimes in disguise). Humanity fights the aliens, either on space or on the earth. Robots (or computers) take over the world. Thanks to global warming, over-population, bio weapons, an asteroid, nukes, or whatever The world goes to hell. Humanity meets (or becomes) God in space. That’s pretty much it.
What looks new on the screen is sometimes just new to the audience.
Like light from a distant star, it’s only now reaching the eyeballs of sci-fi fanboys.
Like the genre conventions of Raymond Chandler’s detective fiction. Like …
Or, God help us, cowboy stories. Like …
Or, may the Force have mercy, the crappy hackneyed sci-fi serials of the 1930s and 40s—which George Lucas recycled (with a mythological paint job courtesy Joseph Campbell) for 1970s audiences with short memories. Who thought they were looking at something new..
Much to the weeping and gnashing of teeth of the new wave SF writers who were trying to make a living at the time.
Literary science fiction (aka imaginative literature) ius light years ahead of the flickering image. Some of the best s-f short stories and novels have never made it to the big or small screen.
Most sf readers can give you a short list. Or a long oe.. Ringworld, The Forever War, Snow Crash, Neuromancer, Solaris, Bood Music, The Eclipse Triogy, Last and First Men
When they do, there’s usually a thirty year gap. And there’s usually a rip-off.
Science fiction is a literature of ideas. It evokes the unimaginable—which becomes pedestrian when filmmakers are forced to imagine it and put it up on screen.
Science fiction (to pass on a tired observation from the past, is usually about the present.
Some writers extrapolate societies. (Orwell, Burgess, etc.) Gadgets bore them. There stuff is more sociological fiction than science fiction.
Some writers genuinely think about the impact of technology on societies.
Some writers are more interested in tech than people.
Some sci-curious writers jump into bed with both humans and hardware.
Some bring the sharp knifes of Kafka and Borges to a sci-fi playing field. For a nice game of metaphysical mumblety-peg.
Or play the literary glass bead game with Nabakov and Punchon.

And then there’s this core of SF writers who want to write “deeply human stories” that just happen to be science fiction. And might as well not be.

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