Sunday, January 02, 2011

SF in Trouble

This is from an interview with Ted Chiang, though this quote comes from Gavin Grant:
“Science fiction is one of the biggest threads in popular entertainment,” Grant says. “There are lots of big movies, lots of TV shows based on science fiction premises, but science fiction is having this real trouble looking into the future and imagining what will happen. To look a decade or a hundred years in the future is very difficult, and there are a couple of outs that writers have been using. One, they say it’s too difficult to look into the future so we don’t have to, we can just write fantasy. Or they just look in the past and write steampunk and things like that. Don’t get me wrong, I like these things, but I think one of the things Ted does is to extrapolate rigorously and somewhat harshly, in a way that people can recognize from the life they’re living.“

The quote interests me, because it answers part of my question, where is SF going? What has been happening in the field? It's a better answer than the one I gave in the previous post.


Blogger dalerobertweese said...

IWith the proliferation of e-readers and the shrinking role of traditional publishers, I think the direction of SciFi, and all literature, is every direction at once. I find this both glorious and frightening.

1:04 PM  
Blogger Lyle Daggett said...

I saw a T.V. interview years ago with Ben Bova, and the interviewer (Charlie Rose, I think it was, or maybe Tom Snyder) asked Bova something about the proclivity of science fiction for predicting technologies of the future.

Bova commented that although science fiction had, certainly, foreshadowed quite a few technological developments -- space flight, undersea travel, robots, etc. -- computers didn't start appearing in science fiction writing until almost the time that they showed up in the real world.

And now we have a generation of human beings growing up who haven't known a world without computers.

This doesn't quite exactly address the question of where science fiction is headed next, though it does, maybe, suggest how difficult it is to extrapolate the really sea-deep world-altering changes.

Makes me think of another interview I saw -- Walter Cronkite, years ago, interviewing Arthur C. Clarke. Cronkite asked Clarke where he thought humanity was headed, what the next great evolutionary leap might be (whether in actual biological evolution, or technology, or culture, or any of the above).

Clarke answered this way: imagine, he said, that the first sentient species on the earth had been water-breathing creatures. Vast cities and civilizations developing and spreading for millenia, entirely beneath the surface of the oceans. Then, he said, imagine that one day the first creature is born among them who has also the ability to breath air -- the first sentient lungfish, if you will.

The creature crawls from the water, out into open air. And sitting there on the shore, looking up into the sky, across the dry earth, what fantastic imaginings must come to its mind, spectacular technologies and conceptions you and I (of the always-air-breathers) would never have conceived of --

But, said Clarke, it wouldn't have thought of fire.

5:07 PM  

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