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  1. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    Begging Sci-fi

    Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by DrWhozit, Dec 3, 2013.

    crenation2.jpg
    This is what I think many in the sci-fi writer community should shoot for. They should want number 42. They should want to explain just what did happen to Dave Bowman. They should want to explain what was up with that test pattern Indian's head flipping back and forth in the Lutz's tv set. They should have the guts to disparage Steven King for his technical flaws that have chronology protection laughing at him spinning around in a paradox. They should serve the reader reality like Arthur C. Clarke, Michael Crichton, Carl Sagan or Albert Einstein while shoving verbose images into the reader's head like George Lucas or Jerry Bruckheimer. They should leave their readers in a daze, staring at the ceiling, digesting serious food for thought.

    Not everyone out there reads sci-fi save for a fluke. The sci-fi writer must turn that fluke into a flood.
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    It needs to re-find its purpose. It's been diluted by its film and video game facet which branched away from written science fiction only to return and inoculate it with the thin banality innate in those other facets. Science fiction forgot how to speak about the human condition. It forgot how to speak about who we are now through who we might become. This wasn't aided by the last decade's trend toward themelessness in genre fic where even the faintest whiff of a message was berated as polemic. This is not to say that there isn't good science fiction to be found. It just doesn't look like it did before.
     
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  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I stopped reading science fiction, for the most part, when it seemed to get inundated by cyberpunk and dystopian visions. That kind of thing doesn't show us positive futures; it shows us our self-created ugliness. A little of that goes a very long way. I prefer the more inspiring visions of writers like Asimov and Clarke.

    Of course, I could also have stopped reading science fiction because I discovered my dad's bookshelf, which was stuffed with literary fiction. Dad would say things like, "Why don't you give this a try?" and hand me one of his books - Steinbeck or Aldous Huxley, usually. I'd sigh and point out that there were no spaceships on the covers. Eventually I outgrew that kind of objection ...
     
  4. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    Dystopian can have several different settings, but either way, yes, it's ugly. It's moving forward in reverse. But we know that.

    I suppose blood and violence and depravity sells. James Blish has a series; "Cities in Flight." I always liked that. He also was one of the original Star Trek short story authors.



    CIF2net.jpg


    CIF1net.jpg

    Some early concepts for an animation of Cities...
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Cities in Flight isn't exactly Dystopian. The government aboard each city was harsh, but life was good enough for most citizens.

    The stories are told mostly from the perspective of the leaders, particularly Mayor Amalfi. It's characteristic of dystopian fiction that it is told from the perspective of the oppressed class, to emphasize their struggle. Cities is a story of survival in the distant future, up to the very end of the Universe.

    As for Blish being one of the original short story authors, it's a bit of a stretch. The short stories are all a more or less faithful retelling of the original series episodes, under license. Each episode did have its own author, and Blish was never one of them. He did, however, write the first Star Trek novel, Spock Must Die! Not one of my favorites...
     
  6. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    I didn't say it was. I probably could have been clearer by separating it from the depravity line.

    Also, I believe Cities in Flight began as a series in Analog. If I recall correctly from my youth, Blish wrote several of the Star Trek series. One I bought included the Gorn. I never read Spock Must Die!, but the one I had was a collection of the aired shows put to the pen. I'll check to see if you're right. Like I said, we're talking 45 years of winding back the memory.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I bought each one as it was published. We didn't have VCRs or DVD players back then, and the shows weren't even in syndication yet. The books were the only way to "rewatch" the episodes.

    And yes, Cities did start out as individually published stories in magazines, but I first read it as a two-inch thick paperback novel around 1970. It was already showing its age in its cultural assumptions, but an enjoyable read nevertheless.
     
  8. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I loved Cities In Flight when I was a kid! When I was about ten or so (1971 or thereabouts), our teacher asked us to name the one book we would choose to have on a desert island (if we were only allowed one). Everyone else chose the Bible or an encyclopedia or a book on how to escape from desert islands, but I chose Cities in Flight. I was in love with the concept of the spindizzy - a device that makes it so that the bigger the object you're trying to move, the easier it is. It was the opposite of the Apollo program that I was so gaga over in those days. NASA was always trying to cut the weight, but Blish's concept allowed whole cities to leave earth and fly around the universe.

    I never regarded that series as dystopian. Any future that allows for almost unlimited possibilities is pretty attractive to me. So what if some of the societies Blish wrote about were oppressive? Just spindizzy your way to another part of the universe and build your own utopia.
     
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  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Strangely, I've never read this (goes on an Amazon hunt) but my top five sci-fi classics also includes a tale of a city: Clarke's The City and the Stars. I never, ever, ever tire of it. It's a beautiful piece of work. :)
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Right. Two almost magical discoveries opened up the future for Cities - the spindizzy, which made interstellar travel possible; and the anti-agathics, which granted virtual immortality. I enjoyed it too. Escapist fiction, to be sure.
     
  11. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I haven't read it in forty years, so I can't guarantee it stands up, but it fascinated me as a kid.

    As for The City and the Stars, I think it's one of the few Clarke books I haven't read. I'd heard it was a rewrite of his Against the Fall of Night, and I remember loving that one (again, I was nine or so), and I didn't want TCATS to ruin the buzz I got from ATFON.

    Now, of course, I have no recollection of what ATFON was actually about ... :oops:
     
  12. DrWhozit
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    Spindizzies! Yes! Antiagathics! Unreal! Escapist? Isn't that 99% of non-historical fiction?

    FIELDRING1.jpg

    Spindizzy?
     
  13. Simpson17866
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    @DrWhozit …What.
     
  14. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    I woke you again?
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    May your spindizzies never run sour.
     
  16. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    And may you never meet Ford's fate.
     
  17. live2write
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    I will say this with science fiction writing. I notice at my local book store B&N....(RIP Borders), 70% of the novels are Urban Scifi-Fantasy hybrids. It could be because of the market has shifted to that or that is what is there to offer. Only science fiction books that stand out end up being Star Wars, Halo or Orson Scott Card's collection. That is it.

    I sorta beg to differ when you dig up in the Literature section Ray Bradbury.
     
  18. Leigh Silvester
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    The last science fiction book that I read which I felt tried to do something innovative was "The Brief History of the Dead", although I'm not sure it counts as science fiction. While it uses the all too prevalent apocalypse plot device, it takes it in an interesting after-life direction. It sets an interesting mechanism for how the after-life works.
    As I don't read a lot of sci-fi now so I can't say whether this was an original or derivative idea.
    The whole cyberpunk and dystopian approach was done in the 80s.

    As I have mentioned before, I am trawling through some of the aged science fiction via the Gutenberg Project. While many of them seem very creaky and dated now, there have been some that have surprised me with how fresh they still are. Perhaps modern writers of this genre should look back on some of these to try and recapture the freshness and excitement that sci-fi once had.
     
  19. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    Interesting perspective. Hasn't Steam Punk sort of been there and done that?
     
  20. Leigh Silvester
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    Have only come across Steam Punk in films: Sherlock Holmes, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Wild Wild West (the kids made me watch this!).

    Does China Miéville count as Steam Punk?
    Personally I don't enjoy his stories.
    I like his ideas but I find that his style comes over as "trying too hard to be quirky".

    Any Steam Punk book recommendations?
     
  21. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    No recommendations. What I was saying is that the style trend seems to favor the Victorian era adventures as they evolved into early Space Age. I'm more into near horizon future-scape and projections.
    With today's genetic modification, the future can be a wide spectrum od biological disasters as well as natural.
     
  22. Leigh Silvester
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    Leigh Silvester Member

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    Ah! biological disasters!
    I have come across a few of them.

    Possibly we are wondering off topic here, but straight into where I work.
    The only major biological disasters I have come across are purely of the personality sort.
     
  23. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    The Windup Girl was rather good, somewhat in this vein.
     
  24. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    @Wreybies,

    Have a link to the abstract? Who is the author?
     
  25. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Paolo Bacigalupi. The Windup Girl isn't biological disaster of The Hot Zone variety. It's more eco-disaster, really, which is bio-disaster on a more profound scale, hence my 'somewhat'. Biodiversity culled to the stump, so much so that economies are based on calories.
     

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