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  1. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Senior Member

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    Is there no joy in simple exploration?

    Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Mouthwash, Aug 27, 2017.

    One of the things I don't see in modern fantasy or sci-fi is exploration for its own sake. There's no modern Journey to the Center of the Earth, no Swiss Family Robinson, no Gulliver's Travels... were those all just a product of colonial fervor? Is it that we've mapped out everything too well, that there are no more winged men and dragons and cities of white apes over the next hill?

    I've been getting into Lovecraft for a while, and in one story he describes two-century old houses in the middle of rural America where 'dwelt generations of strange people, whose like the world has never seen.' In another, there's an entire abandoned and mysterious section of New York. What struck me was just how hard it was to suspend disbelief, how alien in mentality it was to a time when one can see every street in the world upon the instant. I say the Age of Exploration spiritually ended with satellite television.

    As for Star Trek - it was always more about revisiting periods of Earth's history through the eyes of aliens (as well as flings with exotic women, and other sorts of pulp nonsense), but it was the last great work of fiction that even pretended to be about exploration. "Now technology will let us sail off into the stars," it said, "and the colonial tradition will live on up there, but without all the racism and religion." Blah.

    I want to bring the spirit of exoticism and discovery back in my own fiction. I don't know if I'm capable of it, but there's one tactic that seems to work well: radically turning the scale up or down on a single aspect of setting.

    If you think about it, there's no better way to amaze people who are more familiar with cosmic background radiation than their own neighborhoods. You apply the astronomical/molecular scales that they're familiar with to things that aren't normally associated with such. Imagine a fantasy world light-years across. It could be 99% devoid of life, with the remainder 99% percent devoid of intelligent species, with that remainder 99% devoid of civilization, and it would still contain more cities than the entire Star Wars galaxy.

    Going small is just as interesting. Try a full-scale class revolution inside a perpetually running train. Or you could use outdated cosmologies, like Bronze Age people building a tower to heaven.

    Thoughts? Ideas? Other examples?
     
  2. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    This is the answer to your own question.

    Fiction of any kind is going to be reflective of the zeitgeist at the time it was written. Golden Age Science Fiction is all about that joy of steely-eyed missile men and the unknown horizon, because socio-technologically speaking that's where we were as a society. The Space Race was on and it looked like we were headed to the stars pretty soon. All the ultra-angsty YA dystopian Science Fiction of the last decade is completely informed by the unprecedented sociological phenomenon of the Boomer Generation being larger than and outliving any other generation in history, leaving Gen-X and Millennials with a deep-seated fear that by the time we can take the reigns from the Boomer Overlords and their outdated sensibilities, it will be too late.

    For example of old-school pining for the heavens in modern Science Fiction, I'm currently reading The Expanse novels. In the case of these novels, I would say they pick the "turning up the scale". They have that old-school flare of "boldly going where no one has gone before", but even these novels are deeply, deeply informed by circa 2011 and later sociopolitical mindsets. The heavy presentation of diversity, and not just "yes, our society is diverse", but more like "No, this paragraph here fails to mention some sort of diversity, revise it. In fact, give me two examples of diversity for every 20 words. Yes. Good. That." And the way the Belters are the disenfranchised, extremely tech-savvy younger population with The Inners (Earth and Mars) representing the Oppressive Old Cultureā„¢ that refuses to let go and Mars is its Giant Military Machineā„¢, all of that is very in line with the same angst I mentioned in YA dystopia.
     
  3. Edward M. Grant

    Edward M. Grant Contributor Contributor

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    The big problem, as I see it, is that we've now seen every planet in the solar system, and they're barren rocks. And the rest of the galaxy seems to be a wilderness.

    Exploration was more exciting when there were bikini-clad alien princesses waiting to be rescued. Now we know they probably don't exist.
     
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  4. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    I think so, and I think that @Wreybies expanded on the details better than I could.

    That said, I think it might be possible to try a Kafka-esque twist on the classic "Exploration" genre in a way that might appeal to the modern zeitgeist:

    Over the last 150 years, cities have become so sprawling and filled with so many people that nobody could see all of the places or meet all of the people if they tried. People have become isolated from each other by trying to avoid the overstimulation of getting lost in a crowd, and in the last 50 years, mass internet "addiction" has only made this worse.

    Have we reached a point as a society where even just going to new neighborhoods to see new landmarks and meet new people is as adventurous as anything Jules Verne imagined?
     
  5. surrealscenes

    surrealscenes Senior Member

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    Maybe your view of exploration needs to change, or the audience you are aiming for. Books for kids are usually full of exploration themes, they haven't 'seen it all' yet.
    As our societies rise, fall, move, etc, we are left with plenty of spaces left to explore. Look at Detroit. For decades the bulk of the city was abandoned, as many other places are/have been.
    I may be off, but I really feel the view needs to shift to see where exploration is wanted, many still want it.
    Think this way- If you write something engrossing; how many will put it down to go to the internet and look up that area to see if it is correct?
     
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  6. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Senior Member

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    I absolutely hate the zeitgeist I live in. There's nothing simple anymore, no chivalry or religiously-informed stories like LOTR... just angst, critique and nihilism. But if I'm trapped, I intend to pound on the cell door with all my might. Perhaps by writing a gay character who heals himself and finds a girlfriend, or a conquistador rescuing beautiful maidens from savages.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2017
  7. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    That sounds like 100% precisely the opposite of healing.
     
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  8. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Senior Member

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    I mean that he heals himself of homosexuality. Just as a giant middle finger to the zeitgeist. If you think it's impossible for such a story to be successful, I will point out that Eliezer Yudkowsky got away with making rape legal in his sci-fi Three Worlds Collide (with it being endorsed by the entire human cast).
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2017
  9. surrealscenes

    surrealscenes Senior Member

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    Where do you live?
     
  10. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    @Mouthwash Maybe we should take this to the Debate forum?
     
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  11. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Senior Member

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    Israel right now, grew up in Indiana.

    I'm game if you are. Make a thread on whatever you want to debate.
     
  12. Xboxlover

    Xboxlover Senior Member

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    Hoping to change this with the way I'm writing mine. I wanted more of an exploration and action adventure alongside my character development. Hense multiple characters and planets. I like the wanderlust ideals of video games and want to desperately portray that in mine.
     
  13. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    @Wreybies @Simpson17866 have given good responses. I echo your sentiments. One element that I really love about LOTR and the Conan is the portrayal of distinct people, places and times. While not all fantasy stories need to have this kind of setting (I read a very good fantasy novel that focused on being a romantic drama)more than a few either don't or fail at it. I'm spending a lot of time world building for my fantasy series for the very reason you bring up. I want my world to be a very, hopefully, interesting and rememberable character.
     
  14. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin My get up and go must have got up and went... Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Most writers do. Almost one of them prerequisite things... art as sublimation.
     
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  15. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    Well exploring for explorations sake, is kinda on the extremities these days.
    As for all the other points based on chivalry and religious conceptual plot
    foundations is alive and kicking. More the former than the latter of course.

    So write these explore for explorations sake type story. Face the facts that
    things change with time, and that doesn't mean you can't write from a
    more traditional foundation like that. Only way that it is ever going to be
    written if you take the time to write them. :)
     
  16. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    On a slightly different tack, one of the things I've particularly noted this summer is the way tourism behaves. Tourism is killing exploration.

    Suddenly, Scotland is over-run with tourists who are chasing The Celtic Twilight, or Outlanderalia. They aren't interested in discovering what is actually here today. They are interested in dashing from 'sight' to 'sight,' overrunning Skye in search of the fairy glen or whatever, galumphing around the must-see castles, taking selfies, and rushing off to put them on the internet. Or they arrive here in massive cruise ships, spend part of a day cruising the tourist shops, then it's back on the boat. This is called 'travel.'

    Exploration is still possible. It involves not assuming what you're going to find. Look, listen, linger and learn. The reality is a lot different from the selfies. There are many many parts of our planet that I'm sure would be a surprise to us if we went there with an open mind. Going off to see the world is still possible.

    BTW, as a member of the Baby Boomer generation, I blame our parents. Without them, we wouldn't be here! :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2017
  17. Xboxlover

    Xboxlover Senior Member

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    For the most part, I can see that. I have to disagree to some extent. I live in Utah and have lived in Arizona and have explored many places, I'm not interested in selfies. (Landscape scenery and family photos are great but I usually keep them to myself.) I'd like to think that there are a few people out there that take their time and enjoy their vacations. My dad took me fishing and hunting, camping all over. Even though I've lived in the west most my life I still feel like I haven't seen it all and I still keep my mind and heart open to experiencing new things every time I go somewhere. I've been to Lake Powell a few times and each experience has been different for me. I have to say when it comes to those trips I look forward to tuning out society and listening to nature. Flaming Gorge as well, I've been there more times than I can count but every experience has been different and cherished. I love the feeling at the end of the day when I've been fishing for 14 hours and I lie in bed and I feel like the waves are rocking me to sleep. I wouldn't trade an experience like that for anything. I feel taking one's time and actually shutting off the world and disconnecting from devices it the best thing. I actually kind of recent technology to some extent to what it has done to us as a people. All I see anymore are people who are too afraid to interact in person or without a go between. I see people missing out on life because their faces are buried in phones and the vanity of a superficial social life. (I don't use fb that much I think I've been on like twice this year. Instead of texting, I call and when I need money I go to the bank instead of wire transfer online. It gets me offline and into the real world. Weird for a millennial huh.) People miss out on WAY too much.
     
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  18. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

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    Literature is really about exploring the soul. If you want to explore the physical world, well, it sounds like you know what Google Earth is and you know what cosmic background radiation is--fiction can't compare.
     
  19. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

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    To be fair, I think a lot of people would love this, if they really had the opportunity. I don't think anyone really thinks Netflix compares to hanging out at the beach all day. Sadly, non electronic activities, which nowadays often require traveling and time off, are becoming luxuries...because of the boomers :)
     
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  20. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Cheer up. Us boomers will all die pretty soon, then you guys can put everything to rights again. :)

    Incidentally, the travel I did, with the exception of one trip back home to Michigan in the past 31 years (in 2004), one trip to Nova Scotia (for book research in 2002) and one short trip to the Netherlands in 2006 just after I retired, was done in 1982 and 1985, before I moved to Scotland. For both trips I worked several years to save enough money to take the trip. Fortunately in both cases my boss took me back after I returned, as I had to take unpaid leave of absence to do both trips. I traveled with a backpack, camped out in my own wee tent or stayed with friends, etc. I hitchiked around, because I couldn't afford standard travel, except for getting there and getting back. Health insurance? Don't make me laugh. I didn't have any. I just got lucky.

    I feel as annoyed with folks who blame 'baby boomers' for all the world's ills as young people do when they are told that young people are all feckless, addicted to the internet, and living off mom and dad. Stereotypes based on what generation we belong to annoy me. We're all products of our times, and of what went before. Boomers were the product of the war years and the prosperity that followed, mainly in the USA. Our biggest crime is, apparently, not having huge families ourselves, so our descendants would outnumber us and more easily fund our retirements, rinse and repeat. Erm. In an overcrowded world, that didn't seem to be a great idea to us. It still doesn't.

    Automation is what takes jobs away. And while baby boomers started the trend, I don't see millenials or Generation X wanting to move away from it. So....just sayin'....
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2017
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  21. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    No more slavery, no more LGBT discrimination, no more sexism (well, at least a knowledge that we shouldn't to all of those)...were those all just a product of colonial fervour?

    That's what I'm talking about! And it resonates with the colonial fiction where the underdeveloped native women were just waiting for a handsome white man to show them a good time.
     
  22. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    Sorry Boomers, I'm afraid you're going to have to live a bit longer. If you ever think about dying remember that you'll be leaving the world in the hands of the millennials; you need to stick around until the next generation after them are old enough to leave the keys to the world to.
     
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  23. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Okay, I'm doing my best. Vitamins, organic fruit and veg, etc. Staying out of the rain.
     
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  24. Link the Writer

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    OP, what's stopping you from writing an adventure/exploration story? Yeah, we've gotten the Earth basically mapped out to the smallest inch of grass in the middle of Mongolia, and we pretty much know what our solar system looks like -- but why should that stop you?

    For someone who has never left their hometown, reading about a city on the other side of the planet would be an adventure because they've never been there! By this, I mean have your characters do more than visit the big sites, take selfies, and go home. Look, I once read a book by a Russian author detailing his adventures in Africa (he was a scientist studying crocodile behavior, and yes, it was in this decade.) Reading about the local customs of each African country, what he ate, what he did... that was an adventure for me. Why? Because I've never left this country, and his writing made me feel I was actually in the African countries.

    I even remember one tip he gave: "If you ever find yourself on the Savanna, ask the tour guides to help you locate the lesser known creatures (ie, no rhinos, elephants, giraffes, etc.) that exist -- they'll be very impressed with you."

    So go write a story like that. It may not be about saving scantly-clad alien princesses locked up by evil Martins, or discovering a lost civilization overtaken by nature, but I can assure you that for someone who has never left their own hometown, discovering and learning about a city they only heard about and experiencing it with all the five senses as per the rules of writing, that'll be one hell of an adventure for them.
     
  25. Xboxlover

    Xboxlover Senior Member

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    I don't think this has anything to do with the boomers. I think this has everything to do with corrupt government officials running amuck for generations and the economy.
     

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