What Will Hope do for Science Fiction?

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by kcf, Nov 6, 2008.

  1. Steven L Jordan

    Steven L Jordan I like SF. SF is cool.

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    SF is more than just a genre that responds, knee-jerk fashion, to the issues of the day... though it has obviously been known to do that. SF also looks at the Big Picture, the long-term view, which tends to smooth out the bumps and valleys created by changing political views and leadership.

    The American government has made little progress towards obvious changes, pro or con, primarily due to its own inherent contentiousness. We are still in an era where big business overtly controls government, or minimizes government's ability to adversely impact big business, and the people accept bread and circuses to avoid making waves.

    These trends have been influencing (American) SF heavily in the past few decades. I think we need to see changes to that logjam, in order to give writers a reason to see something different on the horizon.

    But don't forget: A lot of SF is built around what sells, and scary dystopias have proven to be much more popular book-sellers than utopian lit.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2012
  2. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    SF doesn't do anything. You are anthropomorphizing the literature.

    The sf WRITER reacts and responds to the environment if that what s/he wants to do. S/he may be totally out of touch and the story may have nothing to do with reality.

    Consider Bujold's Cryoburn. She has corporations packaging and reselling contracts on people in cryogenic storage even though some of them are dead. But most people don't know that. So it is obviously similar to the packaging and selling of sub-prime mortgages. But I have not seen anyone make that comparison about the story.

    But it is the writer not the SF that is responsible.

    Lots of SF has nothing to say about anything.

    Like the Flinx series by Alan Dean Foster is entertaining but it does not really have anything to say about anything.

    psik
     
  3. Arrgh

    Arrgh Registered User

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  4. Arrgh

    Arrgh Registered User

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    I'm currently betting on dystopian futures based on pervasive surveillance states.
     
  5. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    It just shows how much realism reality and science fiction lack.

    I voted for Obama the first time.

    But I also found it really curious that a junior senator who had not completed his first term got the money and support to have even a reasonable chance of winning a run for president.

    As I voted I wondered who had bought him.

    psik
     
  6. phil_geo

    phil_geo Rat Thing

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    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

    When Bush was President, everything was man against man. With Obama, it's exactly the opposite.
     
  7. marshal atkins

    marshal atkins Registered User

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    I was sick to my stomach that America could elect someone so hollow in '08. I was even sicker in '12 when it re-elected someone proven to be hollow and with a illustrated record of fail and I am still sick that nothing will be learned by this debacle.
     
  8. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    Okay, troops, this thread was allowed to exist -- barely -- because it was kept civil and because it was about how the political and cultural climate might effect science fiction writing, i.e. the topic was nominally about science fiction.

    So if you're going to revive it, the topic has to be about science fiction, not a political discussion about the U.S. or other country. Except for very limited, moderated discussions in the personal author forums, we don't allow discussions about politics on SFFWorld, due to their tendency to create flame wars, unless they are directly involved in a discussion of science fiction or fantasy/horror literature. (See guidelines.) So please return to the thread topic.
     
  9. hawkeyye

    hawkeyye Registered User

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    The problem Kat, is that it's impossible to talk about "hope" and how it relates to sci-fi in the sense that the TC intended. The TC clearly believed the election of Obama would change the world for the better. Now that it hasn't happened and one can argue things have gotten worse, it's impossible to talk about hope and sci-fi without it being overly political. I suggest you kill this thread.
     
  10. suboptimal

    suboptimal Registered User

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    I see a lot in the current political climate and process to draw stories from, especially the sense that politics is nothing but theater designed to move from one manufactured crisis to the next, all to drum up more opportunities for lobbyist largesse. I don't see this as a partisan issue in the US, as it's a common feature of both parties - it's a feature of the system as a whole. Projecting the mixture of extreme, fractured politics, hyper-concentration of wealth, and ever-expanding notions of corporate personhood into the near future is extraordinarily ripe material for SF.

    Many folks don't want politics in their SF, which is their perogative, of course. For my part, I'm eager for more politics in my SF, as I think there's a lot of room for SF's role as social commentary in our society today. I'm exploring political themes in a couple of my WIPs and finding a lot of useful ways to shape characters around them. The challenge is to not take political assumptions for granted, especially as we project into the future.

    I think the original question was interesting, and looking back on it I'm skeptical that the Obama election had much impact on SF at all. Perhaps there's an element of misery fatigue setting in, as a lot of morose themes like ecological disaster, casual ultraviolence (Hunger Games), and nuclear apocalypse (The Road) have had a pretty heavy cultural presence lately. It makes sense that war fatigue and economic stress would make a softer, more cerebral form of SF more appealing, especially stuff that focuses on romance or ultra-introspective ideas.
     
  11. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    Both The Road and The Hunger Games were published before Obama's election, but thank you, suboptimal, for showing how it can be done. :)
     
  12. suboptimal

    suboptimal Registered User

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    Kat, I was referring to the spread of their cultural impact, not when they were published.
     
  13. TarotChamber

    TarotChamber New Member

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    When I associate the term "Hope" with "Science Fiction" I almost immediately think of the space race. (I guess its less optimistic corollary would be the Cold War)

    I don't know if it's truly conceptually possible to separate the space race from the Cold War, but I think it's a neat thought exercise to look solely at the type of genuine excitement and enthusiasm generated by the idea of achieving something really cool.

    I believe that kind of spirit might have been similar to the euphoria that accompanied Obama's election in 2008. (Disclaimer: I was born in the 80's so I don't have perfect points of reference.) All that said, I would love to see more SF that could inspire or embody another drive for achievement. The big question to me is, how interesting is achievement for achievement's sake, and how much does it become interesting as a result of a "good guy vs bad guy" competition? I think that globalization (we all presumably know and understand each other more as a result of modern technology than we could have decades ago) should make it easier for us to get past the "find the bad guy" narrative into something more positive, in real life.

    My question for science fiction is, how to make that kind of story interesting / how to incorporate meaningful conflict / achievement, if we truly are looking towards the kind of hopeful future we imagined back in 2008?

    In other words: Ask not what Hope can do for Science Fiction, ask what Science Fiction can do for Hope. :-D
     
  14. Arrgh

    Arrgh Registered User

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    Perhaps more tales of grim, dark futures where drone assassins rule the skies and people are afraid to leave their homes?
     
  15. Vlad1

    Vlad1 Registered User

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    First off, massive necro;)

    Second, I believe that the general bleakening of things hapened even beore the financial crisis hit, and not only in the USA.
    prior to the crisis I think that media became more cynical, and what entertainment wasn't full of negative sociel commentary, sarcasm, cynicism and anti-heroes was basically strongly escapist.
    All the sappy romantic Victorian-esque steampunk fiction that is basically soap opera/period drama in disguise, and fantasy are what I personally view as escapist and nostalgic fiction, stuff that makes people look inward and backwards towards the past, or an idealized version of the past with cool magic and steam robots.

    I generally have the same feeling for the world around me as the one I get from reading the Dying Earth stories, that this is an old, warn out place with no perspectives, that western civilization, if not the world as a whole, has reached its zenith.

    As to scifi, well it really needs to go back to basics, to something like updated versions of heinlein's juveniles and short stories and Clarke's best.
    Overall positive, where science is humanity's best chance of making something more and where we are boldly going where no one has gone before, be it for profits, curiosity or science.
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2014