What's Missing in Science Fiction at the Moment?

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Rob Sanders, Jul 13, 2012.

  1. Rob Sanders

    Rob Sanders http://rob-sanders.blogsp

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    Lots of great discussion on here about what is being written in the Science Fiction genre. As a writer I'm also interested in what isn't being addressed. In general terms, rather than specifics, what isn't being explored in the Science Fiction genre that you feel should be? : )
     
  2. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    Before 2001: A Space Odyssey there was hardly any science fiction in visual format that was really good enough to watch. Forbidden Planet is the only exception I know of. Everything else you had to make a conscious effort to ignore the bad effects to enjoy the plot even if it was a great plot like The Day the Earth Stood Still.

    But since the 70s the good CGI has changed the audience for sci-fi so people watch for great effects even if the sci-fi plot is crap, Cowboys and Aliens and Real Steel for example. Harlan Ellison has been talking about the dumbing down of science fiction for years. But if the objective is to make a buck then the strategy is to attract a large audience?

    So lots of people get bent out of shape if I even talk about the science in science fiction. What is really curious is that Kurt Vonnegut talked about this in 1965 and even mentioned C. P. Snow.

    https://sites.google.com/site/zscslaughterhousefive/reading-plan/week-4-science-fiction

    It is just so weird that we now have a sci-fi society with computers everywhere. We have technology driven social problems like how to use the computers in the schools when Hugo Gernsback was discussing this 80 years ago.

    So the question is what kind of audience are you trying to attract and have the old style sci-fi readers died off to the degree that they don't matter? I am amazed that there seems to be so much more interest in Firefly than Babylon 5.

    I'll be blunt. Before 1969 getting to the Moon was science fiction. But even then it was obvious that doing it had to involve Newtonian physics.

    So now, 43 years after the Moon landing (July 20th is coming up), people who do not understand Newtonian physics are not qualified to evaluate science fiction. But now much of the stuff called SF has degenerated into scientific irrelevance.

    psik
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2012
  3. Hitmouse

    Hitmouse Registered User

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    Well, hardly. Not quite the plethora of stuff that you see these days but:
    The films of Georges Melies
    Metropolis
    Frankenstein
    Bride of Frankenstein
    Flash Gordon
    Flash Gordons Trip to Mars etc etc
    Buck Rogers
    The Invisible Man
    Mighty Joe Young
    King Kong
    Destination Moon
    When Worlds Collide
    20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
    The Creature form Black Lagoon
    Godzilla
    War of the Worlds
    The Time Machine
    The Man with X-Ray Eyes
    First Men on the Moon
    Robinson Crusoe on Mars
    Fahrenheit 451
    Fantastic Voyage
    Quatermass and the Pit



    Not to mention a much greater quantity of drive-in B movie SF.
     
  4. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    Well, I think we have a problem with what I mean by "good enough to watch".

    If the story is enjoyable enough I could forgive the bad effects. But they were still bad effects. Even Forbidden Planet kind of fell down when the monster was attacking the electric fence.

    But now the effects are so good no forgiveness is required. Avatar has the better effects but The Abyss is the better movie so it becomes a matter of how good is the science fiction story?

    But in sci-fi literature effects do not matter. But I think the movies and television have changed the total sci-fi audience. People who would not read that junk in the 50s and 60s are now caught up in science fiction. So the serious SF plots of the 50s and 60s, and possible new ones with the change in technology, become irrelevant to this audience.

    20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
    Mysterious Island
    The Time Machine
    War of the Worlds


    I must agree those 4 did have decent effects.

    psik
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2012
  5. Steven L Jordan

    Steven L Jordan I like SF. SF is cool.

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    All may not be lost.

    A great many SF fans were initially drawn into SF by the showy and shallow SF adventure media like Flash Gordon and Star Wars, later to seek and discover more serious SF as they got older. We may be in the early stage of a new cycle of recruiting new fans through Sfx-charged media and seeing them mature into more serious SF.

    Maybe.
     
  6. Kazellion

    Kazellion New Member

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  7. Rob Sanders

    Rob Sanders http://rob-sanders.blogsp

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    Hi Kazellion. Yeah, I saw the other thread but I was thinking about something else really. Rather than what was lacking or poorly executed in science fiction, I was thinking about the as yet unexplored in the genre. Is there a propensity to deal with certain settings, genre elements or representations? Is there a reluctance to explore others? What would readers like to see that isn't being addressed? I'd find it hard to believe that everything has been covered! : )
     
  8. Rosie Oliver

    Rosie Oliver Registered User

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    Does SF really want innovation

    For my sins, I write science fiction. A lot of it has innovative ideas, ones that I haven't seen elsewhere in the genre. I just can't seem to get into the pro markets :mad: or even the semi-pro. In fact I've recently had a story turned round so fast that I can't believe the editor read beyond the first sentence.

    To boot I recently completed a novel which I know has ideas that aren't anywhere else in the genre - yes I looked high and low for those. Zilch. Absolutely nothing like it. But can I get an agent enthusiastic about it? Not so far.

    At this point you may think my writing style has something wrong with it... strange to say I recently completed an MA at Bath Spa University - one of the top 5 in the country for MA Creative Writing - and got a distinction for the semester that involved writing half the said the novel... I'm beginning to think the science fiction genre isn't really interested in innovative themes... Doh!
     
  9. Rob Sanders

    Rob Sanders http://rob-sanders.blogsp

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    You sound a bit down, Rosie. : (

    The great thing about writers is that we have great faith in ourselves. Others might disregard that as ego, but where would writers be without ego? We have to believe in ourselves and our futures: it is that belief that makes things happen for us. We turn fancy and mere notion into something concrete and real. Tomorrow's happiness. If you can put one word after another, in an order that pleases others and have the fortitude to do that night after night until you have a story, then you're already pretty special. Very few people can achieve that. Celebrate that.

    Unfortunately, with that searing ego in your chest comes crippling doubt. All good writers suffer doubts about themselves and their work. It's part of being a creative: an artist. The fire will return. The irrepressible desire to create. You have to write what makes you happy. Nothing else really matters. Second guessing the markets is all well and good but if you end up writing something you hate, your gift will become a chore. How will others fall in love with your work if you are not in love with it yourself?

    Hope this helped. : )
     
  10. Rosie Oliver

    Rosie Oliver Registered User

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    Many thanks for your kind thoughts, Rob. And agree with all you've said.

    The frustration is mainly due to the fact that I know I've got new ideas, crafted into stories and nobody seems to want the 'new'. It's almost as if the pro SF publishing community are scared of them. And I thought it was exactly the kind of thing they would be interested in. :confused:

    It adds to my view of there being a lot missing from the genre... and yet we have others saying in public that science fiction is dying as a genre, because the stories are not sufficiently ground-breaking.

    So I do wonder if the issue is really the publishing community are wanting to hedge their income by relying on variations of what has sold successfully before, without taking a risk of giving their audience something really different. To an extent, I have sympathy with this position in this recessional times... so what can a gal do?

    I sure as heck don't know...
     
  11. Chuffalump

    Chuffalump A chuffing heffalump

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    So write some short fiction. I'm pretty sure there's a bit of this site where you can upload your writing for everyone to see. Put one of your 'new' ideas into a story and see what the reaction is. Maybe everyone will think it's fantastic or maybe you'll find that your ideas have been rejected because no one is interested. There's a wide range of readers on the forum so you should reach a fair representation of the SF audience as a whole.

    Ask Hobbit or one of the Mods maybe for advice if you feel like doing this. Go to the Writing section of the forum.

    Worst case you get some (hopefully) constructive criticism. Best case everyone loves it and you can point the agent to the site as a 'reference'.
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2012
  12. Chuffalump

    Chuffalump A chuffing heffalump

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    Does anyone here read enough of the current SF 'range' to say what's missing anyway?

    I personally get most of my books from the library. I read the bumf on the dust sheet or back cover and make my choice based on how interested I feel. I probably miss a lot of beautifully written SF just because the premise isn't interesting to me. How many people here just read a book because it's SF?

    If it's more than 0 then all I can say is that you are lucky. One trip to the library for you = 2 minutes. One trip to the library for me = 30 minutes.
     
  13. Rob Sanders

    Rob Sanders http://rob-sanders.blogsp

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    It's an interesting point, Chuffle. Plus, just because a book exists dealing with a specific setting or new element exists it doesn't mean anyone is reading it. A fantastic new concept could be going unacknowledged an enjoyed right now because of poor or lacking marketing. I suppose when I say 'missing' I mean unexplored and addressed rather than absolutely not in existence. : )
     
  14. Steven L Jordan

    Steven L Jordan I like SF. SF is cool.

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    I've asked myself similar questions as well, but I believe it has more to do with the major publishers' concentrating on the known quantities, in terms of authors and subjects, rather than take any risks in the current belt-tightening market. Readers seem to think about the same, which is why independent authors like myself have a hard time breaking through the commercial wall, unless they write commercially popular material or can get noticed in promotional efforts amidst the major publishers.
     
  15. Rosie Oliver

    Rosie Oliver Registered User

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    From Chuffle: So write some short fiction. I'm pretty sure there's a bit of this site where you can upload your writing for everyone to see. Put one of your 'new' ideas into a story and see what the reaction is.

    I considered your challenge, and decided the best thing to do was to point to my e-books C.A.T. and its follow-on Neptune's Angel. Both have new ideas, one about a computer being a self-learner and the other about a computing idea I've called the Lucifer. They aren't what I call pro market, but they are out there. I will also say that I have a short story (Ripple Effect) coming out in the Autumn issue of Jupiter (again not a pro market), which deals with something completely different.

    I think Steven may have hit one of the main reasons why new writers are having difficulty at he moment... I really am a bit of maverick in my novel... it was one of those where ideas tumbled onto the page one after another... I really am not joking... it surprised even me!
     
  16. Rob Sanders

    Rob Sanders http://rob-sanders.blogsp

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    So there seems to be two contradictory messages coming through the different comments. What do we think? Are science fiction publishers / readers looking for known quantities in terms of sub-genre and setting etc or on are they on the look out for something fresh and new?
     
  17. Steven L Jordan

    Steven L Jordan I like SF. SF is cool.

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    I think publishers are definitely hunkering down and avoiding new literary ideas that will rock the boat. The fact that the staid literary conventions still sell well would indicate that most readers agree, and want the same thing they've always had. This leaves readers looking for something new, but at present, I think they are in the minority.
     
  18. Steven L Jordan

    Steven L Jordan I like SF. SF is cool.

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    (I realized I've never directly responded to the original post.)

    I'd like to see more realistic depictions of life on Earth as time passes and alters the ecosystem beyond our present comfort-range. Stories of this nature tend to go to the overly-extreme, and therefore not very realistic.

    I've struggled myself to create what I consider realistic space-based stories: IMO, FTL is unworkable, generation ships are impractical, and going to space (beyond our solar system) seems pointless unless we have a reasonable way to get there. I finally developed a workable concept and wrote two novels around it, but I have yet to see many other novels that take the same tack.

    And, of course, I'd like to see more stories that seriously investigate the likely physical and social changes to humans who continue to develop their technology, go to space (if possible) or find other ways to live and work.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2012
  19. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    What concept in which stories?

    I think 20% of light speed with life spans of 300 years and a hibernation method slowing biological function by 5 to 1 or more.

    psik
     
  20. Rosie Oliver

    Rosie Oliver Registered User

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    From Steven L jordan: MIO, FTL is unworkable, generation ships are impractical, and going to space (beyond our solar system) seems pointless unless we have a reasonable way to get there.

    There is a third way and psikeyhackr is half way there in his suggestion. I touched on the method in my short story 'Life Sentence' that was published in Jupiter 2005! Admittedly I have significantly improved my writing craft since then.

    But I did start to write a novel about the follow-on from this idea. But with not getting much by way of positive feedback for the short story, I left off writing the novel half way through and it is still gathering dust. Yes, the half-a-novel as it stood could have done with some severe editing, but without positive feedback I didn't see the point of continuing...

    Which goes to show that publishing is a two-way street between the readers and writers... with writers reacting to what readers say and readers reacting to what writers produce! And I suspect we now have a feedback loop in existence that reinforces the production of standard themes in science fiction...