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  1. #1
    Nobody in Particular kcf's Avatar
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    What Will Hope do for Science Fiction?

    From the blog:

    In my 32 years I’ve not seen anything like the current atmosphere here in the US and even the rest of the world. The best single word for it seems to be HOPE. Late Tuesday night after the election results confirmed Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States of America the scene was simply amazing. Spontaneous celebrations erupted around the country. People celebrated from the White House to Times Square and even here in the relatively small city of Flagstaff, Arizona, people drove around honking car horns, screaming for joy and celebrations erupted in downtown. The next day came as a daze of ‘I can’t believe it really happened’ and millions felt a true hope for the future of our country that has been missing.

    Now, I’m much more of a realist than an idealist and I fully realize that the US is still a very divided country. However, this is nothing like any election I’ve experienced in my lifetime and the hope that those I know and that I feel myself cannot be denied. It seems much of the world feels the same way.

    In this post-9-11 world things have changed. This change is reflected in all walks of life and science fiction has certainly embraced the reality. Look at everything from Ken Macleod’s The Execution Channel to Cowboy Angels by Paul McAuley and from Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother to David J. Williams’ Mirrored Heavens. Science Fiction writers have taken stock of the world and look toward an ominous future.

    So, I ask does the election of Barack Obama change the game. Will Obama really change things or will he be more of the same for the US and the world? How will science fiction writers address the hope that permeates much of the world – at least temporarily?

    I really am curious to hear from readers, writers, editors, and others. I suspect that any change will be some time in coming, less than hoped for, and that it’s too premature to see how science fiction will react, if it reacts at all. But, I still feel that hope and it cannot be denied.

  2. #2
    Registered User devilsadvoc8's Avatar
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    Disclaimer: I am not an Obama supporter.


    Honestly, I think Obama was/is more rhetoric than action. That is supported by his track record or lack thereof. His vision is grandiose and mainly fluff. I hope, however, to be proven wrong.

    I will consider his presidency a success if he accomplishes just one thing: to bring the black population of America out of its apathy, culture of blame & hate and irresponsibility.

    As for science fiction or even just fiction in general, I think that they reflect the attitude and emotions of the time. I haven't personally noticed that SF has been more bleak than in previous times. I think that heavier topics are taken on nowdays and I also think that there is more acceptance for a non-traditional happy ending type story.

  3. #3
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    position: European
    thus I'm looking at the Obama's election from a far and somewhat cold point of view
    I (but not only, discussions pop up in the forum I frequent more) say: ok, great, but now let's see what will really go on...

    positive pushing for SF?
    some days ago my friends had a debat about this http://strangeandhappy.com/2008/09/2...ion-manifesto/
    so the topic is felt
    but not by the writers, apparently

    eventually, I don't mind about happy ending or new hopes, just want good SF, preferably not in the form of saga (kinda soap operas, IMO)

    EOF

  4. #4
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    It's an interesting post though I think that a lot of the Hope thingy is based on misguided panic that Bush/Cheney/Rove/... were going to hijack the democracy, that people were not going to vote for an African American and similar ridiculous stuff. I expected an Obama blowout since he got nominated and was sure of it since the financial crisis.

    I used to like all 3 major party candidates, Hillary - she is my senator and I voted for her in 06 -, Obama and McCain, but in front of the Obama phenomenon, both Hillary and McCain conducted abominable smear, very little substance campaigns and I got disgusted profoundly with both and with Bill Clinton who was my favorite President peccadilloes and all until now, so I voted for Obama without hesitation and I am profoundly happy the Republican Party got the spanking it deserved for 8 years of misgovernment, or for purists out there 6 years of misgovernment and 2 of stonewalling.

    This being said, I am a bit on the cynical side regarding expecting big things from President Obama, but even if he does little things like throwing out the Bush era incompetent or corrupt people, allows science to decide where medicine goes and not ideology, mends relation with our allies and so on and it will be a huge improvement on the Bush years.

    Regarding sf, I do not think the election itself will have much of an impact immediately since for once there is quite a lag between writing novels and publishing them and for another I think that there won't be major discontinuities with the past. I mean Bush was bad, but still US was a democracy, people voted... it's not that we move from a totalitarian regime to a democratic one...

    Science, technology and their impact on society drive sf more than politics these days

  5. #5
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    We're not a political site, and we've often found that such passion can lead to issues, but I think we're using it rationally here: well done all.

    To depoliticise it a little, though Obama seems to be a motivating cause at the moment (and let's all hope, regardless of political persuasion or creed, that the rhetoric is met by positive action) the question is: what would any genre do given a more positive, more optimistic point of view?

    To think further perhaps we need to reflect on previous practice a little. SF has always, in its early days, reflected the opportunity of ideas. In the 1950's & 60s, certainly in the UK and the US, there were lots of Sf books pointing out the new frontier and that the way to progress and future enlightenment was through new ideas and new discovery. (Admittedly we also had our share of fears: alien invasion, human mismanagement and nuclear holocaust, for example) but there was a time when the future possibilities seemed infinite and optimistic. Arthur C Clarke is my most obvious thought here.

    So will we see a return to such a bright undiscovered future?

    In the mean time our hopes have been unrealised, our chances missed or messed up. The world today is a much more cynical and disillusioned one.

    Whilst we hope for the future we also hear 'credit crunch' - a phrase which, at least here in the UK, I hear more than once, every day at the moment.

    How can this be reflected in SF?

    We have cynical SF:technology gone wrong, misused or misplaced. We also have an SF with grand plans but limited funding. We have SF that has lost that idealistic sense of wonder to be replaced with tedium and the reality that space exploration/travel can/will be dull and beyond the reach of most earthbound humans.

    The question I believe we're thinking of here is whether renewed hope can change that.

    And it's not an easy one. There is so much negativity to change, but perhaps we could see a lot more outward looking SF where the optimism of the human spirit is equally met by an equally possible action.

    But, hand on heart, as much as I would like to see it, personally I'm not sure that there will be much change: at least to start with. Obama has admitted himself that the road will be long, the climb will be steep and it may take more than one term of office.

    So, sitting on the fence at the end of a lengthy post, I think it will depend on what actually happens to justify this optimism that will make a difference.

    Mark / Hobbit
    Mark

  6. #6
    Live Long & Suffer psikeyhackr's Avatar
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    From a somewhat anachronistic perspective science fiction seemed to become more darker and pessimistic in the 70s. I have a tendency to think of the turning point as Joe Haldeman's The Forever War but I really didn't notice it at the time it is only in looking back. The 50s and 60s just had a more optimistic outlook about the future even with the cold war thing going.

    Like the difference between ST:TNG and ST;DS9.

    Oh no, another Black guy.

    I think we will have somewhat of an Obama effect almost regardless of how he does as president. The BIG PROBLEM is the economy but no one can really blame him for that. Professional economists were saying it is the worst thing since the Depression before he won. So even with that how bad can he look after GWB. I voted against that idiot twice and I thought it was obvious he was an idiot in 1999.

    Wait a minute? This is a science fiction movie.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_Impact_(film)

    I just now thought of that. An asteroid is going to hit the planet. It's the end of the world.

    Run for your lives. Oh, there's nowhere to run.

    A Black president 10 years after a movie with a Black president. 11 years?

    Curiouser and curiouser.

    psik
    Last edited by psikeyhackr; November 6th, 2008 at 06:25 PM.

  7. #7
    Ataraxic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    I'm an American and 9/11 was one of the worst days in my life and will haunt me for the rest of my life. But...other countries have had it far worse and far more horrible than we have. For the U.S., 9/11 was ground-changing -- and created a reactionary viewpoint that caused great damage the world over for seven years -- but it could be argued that there really isn't a post-9/11 world for the rest of the world -- that 9/11 was one major incident among many, before and after it, that the global society is having to deal with, as well as the economic crises that have occurred because all our countries are linked (though they often refuse to act like they know this.)

    Now, since the U.S. is the heart of SFF fiction -- not the epitome, just the largest market -- it could be argued that 9/11 has had a big impact on SF. But I don't really think so, because SF has been imagining 9/11 and a thousand other scenarios, both apocalyptic and ones of salvation, since the beginning. For me SF has always been both optimistic and pessimistic about the future, near and far. They are different types of stories -- what if there was a disaster (asteroid) and it was averted? What if it was only partially averted and some people sacrificed their lives? What if it was not averted and the Earth was plunged into destruction? What if the apocalypse of the asteroid came, destroyed the Earth, but two hundred years later, a new human society emerged, ignorant of most of its past, discovering things in the ruins, and changed at the genetic level? What if the asteroid destroyed Earth and humans died off but various species of rodents grew larger, and became sentinent beings? Etc.

    SF authors will always try out new visions like my teenage daughter tries on tops. Which is why I think people who insist that SF should stick to this or that branch of science, or stick to the near future or the far future, or only the future, and so on, are missing the point. It's never one type of story, because there's always going to be someone who takes up the counterpoint -- what if it went this way instead.

    So, yes, there will probably be some interesting stories, especially in quicker to respond short fiction, about how world demographics will change, about peace in the Middle East, and saving parts of the planet environmentally, etc. (Hello fusion stories!) But there will also be more stories based on things like Britain now monitoring citizens' emails and phone calls and watching them with cameras, totalitarian religious dystopias, the death of the oceans, and all the rest. They always do both, no matter whether the economic situation is good or bad.

  8. #8
    Nobody in Particular kcf's Avatar
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    Good responses - I didn't intend for it to be a discussion of political idealogies and such, and it hasn't crossed that line, which is good.

    I think Kat really nails it. I think that the bigger impacts will be in short fiction and near-future SF. I think in the last few years near-future SF has been trending toward visions of an American police state and even American fascism. There are quite a few visions of a divided America breaking apart, and racial tensions often factor in heavily. I see this focus shifting as a result. I think we'll likely find more focus on corporate bad guys and the like. As for the long-view, I don't see it changing much at all.

  9. #9
    Live Long & Suffer psikeyhackr's Avatar
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    I'm an American and 9/11 was one of the worst days in my life and will haunt me for the rest of my life. But...other countries have had it far worse and far more horrible than we have. For the U.S., 9/11 was ground-changing -- and created a reactionary viewpoint that caused great damage the world over for seven years --

    Which is why I think people who insist that SF should stick to this or that branch of science, or stick to the near future or the far future, or only the future, and so on, are missing the point.
    Considering the situation I don't think I can even communicate how BIZARRE I consider this to be. I thought about the destruction of the twin towers for two weeks after 9/11 and concluded there was no way a normal airliner could cause what we saw.

    The Empire State Building was completed 70 years before the destruction of the towers but the physics of skyscrapers didn't change in that time. It is laughable that we don't have a table specifying the TONS of STEEL and TONS of CONCRETE on every level of the buildings. Science fiction readers don't know conservation of momentum and damped oscillation, JEEZUS.

    I am currently listening the the audio book SPACE TUG by Murray Leinster. It is from 1953 and the crude and blatant sexism is hysterically funny. But he does integrate Newtonian Physics into the story. This modern stuff about artificial intelligence and nano-technology that never even explains artificial intelligence and nano-technology would not help anyone understand if the WTC collapse was possible.

    The Xendi attack on Earth in Star Trek: Enterprise where Tucker's sister was killed was too obviously similar to 9/11. It pissed me off and I stopped watching the show. It doesn't annoy me as much now and I'll watch it but I can't help wondering what they were thinking at the time.

    Skyscraper physics is never going to change and this will involve science and engineering education in this country ad nauseum. I suppose it won't matter to sci-fi that doesn't have REAL SCIENCE.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0kUICwO93Q

    So what good are politicians that can't understand simple physics. They are HOPELESS! Listening to politicians is just a boring annoyance. I'm supposed to worry about General Motors when I haven't been to an auto show in 30+ years? Changing the design of cars is like teenage girls changing tops, but too expensive to be interesting. This $40,000 junk looks different from last years $35,000 junk. HOW EXCITING!

    psik

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by psikeyhackr View Post

    So what good are politicians that can't understand simple physics. They are HOPELESS! Listening to politicians is just a boring annoyance. I'm supposed to worry about General Motors when I haven't been to an auto show in 30+ years? Changing the design of cars is like teenage girls changing tops, but too expensive to be interesting. This $40,000 junk looks different from last years $35,000 junk. HOW EXCITING!

    psik
    Don't want to even get into your 9-11 conspiracy theories but I think you are missing the point. Yes you are supposed to worry about General Motors, at least if you live in the US and especially if you live in Michigan like I do. Not because of the latest design and if it's better then last years, that's not what really makes the news. It's the thousands of employees being laid off and the jobs being shipped over seas. It's the impact it has on the economy of Michigan and the US, but you go ahead and keep thinking it's all about the latest trim package.

  11. #11
    Registered User Werthead's Avatar
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    Reposting from kcf's blog as I thought it was a good point:

    The atmosphere in the US does seem somewhat analogous with what we in the UK experienced in 1997 when New Labour came into power after 18 years of Conservative mis-management. The hope and expectation of change was quite palpable. Whilst he'd been writing before, it was during this period that Peter F. Hamilton, arguably British SF's most optimistic figure aside from Banks, became the UK's biggest-selling SF author, so perhaps there is something to that argument.

    However, it was also during this time that the much darker and more cynical Reynolds and Morgan rose to fame, so I am dubious about the correlation working for long. Also, the 1997 boom in the UK was also linked to a moment in history when we were producing excellent films, music and literature all at the same time and everything in general seemed great, whilst the economy was booming like it never had before. None of those other things are happening in the USA at this time.

    I'd say that any boom of optimism related to Obama's election will not be long-lived. Even if he excels as President and guides the country out of its current troubles, it won't happen overnight and there will be some rough bumps along the way which may cause some to lose faith. That may be reflected in the type of books that are written.

    Considering the situation I don't think I can even communicate how BIZARRE I consider this to be. I thought about the destruction of the twin towers for two weeks after 9/11 and concluded there was no way a normal airliner could cause what we saw.
    Interesting, apart from the fact that structural engineers and the 9/11 commission disagree with you. The Twin Towers collapsed because the fire-suppressing foam on the inner cores was blasted off by the physical impact, otherwise the cores would have remained standing even under the unexpectedly heavy fuel/fire load for considerably longer than they did.

  12. #12
    Why is this not in a politics sub-forum that I can avoid?

    What will hope do? Hope will raise will my taxes. I'll have less disposable income. I'll buy less books.

  13. #13
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Why is this not in a politics sub-forum that I can avoid?
    Because we are looking at the effect of optimism on the genre. And how that will be mirrored in the writing and publication of SF.

    At the moment the posts are not overtly political. But there is a feeling that political change will cause genre change, as SF mirrors the real world. Werthead has already mentioned the Hamilton effect in the UK, and the corresponding backlash. Could it happen in the US?

    There's already a genre film being filmed for release in 2009 with a black President. It's clear the election will have an influence. What we're looking at here is whether that will continue in the genre.

    So, that's why it's here and its appropriate. Don't feel you have to say anything though, if you don't want to. There's a few other hundred threads that are not political.

    Mark / Hobbit
    Mark

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Hobbit View Post
    Because we are looking at the effect of optimism on the genre. And how that will be mirrored in the writing and publication of SF.
    And you're acting like it's universal. For the 57 million people who didn't vote for Hopie this doesn't apply. It's nice the Kool Aid crowd has such a warm fuzzy. Go personality cults! But unless all scifi authors and readers are liberals it's not a universal attitude.

  15. #15
    Ataraxic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Psikey, usually I can follow what you're saying, but the last post you did, I had some problems, mainly in trying to figure out what part of my post you were specifically objecting to and arguing against.

    I'm saying that in order for us to be a post-9/11 world, 9/11 would have had to have significantly changed the whole world, creating an age of pessimism and bleakness, and I'm not sure that it did so, as horrible and devastating as it was for me and other Americans, and as horrifying as others in other countries felt it to be, and as much as it showed us that America was as vulnerable as any place else. Europe, the Middle East, etc. had experienced a lot of terrorism before 9/11, with some devastating losses, there are mass genocides in Africa, plenty of wars, etc. So while there is for the U.S. a pre-9/11 world and a post-9/11 world, I'm not sure it's fair to be so egocentric as to claim that this is the same experience for the whole world, for British SFF writers and so on. Except maybe in the area of continued air travel restrictions. (I'm not even touching the conspiracy issue.)

    By branch of science, I meant that there are some fans who feel all SF should be about physics and never about biology or computers. Some fans feel all SF should be near future, never more than 50 years away. Some fans feel a sociological story about scientists on a moon base is unacceptable as SF, and you may be one of them. But my point is that SF authors are going to keep writing those stories anyway, looking at how scientific changes can effect things in one direction or another, tragically, satirically and hopeful. So there isn't going to be one direction in which all SF goes -- all hopeful or all cynical.

    I think SF writers do tend to be politically aware and interested in political scenarios in their writing. But SF was sort of ahead of the curve in having black Presidents and other "hope" ideas already.

    On the other hand, there's definitely some interest in promoting optimistic SF. Solaris Books just announced an anthology of specifically near-future, optimistic SF called Shine, edited by the former editor of Interzone magazine, so international there. So we may see a spate of let's not have the asteroid destroy everything stories. Whether that will become a real movement, I don't know, but it won't be the only type of SF story out there.

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