I searched on "science"
The word is used a total of 80 times and only two instances do not appear as either "science fiction" or "science fictional".
So in the entire article he never really says anything about science or what authors are doing with science in their stories.By which you can probably guess that I see no need for a ‘new positivism’ or ‘new progressivism’ (actually, those are two very different things. By ‘positivism’ may we be thinking of the logical positivism of the Vienna Circle, a philosophy of science that proved inadequate as an account of what science actually does?
So that is the problem with the stuff being called "science fiction."
I think the problem is pretty much the same as what Kurt Vonnegut was saying in 1965. But technology has changed since then and now the "science fiction" and "fantasy" movies and television shows are not full of cheezy special effects so it is not embarrassing for mundanes to watch.
. . . to say "in the entire article he never really says anything about science or what authors are doing with science in their stories" does not seem to comport with remarks such as:
- . . . the writing of science fiction as though it were fantasy, primarily as a way of escaping the rigor of the former.
- If you are writing a science fiction story, then the science fictional elements need to be intimately connected with what the story is about.
- . . . as each new work comes along we identify it as science fiction or not depending on how closely it conforms to the set of characteristics we have already labeled science fiction.
- The other crossover element that I criticized, and it is a different aspect of the same issue, is the number of stories that use the affect of fantasy in what is ostensibly a science fiction story.
- Using the tropes of fantasy to resolve a science fiction story is just a way of waving your hand and saying ‘it doesn’t matter, because anything can happen, all it takes is the whim of the author’.
And those are just from skimming less than all of the first half of his remarks.
You will find the die hard hard SF fans and writers are even tougher than I am on this. I've been around a bit and seen some really extreme opinions.
This is a SCIENCE fiction story:
Omnilingual (1957) by H. Beam Piper
It contains tropes but there is science also.
By "troupe" I believe the author was referring to the common, or some might consider over used, standards of science fiction. You are quite right in your assessment of anti-gravity and tractor beams. Don't forget to include all FTL, communication with aliens, bipedal humanoid aliens, beam weapons, and a whole host of other things. With science fiction, if you start to eliminate those, you should end up with Hard SF, cutting out the implausible and leaving just the science. If you cut out the troupes and what you have lacks science, you have either migrated to literary fiction or fantasy and away from science fiction. That is this guys complaint, that by avoiding the troupes, avoiding the future, and avoiding science, there is a modern crop of "science fiction" that isn't really science fiction at all. I happen to agree with that part of the article.
He also goes on to complain about stories and what message they might give and I think he reads too much into that. Steampunk is not about whitewashing our past, it is an offshoot of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells work. More of an homage to them than a deliberate attempt to rewrite our past. And I do consider steampunk to be science fiction when the science element is there. The key in my thinking is the science, be it hard SF or just the troupes common to the softer end of the genre.
Again, a reminder. I am just sharing my opinion, not saying anyone else is wrong.
You are, of course, entitled to use whatever definition of a term you care to; but using that definition for "science" certainly puts you in the same camp as Humpty Dumpty in Alice:In order for me to consider a story science fiction, it must be based on known, theoretical, or plausible science.
I think we can safely say that the terms "theoretical" and "plausible" as you used them (though with the Humpty Dumpty risk) are essentially identical in meaning. You are thus restricting the scope of scientific understanding of the cosmos to what an early twenty-first-century person might have (that is, to what is currently "plausible"). Do you not see that if someone living in, say, 1712, or even 1812, had so restricted the word "science", the vast majority of the things of significance we have discovered since then would not have been "science" to him or her? Space that is curved? Light that is particulate? And so on."When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."
The only constraint on "science"--by definition--is that it describe impersonal laws by which the cosmos appears to operate, which laws have been derived from exercise of the scientific principle. If those laws in an sf tale are drastically different from those we know or guess right now, a nod toward why we haven't yet seen them manifested would be nice, but that's about the limit, and it's not even truly a requirement.
Any other restraint is entirely arbitrary and personal, and not well connected to the consensus concept of what "science" is.
Mind, as I (and Kincaid) stress, for a science-fiction tale to be truly science fiction, the differing laws must somehow affect the tale such that it could not be told absent those differences. For example, a tale in which FTL is commonplace that really could, with little touching-up, be set in the early days of the historical exploration of our own world, with space ships replacing sea-going ships as merely a way to put the characters in a new and unfamiliar place, is scarcely sf--it is just a mundane tale with fancy window dressing.
There is no call to be insulting. Your reference to a fairy tale talking egg is hardly helpful. It more calls into question why you are being so insistent you are right and I am wrong. My opinion is based on a long association the science fiction genre.
And science it not a static thing, but it does attempt to make sense of the natural order of things. If you want to use science to differentiate one type of fiction from another, then you must have a definition of science. I listed the types of science because they are very different. My opinions have been shaped by several hard SF readers and writers. Hard SF is required to stick to just proven science. You can project forward, but only with what we know to be true. Soft SF includes the theoretical (where the mathematical proof has been established, but is as yet untested) and the plausible (where modern methods are used to extrapolate a theory for something like FTL travel, anti-gravity, etc, that has yet to be arrived at by any theoretical scientist). Star Trek's warp drive was in the plausible category back in the 60's, but now it is in the theoretical. Most of the "troupes" of science fiction are in the plausible. Things that you can imagine that if science devoted enough time to, it would become theoretical, and then maybe proven, and then maybe reality. I do not limit the realm of science by my definitions.
I do draw a line between science and fantasy. Clark's comment that any sufficiently advanced technology can be mistaken for magic does not mean that the reverse holds true, that anything seen as magic can be accomplished given sufficiently high technology.
I also maintain (I am again citing my own opinion) that there is no such thing as a story where science is so integral that it cannot be slightly altered and have the same story in a different setting. Stories are about people, read by people. It doesn't matter if you are talking about a hard sf story or a space opera, anything can be reset to a different time, place, or genre and will require the same amount of effort. I think science must be integral to the setting more than to the story set within that setting.
Opinions are wonderful things when you let other people express theirs without resorting to insults. I have no interest in insulting anyone here and I expect the same in return.
Last edited by SR_Seldon; October 4th, 2012 at 05:14 PM.
He also seems to remember a time when all (or a lot) of science fiction was pure, linked to the real world, and tried to examine it. Which is not the field I am familiar with.
If you want to use science to differentiate one type of fiction from another, then you must have a definition of science.
I gave one:
Nothing in the scientific principle requires that the results scientists obtain by exercising it must be retroactively "plausible" to people of earlier ages. By stating that to be "science fiction" a tale must be constructed round science that is "plausible" to the folk of our age, you are creating your own definition of "science", and it is at considerable variance with the consensus definition. The Lewis Carroll character is a classic, well-known metaphor for folk who use words by will in a manner materially different from the norm; invoking it is gentle reproof, not dire insult, but frankly, have it as you will.Impersonal laws by which the cosmos appears to operate, which laws have been derived from exercise of the scientific principle.
"The wicked flee when no man pursueth."
--Proverbs 28: 1
the critic Nader Elhefnawy was quick to point out that the singularity is really little more than a professional dodge:
To throw up one's hands in confusion is a convenient way of avoiding the serious social and ethical and political questions raised by our problems (as with our ecological crisis). This can seem an understandable response to their genuinely intimidating largeness, but the feeling of being overwhelmed hardly seems to account for the whole tendency.Contemporary science fiction is not interested in science, culture, history, ideas or real human psychology. Not really. To be interested in such things requires engagement not only with the world but also entire bodies of knowledge generated by hundreds of fevered human minds. Incapable of taking anything seriously and unwilling to risk disapproval by writing anything that might be deemed in any way political, genre writers spend their days like performing dolphins; pushing a load of battered toys around the pool while undemanding audiences roar their approval. Occasionally, a particularly well-trained dolphin receives a celebratory bucket of fish heads in the ballroom of a beige mid-Western hotel.http://ruthlessculture.com/2012/10/0...ure/#more-3892Similarly, few writers have completely abandoned writing about either the future or science, it is just that these ideas now lurk on the periphery rather than in the foreground of the text. I am not calling for a complete re-think of the science fictional enterprise, rather I would like to see the genre seize this historic opportunity and rediscover its heritage of engagement and prediction.
Your middle quote does have a core of truth in it, but misses the point that this situation is no different from the past. It seems to be a pessimism based on a filtered memory/canon.
A lot of the modern SF I read has the ideas infused in the story, forming a whole with the story. Which to me is a preferable solution to having the ideas at the forefront, blocking the view so to speak.