Tag Archives: Jetse de Vries

Cheer up! The future is Shiny

The future. If our television screens are to be believed, it’s not a place you’d want to go. Dwindling resources will continue to fuel national rivalries, pitching the world into a state of endless war. Our environment will become ever more chaotic and unpredictable. Our economic system will collapse under its own weight, plunging the first world back into a pre-industrial state. And of course nuclear armageddon, so narrowly avoided during the cold war, may yet come back to bite us on the rear.

Hmm. Well, maybe.

Read more at The Guardian online

Science Fiction is not about science

Today I occupied myself with more reading, and the first draft of my battleplan for 2010. Real down time is a rarity in my life these days, so I’ve been soaking up every moment of solitude before the world starts turning again. I made it through the entirety of Ayn Rand’s Anthem in one sitting. It’s a sharp science fiction novella, although nowhere close to The Fountainhead, which I will likely talk about in more detail in a future post.

(I’ve been finding the variety of responses to my new found interest in Ayn Rand interesting in their uniform negativity. Why is she so hated?)

(And…the eReader is somehow increasing my reading speed, perhaps because the line lengths are better adapted for speed reading than a print edition. More in the upcoming review)

This is the first year I’ve felt the need to write out an overarching battleplan for my life. A few years ago I would have been more than a little cynical about the idea. But I am in the tremendously fortunate position of having more options in front of me than I can realistically pursue, and if I don’t set my own priorities the pressure of each passing day will set them for me. I highly recommend it as an exercise in the run up to the new year.

Issues of note:

Jetse de Vries asks if SF should die? Jetse lays out some of the core arguments around this much debated topic. My own response is very simple, Science Fiction needs to escape the limiting notion that it is about science. It is not, and never has been. Science Fiction is part of our modern mythology. Just as ancient mythology drew on the technological imagery of its day (swords, horses, galleys) Science Fiction draws on the technological imagery of the modern era (lasers, rocket engines, space craft) to create mythic stories for the modern era. Science Fiction isn’t about science, it uses science to create myth. So there!

The Guardian publicises the top 100 books of all time. I would like to second the nomination of Ovid. The Metamorphoses rule!

Shine On

Not that long ago, I made the fairly safe prediction that some enterprising editor would put together an anthology of optimistic sf, and lo! my prediction has come to pass…

Jetse de Vries to edit Shine, anthology of optimistic science fiction.

I’m going to go out on a limb and make a further prediction that this will be an anthology to look out for. To go all mystic for a second, there is an interesting energy around the idea of optimism at the moment, both within science fiction and beyond. If the Shine anthology picks up even an ounce of that (and I think it will), its going to be a fascinating read.

Happy SF

With the news that Jetse de Vries has left the editorial group who make Interzone magazine, some discusion has arisen at the Asimov’s fourm about whether the tone of not just Interzone, but the whole of contemporary science fiction, has become too pessimistic. Its an interesting discussion and makes me wonder, are we in need of a Happy SF revolution?

Interzone has always championed a dark and pessimistic vision of SF. And it has always championed stories that live in the borderlands between scinece fiction, fantasy and mainstream literature. By their very nature, those stories tend to be darker and more pessimistic, and that has tended to make Interzone a counterweight to mainstream science fiction through the decades that the mainstream was a happier, more optimistic place.

But at some point in the last decade or more, the scales between optimism and pessimism tipped, and mainstream science fiction is now dominated by pesimistic visions of our dystopian future. Its a change tied in some way to the waves of British science fiction writers from Ballard through Banks. Trust the Brits to spread darkness, misery and pessimism wherever we go!

But to keep moving on science fiction needs to keep its wheels revolving. As is often noted, revolution is often a process of rediscovery. Maybe what we need now is not a Mundane SF revolution, but a Happy SF revolution!

What would such a revolution consist of? Not, in my view, stories with ‘an optimistic view of technology’, or a return to the values of golden age SF that some people call for. Revolutions that attempt to roll back the clock like that are always bloody failures. No, what we need are stories that look forward and find genune, credible causes for optimisim about our future.

Those might be technological causes. I don’t think android labour will free us all from the evils of work, or that we will live in glittering metropoli with hover cars. But just maybe, if we can see our way to it, technology will lead us to a post-scarcity society where our children will hear the word money and say ‘What is that?’ Or perhaps they will be political, maybe far from the Orwellian big brother future we all fear, our systems of goverment will evolve into a free flowing anarchy where every human looks after every other when in need. They might even be personal, maybe in the future every geek in the world gets to date a beautiful person of their desired gender. Hurrah for the ranks of SF fandom!

Yes, I know, its all been done. But maybe we need to do it more. Much more. And in new ways that haven’t been done. That IMHO seems like more of a revolutionary act in the context of contemporary SF than yet another brooding, dystopian vision of the future.