Future of Scifi

The latest New Scientist magazine has soundbites from writers like Gibson and Atwood and much else. Give it a read.

E M Forster in Aspects of The Novel, asks a pertinent question: Will the mirror get a new coat of quicksilver? Will the creative process itself alter? (By mirror he means novels, and the creative process is story telling - through words, paint, clay...).

This is the kind of meta question about art that only those who engage in speculative fiction can address, IMO. Science, of course, is the best possible vehicle for speculation because it is more consistent than most other quicksilver coatings.

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SF is a zombie genre. At least as a commercial publishing category, it is, as Le Guin and Sagan noted, a backwater of reactionary nostalgia. It's been that way for a long time now. I don't expect that to change.

I doubt it was foreseeable before 1965 or so that within a quarter-century, science fictional ideas and outlook would become part of the "mental furniture" of the general population. The SF genre burst its bounds, evolved and dispersed and attenuated to some degree; but of course remains at least generally aware of its roots.

What this ongoing evolution signifies for SF, for science, and for society, is a subject that continues to fascinate me ....

I think science fiction nowadays suffers from too much science. When Clarke and Asimov wrote, the science was only a backdrop. The story was always human and well-told. Maybe it was Campbell and other editors who kept things sane. Books nowadays seem too full of plot and science to have any story; even authors who can write seem to focus on intricacy, scientific detail, and infodumps rather than storytelling. It's the same with sci fi movies: they're so full of special effects that we're overloaded.

But is it possible to have interesting science fiction stories? I think so. In the good sci fi, the science itself was always less interesting than the (nontechnical) problems and solutions it induced.