What Does Science Fiction Want for Our World Today?

Back when my father was a kid science fiction was all about rockets to Mars, flying cars and atomic power.  The world would march forward in the same way that it had after science advanced in the generations before.  It would engineer applications for atomic power in the same way that earlier generations applied knowledge of chemistry and physics to create the internal combustion engine and airplanes.

When I was a kid science fiction had progressed to where relativity and quantum physics were assumed to be susceptible to human genius and no barriers were too tall to prevent humans from colonizing the stars, travelling through time and even traipsing into other dimensions.  Now this made for a lot of interesting stories about universes where humans could meet up with all kinds of amazing creatures and events.  But at some point, you have to wonder if the word “science” in the name science fiction should be changed to fantasy.  And that’s fine.  Having faster than light (FTL) travel opens up so many story lines for an author that it’s hard to resist.  Otherwise, we’re stuck with multi-generational ships depending on relativistic time dilation to reach the nearest stars in one or two hundred years.  Which, by the way, makes for a lot of very interesting sociological phenomena on the ship.  But anyway, you can see how FTL travel would be a very desirable pseudoscientific device.

But here we are something like a hundred years on in the “modern” science fiction timeline and we’re still engulfed in the FTL travel trope.  And we’re still nowhere near any kind of science that would lead us to believe that FTL travel is even remotely possible.  So, in my mind maybe science fiction needs to start looking at science again for inspiration for new themes.

Thinking about this, it’s not like there aren’t all sorts of scientific discoveries and avenues for new technologies that are not only possible but also exciting building blocks for science fiction stories.  In biology we have gene therapy and longevity research.  In computer science there is artificial intelligence and cybernetics.  The reality of atomic power as a replacement for fossil fuels is not really science fiction as much as fact but there are enough questions about how it will change the present world that it could provide plenty of fodder for stories.  And human exploration of the solar system is now much better understood than it was even back during the Apollo program.  Reimagining the directions that something like landing on Mars will take has already been a successful idea for one author who even saw it turned into a successful movie.

Perhaps some of this sounds a little tame for science fiction readers.  On the contrary, sticking to the reality of what it would take to put a small colony on Mars should allow a good author to engineer in plenty of human interest and adventure.  I could see how a story based on capturing and harvesting an asteroid filled with gold and platinum would make a very exciting tale.  A good author would include the part of the story that involves very rich and powerful individuals scheming to hold onto the profits from a mission that might include the most powerful nations on Earth claiming the assets as the “legacy of all mankind.”

So, this is something I’ve been thinking about lately.  Now I like space opera as much as the next guy.  I’m very comfortable with galactic empires and multiverse.  They’re great fun.  But I also think it’s time for some of the most creative writers to start adding some real science back into science fiction.

25NOV2021 – An Excerpt of a Poem for Thanksgiving

Christmas Cooking, Sony A7 III, Sony 90mm f\2.8 macro lens

The Pumpkin

Ah! on Thanksgiving day, when from East and from West,

From North and from South comes the pilgrim and guest;

When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board

The old broken links of affection restored,

When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,

And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before,

What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye?

What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?

 

Oh, fruit loved of boyhood! the old days recalling,

When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling!

When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin,

Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!

When we laughed round the corn-heap, with hearts all in tune,

Our chair a broad pumpkin,—our lantern the moon,

Telling tales of the fairy who travelled like steam

In a pumpkin-shell coach, with two rats for her team!

 

Then thanks for thy present! none sweeter or better

E’er smoked from an oven or circled a platter!

Fairer hands never wrought at a pastry more fine,

Brighter eyes never watched o’er its baking, than thine!

And the prayer, which my mouth is too full to express,

Swells my heart that thy shadow may never be less,

That the days of thy lot may be lengthened below,

And the fame of thy worth like a pumpkin-vine grow,

And thy life be as sweet, and its last sunset sky

Golden-tinted and fair as thy own Pumpkin pie!

John Greenleaf Whittier

24NOV2021 – Another Autumn Poem

Autumn

I love the fitful gust that shakes
The casement all the day
And from the mossy elm tree takes
The faded leaf away
Twirling it by the window-pane
With thousand others down the lane

I love to see the shaking twig
Dance till the shut of eve
The sparrow on the cottage rig
Whose chirp would make believe
That spring was just now flirting by
In summers lap with flowers to lie

I love to see the cottage smoke
Curl upwards through the naked trees
The pigeons nestled round the coat
On dull November days like these
The cock upon the dung-hill crowing
The mill sails on the heath a-going

The feather from the ravens breast
Falls on the stubble lea
The acorns near the old crows nest
Fall pattering down the tree
The grunting pigs that wait for all
Scramble and hurry where they fall

John Clare

 

19NOV2021 – Another Autumn Poem

Sonnet 73

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.

William Shakespeare

Larry Correia’s WriterDojo Episode 4

I was just listening to episode 4 of Larry Correia’s podcast on writing.  The episode was called “Outlining vs Discovery” and it was exactly what I’ve been working on in my own writing.  Discovery is also called “seat of the pants” writing.  That’s where you just start writing and stop when you reach the end.  And that’s what I usually use.  The danger is that you can either paint yourself in a corner or meander off into the middle of nowhere.  Outlining is exactly what it sounds like.  That’s where you take an idea for a story and then develop it into a story with a beginning middle and end.  And depending on how detailed you want to get it may include a number of the characters, sub-plots and even important scenes.

Larry and his podcast partner Steve Diamond represent the opposite sides in this dichotomy.  Larry is an outliner and Steve discovers.  But listening to both of them describe how each gets around the weaknesses of each of these two methods gives a better understanding to the listener about how both methods are used by every writer.  Basically no matter how much outlining you do it’s while you’re actually writing the story that “discovering” the true nature of your protagonist emerges.  And even if you think that you’re not outlining at all, the back of your mind is filling in that outline for you.  You may not know where the story is going but your subconscious does.

But it is true that every writer is one kind of these two kinds.  I’m a discovery writer but I’ve decided that I want to provide an outline for my stories going forward.  That way if the story decides on its own to deviate from the outline I’ll know it’s meant to be.  It’ll be my unconscious mind dope-slapping my conscious mind.  And that I’m used to.

For Any of You Aspiring Writers, Larry Correia Has a Podcast on Writing

Larry Correia, author of the Monster Hunters International series and several other popular sf&f franchises, has started a weekly podcast on how to write fiction and get paid for it.  I just listened to the first episode and it’s just the intro to the series but I hope for good things.

 

 

 

Dave Freer Over at Mad Genius Club Has a Good Essay on Writing

Dave talks about what it’s like reviewing your own book for publication and feeling like the whole thing is poor.  I’m writing a book myself and I have to say I understand exactly what he’s saying.  The urge to re-write whole sections is almost overpowering.

Seeing other people pound out multiple books in a year is humbling.  I get side-tracked continuously between blogging and photography and just trying to keep my real life floating along.  Kudos to those who do all that and also create good fiction too.

A good read.

Quote – The Vegetable Motif

“A costermonger, roused, is a terrible thing. I had never seen the proletariat really stirred before, and I’m bound to say it rather awed me. I mean, it gave you some idea of what it must have been like during the French Revolution

From every corner of the hall there proceeded simultaneously the sort of noise which you hear, they tell me, at one of those East End boxing places when the referee disqualifies the popular favourite and makes the quick dash for life. And then they passed beyond mere words and began to introduce the vegetable motif.

I don’t know why, but somehow I had got it into my head that the first thing thrown at Tuppy would be a potato. One gets these fancies. It was, however, as a matter of fact, a banana, and I saw in an instant that the choice had been made by wiser heads than mine. These blokes who have grown up from childhood in the knowledge of how to treat a dramatic entertainment that doesn’t please them are aware by a sort of instinct just what to do for the best, and the moment I saw that banana splash on Tuppy’s shirtfront I realized how infinitely more effective and artistic it was than any potato could have been.

Not that the potato school of thought had not also its supporters. As the proceedings warmed up, I noticed several intelligent-looking fellows who threw nothing else.

The effect on young Tuppy was rather remarkable. His eyes bulged and his hair seemed to stand up, and yet his mouth went on opening and shutting, and you could see in a dazed, automatic way he was still singing, “Sonny Boy.”

Then, coming out of his trance, he began to pull for the shore with some rapidity.   The last seen of him, he was beating a tomato to the exit by a short head.”

(from “Jeeves and the Song of Songs”

by P. G. Wodehouse)