April 17, 2010 at 11:12 am #16819
While trying to define science fiction (SF) in Foundationâ€™s Profession of SF series, author Robert Sawyer claimed that science fiction â€œwill have to change if it is to surviveâ€¦it will be much more common for serious SF novels to have contemporary settingsâ€ (16). Accepting this claim begs the question of what we might consider new SF, specifically new SF television, and how we will recognize it as such. More specifically, can we consider the highly technologically fetishized murder/mystery dramas like the various CSIs , Bones, and the Canadian show ReGenesis as SF television. …
Sawyer stakes the claim that â€œthe central message of science fiction is this: â€˜Look with a skeptical eye at new technologiesâ€™â€ (6). He compares his definition to one of William Gibsonâ€™s, â€œâ€˜the job of the science-fiction writer is to be profoundly ambivalent about changes in technologyâ€™â€…
Do you all agree with Sawyer and Gibson??? I think the ambivalence is not part of the definition of sci-fi; only characteristic of one part of sci-fi. Opinions??
The reviewer makes the point that in V, and Heroes the ones who save the day work from their emotions, not science…
In this age when NASA is being killed off (no more civilian/academic organizations controlling access to space – only military and corporate access in the future?) has this schism already happened??April 22, 2010 at 4:14 pm #16820
Meh. Ambivalence is a point on the spectrum from “Frankenstein” to “Flash Gordon.” Where SF tends to fall is a lot more dependent on the general mood towards ‘progress’ than anything else.
And SF in crime dramas is mostly laziness, rather than speculative fiction (although, lots of SF results from laziness. E.g. teleporters.)April 23, 2010 at 9:49 pm #16821
I agree with Church. I’m not scholar enough to argue the point, but I have thought that the separation between science fiction and fantasy (and other speculative fiction) was the tendency of one to wave away difficulties with “magic” and the other to use scientific principles (or at least pseudo-scientific). All speculative fiction requires world-building, if you will. Think of J.R.R. Tolkien. An amazingly consistent world totally apart from any time line we know.
Furthermore, setting aside the “serious” remark – I think it’s kind of snooty – saying that science fiction will have to be set in the present day more often seems to be saying that we are no longer able to imagine a world truly different than our own and that all that can be known is already known. Premises I do not share.
So, cutting to the chase, with all respect to Mr. Sawyer, I have to disagree.April 24, 2010 at 8:24 pm #16822
A couple of thoughts…
Firstly, I don’t think anyone, anywhere, is in a position to tell the rest of us what the central message of science fiction should be. I think the job of a science fiction writer is to write whatever he or she considers to be science fiction.
Secondly, based on the quoted text, I get the impression that Sawyer has failed to understand that there is a difference between science fiction and having science in fiction. I think Church hits the nail on the head here by pointing out that it tends to be laziness, rather than speculative.
Thirdly, and tangentially, I also agree with sungura about the separation between science fiction and fantasy. Both are speculative genres and the line between the two is very blurred indeed.
April 24, 2010 at 11:17 pm #16823
the english assassinMember
Tis an interesting point Sawyer makes, but I feel he’s being a little absolute in his definition. While I find many future settings in sf especially in space sf to be little more than a dull re-treading of postwar aspirations which feel decidedly dated and have little appeal for me. That’s not saying that I object to non-Earth settings per se, but those I still like tend to be little more than devices to explore a concept rather than be driven by world building – nor do the settings necessarily dominate, although there are exceptions… I think Sawyer is saying that he doesn’t find contemporary future/space fiction very relevant, which is where I agree with him. I’d also generally agree with him and Gibson regarding sf’s strength being sceptical about technology, rather than overtly optimistic, although I don’t know if tech has to play the only dominant role in sf stories… To me speculative fiction takes an idea and runs with it. It doesn’t have to have/share a political agenda about the nature of technology/science, although it can…
But I think Sawyer is missing the point that sf is mainly a popular genre and therefore doesn’t have to carry a message or have any meaning – indeed it can purely entertain us, and there’s no wrong in that. Personally I prefer sf that makes me think after I’ve read it, but sf can and does still stay true to its pulp roots, which is the reason why PKD or whatever is more fun to read than Baudrillard (spell?)or some such philosopher.
I guess CSI could be pop sf if you want it to be but from the little I’ve seen it fails to explored the conceptual side of its tech, using its science purely as a device to solve crimes therefore it belongs firmly in the domain of a different pulp genre, albeirt one that I think has had some influence on many sf stories.
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