Changing the Rules

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Kjbartolotta

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Hey, the Starship Troopers movie is definitely more than fun, dumb SF. A chilling examination of both the vapidity and allure of militarism, like a lot of the best SF its primary aim is satire.

Like with anything, I think the PEST model can work as a starting place, provided that the map is not the territory and a lot of the choices SF authors make don't always fit neatly into these categories. What about my all-time favorite SF movie, Children of Men, where the political, economic, social, and technology have all undergone detailed changes, but the main difference here is biological (people can't have babies). Or my all time fav SF series, Book of the New Sun, where the major change is that *take deep breath* it's a million years in the future and aliens working for the Judeo-Christian God are slowly killing off humanity and the MC is objectively the messiah but also a liar and kind of a sociopath and had superpowers that can change reality but oh yeah other characters can change reality too so you have no idea what's real or not at any given moment. Or VALIS, where the major change to PEST is that the actual writer Phillip K Dick is having a nervous breakdown and trying to fit his gnostic worldview into a loosely organized jam-sesh.

Not to say I have a problem with this perspective, I see what you're offering here is a toolset and not a GUT of sci-fi writing. I think some of us might approach things from a different perspective, just as many of us may go outline or no outline.
 

amergina

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Something for my sci-fi colleagues to think about.

Tear it apart if you will...

Changing the Rules


Could you please excerpt part of this (or the heart of it) if you want to discuss it here?

Not everyone is going to click on a link, and this kinda looks you're trying to drive traffic to your blog. That's not what AW is for.
 

The Black Prince

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Sorry, that was not my intention at all. It was just a long rumination on sci-fi which I hoped might interest others.

Delete the thread if it breaks the rules.
 

The Black Prince

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Hey, the Starship Troopers movie is definitely more than fun, dumb SF. A chilling examination of both the vapidity and allure of militarism, like a lot of the best SF its primary aim is satire.

Like with anything, I think the PEST model can work as a starting place, provided that the map is not the territory and a lot of the choices SF authors make don't always fit neatly into these categories. What about my all-time favorite SF movie, Children of Men, where the political, economic, social, and technology have all undergone detailed changes, but the main difference here is biological (people can't have babies). Or my all time fav SF series, Book of the New Sun, where the major change is that *take deep breath* it's a million years in the future and aliens working for the Judeo-Christian God are slowly killing off humanity and the MC is objectively the messiah but also a liar and kind of a sociopath and had superpowers that can change reality but oh yeah other characters can change reality too so you have no idea what's real or not at any given moment. Or VALIS, where the major change to PEST is that the actual writer Phillip K Dick is having a nervous breakdown and trying to fit his gnostic worldview into a loosely organized jam-sesh.

Not to say I have a problem with this perspective, I see what you're offering here is a toolset and not a GUT of sci-fi writing. I think some of us might approach things from a different perspective, just as many of us may go outline or no outline.

Cool, apparent disagreement, and yet I could easily argue that all of that still fits within my PEST model.

Except for Book of the New Sun, with which I'm not familiar but will certainly check out.

No, I was not suggesting that the PEST model is the only way of understanding sci-fi - in fact I was asking for examples that arguably go outside the PEST model and also saying that going beyond PEST is exactly my own goal in my current work.
 

Kjbartolotta

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I suppose my point with Children of Men is that I don't see it as easily fitting that model, at least not w/o moving things around a bit, since all it does is takes political and cultural landscape of the otts and add infertility. It's a lot of brilliant worldbuilding and touches all those PEST points, but I can't wrap my head around what makes it slot neatly into that model either.

I know PEST is used a lot in different types of analysis, as a tool for reducing and organizing data I'm sure it great. But it reminds me of conversations I see about 'hard fantasy' versus 'soft fantasy', some people may us it to deepen and broaden their work but for me it's just a sorting exercise based on constraints I don't find helpful or fun; since I spent my day job putting books on racks in sections it's not very satisfying for me to do it in my free-time.

But I fear I might be losing the thread a bit. There are plenty of examples that spring to my mind that break out of it, easily disproven in some eyes as they may be. The problem is that to break it you have to spend time throwing in examples and fussing over minutae (is spiritual cultural? is biological technological?). What works, besides Asparagus Grass, do you think break the PEST model?
 
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The Black Prince

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That was exactly the point - I can't think of any, which is partly why I'm interested in your suggestion of Book of the New Sun, and partly why I'm inspired to try for it myself in the sequel to AG.

The challenge is to write an interesting and engaging story with none of the known tropes or touch points. Everything I think of so far can be somehow reduced to a PEST change. Some might say: that's my own fault for thinking in PEST terms in the first place.

Actually, as I think about it: The Bridge by Iain Banks might feasibly fit the non-PEST model but (IMHO) it's a pretty terrible story - very hard to read.
 

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Did you include Biological? Several Star Trek episodes go there. Dawn, by Butler, does too.
 
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The Black Prince

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So does The Mote in God's Eye, and arguably, so does Slan, which I did mention.

Yes, I guess that biological is a good example outside the PEST rules, with the caveat that a change in biology inspires a change in PEST - which becomes a part of the plot/world building.

I didn't mean just to include PEST as The Rules - I actually meant something broader, but I guess I wrote myself into a corner there.
 

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