Science Fiction is Rivets, Fantasy is Trees

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jhe1valu

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From an earlier post:
I think if you don’t like what contemporary SF writers are doing, just say that. But it seems silly to suggest that those writers are contributing to global calamity by not writing about immediate, serious, impending global calamities.


I guess it's fortunate that Frank Herbert of "Dune" fame wrote The White Plague so many years ago; else he'd probably be blamed for Covid-19. Rest in peace, Frank, you only wrote about a potential future; we're just living it now. Joe
 

frimble3

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I read a book where a genetic scientist was revered as their Creator by a people who really were his creation. Excellent book and I wish I remembered the author.
Wouldn't be 'Oryx and Crake' by Margaret Atwood, would it? Never got all the way through it, but sounds like it.
 

ManOfGhent

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Wouldn't be 'Oryx and Crake' by Margaret Atwood, would it? Never got all the way through it, but sounds like it.
It wasn't, but Oryx and Crake sounds like a great book to read, definitely one to put on my list.
 

ManOfGhent

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I've always maintained that any SF that's based on having today's world as a past is, no matter how dystopian, inherently optimistic--because it means we've survived.

In case you haven't noticed, despair is as much of a deterrent to behavioral change as irrational optimism. One might argue it's more.
That's a very good point, that any story about a distant future is optimistic, insofar as it implies we will even have a distant future. It was never my intention to start a polemic about the pros and cons of science fiction. Rather, I think it is important to recognize, as does Orson Scott Card, that most science fiction is fantasy. Even the relatively modest objective of colonizing Mars is marred by the sober fact that it has too little gravity to hold on to an atmosphere - living on Mars would not be that much different from life on a spaceship or asteroid. We have just experienced an explosion is computing power and I believe we are on the cusp on an explosion in the life sciences. Many new and wonderful things are about to happen. Changing the laws of physics isn't one of them.
 

lizmonster

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Rather, I think it is important to recognize,

Why?

as does Orson Scott Card,

Oh, dear.

that most science fiction is fantasy.

By that definition, all books are fantasy.

Changing the laws of physics isn't one of them.

We don't yet know everything about the laws of physics. We learn new wonders daily.

Is faster-than-light travel impossible? Yeah, probably. But it appears both space and time are side effects, and the universe, by human standards, is pretty weird. I don't know what physicists will discover in the next hundred years. I don't know what they'll discover next week.

Also, fiction is fiction. Gatekeeping SF because it uses the word "science" seems an oddly specific conceit.
 

owlion

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I feel like there's a reason scifi and fantasy both fall under 'speculative fiction' - they're not supposed to be 100% completely and utterly accurate to reality as we currently know it. In terms of scifi, it's often trying to look ahead at possible futures, but not necessarily ones which seem absolutely plausible today. Lots of scifi theorises about possible technological advances, but it's always going to be just that: a theory. Because, right now, we don't have that tech and it can sound completely outlandish - the way that a telephone would before it was invented. I mean, imagine telling someone used to writing letters or having to travel to see people further away that you can just pick up a receiver and speak with them like they're right there with you. It sounds bizarre. And it became possible, eventually. Same goes for space travel, or the internet, or a ton of other things. It's just how far your imagination can stretch, really, especially for something with 'fiction' in the name.
 

lizmonster

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Maybe it comes down to one's definition of the word "speculative." From a certain point of view, fiction that posits nothing except what we know today would be just mainstream fiction.

If you're not finding books you like in the genre you think they belong in, you're probably looking in the wrong genre. Stop beating your head against the wall and look elsewhere.
 

Introversion

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And it became possible, eventually. Same goes for space travel, or the internet, or a ton of other things. It's just how far your imagination can stretch, really, especially for something with 'fiction' in the name.
I think much of the really “out there” spec fic is really just exploring what it means to be human, or even alive?

If I transfer my consciousness to a non-biological container, am I still “human”?

If I can make perfect copies of me, who is “me” now?

If we can build machines with emotions and aspirations, are they alive? Are they human? What is “human”?

Are people who augment themselves with machine parts, or wildly different anatomies, still human?

If we could meet intelligent aliens, how would we react to them? With fear? Loathing? Curiosity?

I don’t think these are inconsequential questions. As a species, we’re very eager to “other” anyone who looks different. I doubt we’re going to soon encounter aliens — maybe never? And yet, I think we’re on the technological verge of being able to modify ourselves individually, or even our genome, in ways that will strain the current definition of “human”.

Anyone who wants to carve out a narrow swath through spec fic and ignore the broader whole of it, that’s fine. I don’t really get that; I like the “out there” stuff most. But, different strokes.
 
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owlion

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I think much of the really “out there” spec fic is really just exploring what it means to be human, or even alive?
Yeah, the exploration of personhood is one of my favourite things about scifi a lot of the time (I wrote an essay on it in relation to AI back in university). That and an exploration of how cultures can develop and interact throughout space!
 
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ManOfGhent

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Credibility vs verisimilitude vs a bloody fabulous read aren't necessarily the same, IMO. For me, Octavia Butler's Wild Seed meets #2 and #3, but if I sat down and thought about it I'd never believe that it could ever actually be real.

If credibility is your main criteria -- that the speculative premise must come across as something that you, personally, have to fully believe could and probably will exist, I'd suggest Cory Doctorow's Little Brother (which has the bonus of being free to download from his website).
At your suggestion, I finally read Doctorow's Little Brother. Wow! That is possibly the best book I have ever read. Very poignant, insightful, relevant. Thanks for bringing this timely masterpiece to my attention.
 
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