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Author Topic: Is this the end of Science Fiction? Excerpted Essay by OSC
Scott R
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Essay excerpt in Writers of the Future 22

Just when it gets interesting, the 'next' button dissapears.

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pooka
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I think there is a degree to which the future is now, and to escape it we need fantasy. I think there was a time that people were looking to science for answers, and now they don't as much. Perhaps it is that science has become too much like a religion that gives them answers before they have asked the question.
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mr_porteiro_head
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That was starting to get interesting. <_<
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Uindy
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It worked for me. I thought his points were intresting.
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Orson Scott Card
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Do keep in mind that when I suggest that sci-fi might be "over," it doesn't mean that people can't still do excellent work within the genre.
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Scott R
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quote:


Do keep in mind that when I suggest that sci-fi might be "over," it doesn't mean that people can't still do excellent work within the genre.

Like very competently arranging deck chairs on the Titanic?

[Evil Laugh]

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Reshpeckobiggle
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How can one read the rest?
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pooka
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I think there was an early burst of sci-fi, with Wells and Verne, and then during the World Wars people were less interested. But in that time you had C.S. Lewis and Tolkien. We are 5 years into the war on Terror. It may be something that comes back around. Or not. I think sci-fi is something to save your mind from complacency, and fantasy is something to save your psyche from anxiety.
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RunningBear
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I want another Heinlein. I happen to really enjoy his type of mocking scifi, and vonnegut's.

Noone else seems to be able to grasp that type of humorous disdain of everything.

I have most of my literary niches filled, but I still need that one...

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Scott R
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Reshpecktobiggle: Buy the Writers of the Future Anthology. It's in volume XXII.
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Reshpeckobiggle
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Ah, thanks Scott. And Pooka, I think you make a very good point.
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Kwea
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This could be a cycle, and I think it probably is. @0 years ago a lot of people were saying that Fantasy was dead, and all we were doomed to were Tolkien knockoffs. For a while that was true, but it isn't now.


There will always be a market for good stories, regardless of settings.

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Orson Scott Card
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Come on, one guy can get taken seriously for saying that HISTORY is over, and another guy for saying that Shakespeare invented HUMANNESS - and I can't say that sci fi is over? <grin>
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mr_porteiro_head
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Not without getting called on it. Sorry.
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Scott R
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OSC:

What affect will the (supposed) resurgence of space opera type stories (headed by online mags like IMS and Baens) have on the genre?

Assuming there is a resurgence... is science fiction over trying to be like academic fiction? Have we reached the point where science fiction writers can just entertain again?

I know Harlan Edison has harped that there is no more "dangerous" science fiction; are we finally past the need to be dangerous? Is the dangerousness of science fiction (challenging current mores, etc) crucial to sci-fi's survival as a genre?

[ November 02, 2006, 09:20 PM: Message edited by: Scott R ]

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Scott R
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"Space opera type stories..." What was I thinking?

I don't think there have been any space opera stories in IGMS; I think what I meant to say instead was, "Stories for people who read for enjoyment as much as enlightenment."

And there are certainly THOSE types of stories in IGMS. I wasn't fond of Pratt's choice to create a new, genderless pronoun (zir/zim/etc) in 'Dream Engine,' but the story was wonderful anyway. Ty Frank's insightful and entertaining 'Audience' could easily have been a heavy handed allegory-- but Frank is a natural master, and handles the story with deftness and intelligence.

Anyway...here's hoping that now that the genre has proven long-lived, it can continue breathing.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Orson Scott Card:
Come on, one guy can get taken seriously for saying that HISTORY is over

People have always said that history was over. As you no doubt thought when writing this essay- HG. Wells was the first sci-fi writer ever to suggest that a future exists in a fully realizable a form, and that an unperfect and entropic one. To suggest that one might travel fast enough, in a narrative, into the future to actually observe entropy in the universe was not Asimov's own innovation, but learned from Wells and many others.

Sci-fi helped to bring about that worldview- the present knowledge of an unchangeable future; and I think that is why, (or that is the current justification) people claim that history as we know it comes to an end in our lifetimes, or in the foreseable future. Literature as we know it has only existed for a scant few centuries, and its place in the world is not assured, however much the death of bookwriting might scare us. This happens in all media too- the death of the Classic-Romantic symphony, the art song, the impressionistic painting, the horse and buggy. These things are all reborn again and again, because their places in our lives are not left unfilled for long. The sad thing would be if we had to become people who needed things to stay just the same in order to cope- so I think sci-fi is the genre most prepared for the day that sci-fi is "obsolete" or unrecognizably different from its present form.

On that note, I am sick and tired of having to wade through Sci-fi, AND fantasy at the bookstore in order to find titles I will probably enjoy. I don't like most fantasy because I find it indulgent and uninvolving- and those are two things I think sci-fi avoides quite well- so I do see how they can be lumped together as they are (other than the marketing aspect, which is pretty obvious- teenagers read both genres).

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Scott R
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I have no idea what your point is, Orincoro.

Other than...

quote:
On that note, I am sick and tired of having to wade through Sci-fi, AND fantasy at the bookstore in order to find titles I will probably enjoy. I don't like most fantasy because I find it indulgent and uninvolving- and those are two things I think sci-fi avoides quite well- so I do see how they can be lumped together as they are (other than the marketing aspect, which is pretty obvious- teenagers read both genres).
I'm curious as to what fantasy you've read that gives you that impression.
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Storm Saxon
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quote:

I know Harlan Edison has harped that there is no more "dangerous" science fiction

Do you mean Harlan Ellison?
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Scott R
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Oh, freaking...crap.

Yes. I have no idea why I wrote 'Edison.'

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Storm Saxon
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/off-topic musing

In a lot of ways, HE and OSC seem to be polar opposites of each other in almost every appreciable way. They seem almost like the foil of each other.

Anyone ever read The Glass Teat or its companion? It's like reading a mirror universe OSC. [Smile]

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thorby
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hear hear! Hienlien! I started reading those in 6th grade. And I then found OSC because I was looking for similar... fix shall we say.
Now I have a wild speculation, I think that the younger generations lack of interest in politics and sci.fi (intellectual persuits,) coincide.

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dinzy
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As a physicist I totally agree that the forefront of science is not very accessible to the average reader. Heck I'm just shy of a PhD and I can't understand most of it.

That being said I think plenty of great fiction can be written in the genre. I really don't see much of a difference between fantasy and scifi. They both have very different realities and both have some sort of fanciful magic or technology that has a major impact on how the characters live their lives.

I guess it just comes down to pop culture when determining which one is more popular. Maybe people are just sick of spaceships because the space program has not done anything interesting since the days of Apollo. Mankind went to the moon nearly 40 years ago but has done very little since then. And in those 40 years the public has been inundated with space opera type science fiction. There have been 6 Star Trek TV shows and 10 movies counting the cartoon. There have been 6 Star Wars movies, 3 of which are almost required viewing as a kid. And there have been countless other movies, shows and novels. The problem is that mainstream sci fi has been for the most part very unimaginative and derivative and unfortunately this is what most people think all sci fi is like.

Fantasy on the other hand has not been as abused by Hollywood. Apart from LOTR there have been no really successful fantasy movies or TV shows and those movies were so successful they managed to get a lot of people I know to delve into some fantasy novels.

I hope that some of these fantasy writers can expand the genre as far beyond Tolkien as SciFi writers have been from Star Trek over the past 50 years. Apart from G.R.R. Martin's excellent, character driven, epic ASoIaF, I know very little about fantasy. Is there anything really good out there?

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stihl1
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What science fiction is, really, is good drama, good characterization, good plots, wrapped around a world with a different set of rules. You can do things within that world not possible in ours. It's an escape and like OSC says, a rehearsal for the future.

With the war on terror and with so much technology and advancements today, I think people have a hard time imagining what the world of the future will be like. I think people's tastes are more toward escaping reality in fantasy, and exploring their fears in horror. I for one have geared my tastes in reading more toward horror in the past few years. While at the same time I'm not a big fantasy guy.

When people in general start looking toward the future with positivity and hope, science fiction will again pick up. Right now things are kind of bleak, imo.

Also, there is obviously a much wider selection of entertainment right now. There is a lot of sci fi television, internet options, video games, etc. People might be getting their sci fi from those avenues and not so much the standard reading.

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dinzy
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Interesting point. I am not sure the terrorism thing has that much of an influence on it, but that is because It has very little influence on me. Sure it comes into how I vote, but I think there are many more fundamental problems with today's global society than a few pissed of people hiding out in caves. Of course I think it is a problem and needs to be addressed, but it was caused by a deeper issue and the way it has played out in this country and in the world as a whole points to even worse issues. People are starting to get crazy.

Now that I think of it, I can see how terrorism could influence the popularity of sci fi. Maybe people don't want to imagine a world where time has magically removed all the hatred, fear and general disgust for differences in religious and political views. I think they like it. There is something attractive about believing in something so strongly that you vilify anyone who disagrees with you. Maybe its just a reactionary response to the world becoming increasingly more and more "global." It could just be that the tribal instincts built up over 10s of 1000s of years has left people with a blinding superiority complex. Society always evolves faster than it's people so hopefully it will all work itself out someday. But right now this country can't even relate to the very idealistic yet undeniable truth on which it was founded that all (wo)men are created equal. Instead we have what we have here today, extreme fear and prejudice on both sides. I think people like having some "evil" in this world because it makes them feel secure in their own beliefs. I don't think these people want to read some author's happy view of a "future" in which mankind just gets along unless it is one that adopts their view on what future society should be. But at the same time there are the people that like to escape reality with a story where most people just don't suck like they do now.

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The Reader
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In my opinion, Sci-Fi seems to be at a low point because the real world seems too much like an apocalyptic novel. Its not that people don't want to escape to fiction (I still think we do), but that many people see no reason to get deeply involved in something they see as "distracting" from the problems that need solved in the real world.

Dinzy, you and I have vastly different views of terrorism, but I agree with your point of how it effects Sci-Fi and society. what it comes down to is: We have different worldviews out there, who wants to win? Great stories can be written about it, and great stories can be avoided as well. It is quite bizzare that some fanatics can base a medievil-style holy war on modern technology. That's a sci-fi premise itself.

quote:
I think people like having some "evil" in this world because it makes them feel secure in their own beliefs. I don't think these people want to read some author's happy view of a "future" in which mankind just gets along unless it is one that adopts their view on what future society should be. But at the same time there are the people that like to escape reality with a story where most people just don't suck like they do now.
My favorite sci-fi is where there is evil, and where people are still portrayed as humans with real faults. That's why I fell for Ender's Game, and why Firefly is the best sci-fi show ever (and why I am starting to hate Star Trek).

Maybe Sci-fi is just more stealthy in its approach to popularity. For example, does Lost count as Sci-Fi? Maybe, but it isn't hard sci-fi if so. I think it counts toward pure Escapist Fiction, but it has some of the elements.

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SteveRogers
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quote:
Originally posted by RunningBear:
I want another Heinlein. I happen to really enjoy his type of mocking scifi, and vonnegut's.

Noone else seems to be able to grasp that type of humorous disdain of everything.

I have most of my literary niches filled, but I still need that one...

Give me a few years...it's not as easy as you think.
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CRash
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quote:
Originally posted by Reshpeckobiggle:
How can one read the rest?

If you really want to read it, (you may have to be an Amazon.com member) go to Amazon.com, bring up the book, Search Inside the book for "Orson" and read it there. Flip a few pages. When the arrow disappears, search for "Orson" again and choose the page where you left off. Lather, rinse, and repeat.

I know this seems "wrong", but one can basically do the same in any bookstore they walk into as long as they have a few minutes. I do plan to buy the book, though; I love these anthologies.

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