Wither Science Fiction?

Spider Robinson has a rant in today’s Globe and Mail about the dismal state of science fiction. The question:

Why are our imaginations retreating from science and space, and into fantasy?

I think there are several reasons:

  • Science Fiction isn’t fantastic anymore.
  • Good stories are about people, not technology.
  • Most of the interesting ideas have been used.
  • pessimism and disillusionment.
  • The distinction between “Science Fiction” and “Fantasy” has been blurring.

Good science fiction is about creating a fantastic setting (Moon colonies, space empires, unusual environments, etc.), and then writing about how people coped with, and adpated to, scenarios in those environments. Many of those stories have been done already. The relatively small leaps in tech that used to be interesting aren’t so fantastic anymore; we’re absorbing so many radical changes in our real lives, and are often unhappy about them. Modern life is about recessions, and megacorporations controlling our lives, and war in the middle east; we’re not dreaming nearly as much as we did in the heyday of Science Fiction.

In some modern SF, the science or technology is so complicated that half of the book is spent explaining it (instead of advancing the story). Robert Sawyer’s books are a notable exception to this trend, IMO :-). Either that, or a minor technological gimmick becomes a critical plot point.

I’ve found myself reading more fantasy than SF recently. Partly because that’s what is available these days (good SF writers are harder to find, and aren’t writing as much), anad partly because that’s where the good writing and character development are right now. The SF I’ve been reading are people like John Barnes, Steven Gould, Lois McMaster Bujold; people who haven’t forgotten that the science and technology are backdrops for the stories, not the stories themselves…

posted at 3:40 pm on Monday, September 08, 2003 in Books, Personal, Random Thoughts | Comments (2)

2 Comments

  1. Spiders, SF, and more on the subject
    Well, I’ve enjoyed the comments and thoughts on my entry about Spider Robinson’s rant. I am regretful that I missed that Harald had already beaten me to the punch and wanted to respond to Li’s response. I do lump alternate history into the category of …

  2. SF Recommended Authors
    A continuation of the SF is not dead meme… I went and looked at my book list, and yes, I…

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