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Posts Tagged ‘science fiction’

I have been given my tentative panel assignments for Loscon, at the LAX Marriott November 24-26, and as I know that my appearances have long (well, since last year) been a highlight of the early holiday season, I wanted to list them here. They are, of course, subject to change, but if they do, I’ll let you know. (We don’t want a repeat of last year’s near-riot at the Star Trek panel when I didn’t show up!)*

I self-published my first book, and I didn’t die! (11/24, 5:30pm) I believe this panel was specifically named to exclude posthumous-American indie authors from attending. I will be taking this up with the committee on behalf of all of my writer colleagues who feel like zombies (which is pretty much all of them).

Blending mystery and speculative fiction. (11/25, 5:30pm) As far as I’m concerned, everything was speculative when I was trying to become a published author. It’s how I did that which remains a mystery.

Writing & Intuition: What happens next? (11/26, 2:30pm) As faithful readers of my blog know, it’s really the characters who write the story and the author simply takes the credit. So I’m going to allow one of my characters to sit on this panel for me–as soon as I can find one who lives in this century…

Given my schedule, I should be around for most of the con. Look me up and ask me to autograph your e-book. I’ll sign a piece of paper and you can tape it to your Kindle.

 

*Oh, wait, there was nearly a riot at the panel because I did show up. If I’d realized Star Trek was that popular, I wouldn’t have said those things…

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It is widely disseminated that if you can take the science out of an SF story and still tell the story, it’s not truly SF. (For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll assume the same theory holds for fantasy.) I myself have believed for a long time that this is a valid, albeit somewhat simplistic, test. But now I wonder.

You see, there has been a lot of “science fiction” that does not really contain any “science.” So what do you call it? Star Wars is a prime example, with many characterizing it as “science fantasy” because it has the trappings of SF, but upon any review its science is well, bad.* Look at the spaceships: They don’t fly right. They act as though they’re in an atmosphere instead of a vacuum. (We’ll ignore the sounds. That’s artistic license.) And it’s based on “the Force,” a mystical energy field (later retconned to be some kind of micro-particles in your blood, but no one believes that). So is it science fiction? Or is it fantasy with spaceships?

I’m a fan of the 50s B&W monster movies I used to watch on “Creature Features.”** Giant ants, spiders, gila monsters, teenagers… Really, even I wasn’t buying it. But it was considered science fiction. Why? The science was worse than what you see in Star Wars. You couldn’t take the science out to see if the story could still be told, because there was no science. And yet we call it SF to this day. (And yes, that applies to Godzilla, too–all the versions.)

The question becomes, then: How do you test a story for being science fiction if there is no recognizable science in the story in the first place?

I guess you could try to recategorize Them! and Tarantula and Village of the Giants as science fantasy, but good luck.*** That ship has sailed (or launched). Better, I think, to avoid ironclad definitions and hope that the next generation of SF is better than some of the things that have gone before.

Or has that ship launched, too?

*When I say Star Wars, I mean the original. Since the first trilogy, it’s only gotten progressively worse.

**Creature Features was cancelled, and years later, revived. Ironically, the host of the new show was a friend of mine.

***These three movies share a distinction: Each had an actor who went on to achieve fame. (Them! actually had a couple.) Points if you can name them.

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Very happy to announce that my heroic fantasy tale, “When Gods Fall in Fire,” has been accepted for publication at Cirsova (where one can find several of my earlier efforts). “WGFF” is nominally a fantasy story, but with an SF slant and (if you squint sideways) a sort of Lovecraftian tinge. I tried to be a little different when I wrote it and ended up with something that’s hard to describe. But now you’ll have the chance to make that determination for yourself!

“When Gods Fall in Fire” should appear in 2018.

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With the onset of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is no longer quite so embarrassing to admit that one was reading comic books all through one’s youth and beyond.* I quit about 20 (!) years ago now, but I still follow the genre (and watch the movies). So it’s not surprising that my mind still goes down those roads on occasion (okay, all the time). And that has lead to the following question:

In that world, with superpowers, mutants, AIs, self-contained battle suits, aliens, time travel, superweapons,  and everything, how does anyone write science fiction? SF consists of stories that extrapolate from known science, or at least scientific theory. But if you know that mutants and superweapons and aliens exist because you can see them fly by your window, what is there to extrapolate? By definition, everything you’re writing is simply “fiction.”**

Does that mean that writers like me would be in Fiction & Literature at your local Barnes & Noble? Would there be a reason for a SFWA to exist–and would I not have to regret the fact that I’m not at Nebula weekend right now?

And what about the liability issues? What if some hulking green guy comes up to you and says you’re defaming him in your latest story–which just happens to have a large, green character? What if he claims you’re appropriating his image? And if you write a story about the Skrulls invading the Earth, will the real Skrulls take umbrage and actually invade the Earth out of pique?

Even if you started with the concept that none of the above existed, and then created an SF story, would anyone read it? Science fiction isn’t supposed to be about a world more boring than your own. The only choice left would be alternate history, and that field would get crowded fast.

What would happen, I think, is that all those writers would migrate to another genre, like romance, or mystery. Mystery would be a fertile field in that world, with questions like: What’s with those capes, anyway? How do those young sidekicks explain all those bruises without social services investigating? And why are there so many super-powered people in the world, anyway? How did they get that way?

Oh, wait, that veers into science fiction. And then we start all over again.

*The same thing happened to science fiction with Star Wars, and fantasy with Lord of the Rings.

**Fantasy writers would have the same problem.

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Today Cirsova magazine, which has been nominated for a Hugo as Best Semi-prozine, announced its nomination package (i.e., the selection of stories it wants to present to voters), and one of my stories, for a wonder, is in there. This is, of course, a great hardship for me, since now if I say anything about the Hugos, I have to include a disclaimer. (I’m not sure if this post counts.) This does not mean I’ve been nominated myself, but it’s thrilling to be thought worthy to be a part of the magazine’s pitch to the voters.

On the other hand, it’s also an awesome responsibility, because now I’m the de facto ambassador for the talking gorillas and human/wolverine hybrids from the future who told me the story in the first place. (Yeah, it’s that weird.)*

If you’re not going to Helsinki in August, you can read the story here for free. If you are going to Helsinki, all I ask is that you give all of the nominees a fair shot.

Happy reading!

 

*Shameless plug: If you like this story, it was an inspiration for my novel The Invisible City, available here and here.

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The Rabid Puppies have announced their 2017 agenda, and the Sads probably will soon if they haven’t already (I’m not paying that much attention), both dissing any modern, progressive SF, and the “Blue” side is pontificating about how the “Red” side is stuck in the 50s, and it’s pretty much the usual for what passes as society these days. And while, as I say, I haven’t been paying a lot of attention, it’s kind of hard to ignore completely if you spend any time at all on the net. So despite myself, I’ve come to a conclusion.

It’s not just the Puppies who need to be swatted on the nose with a newspaper, it’s all of you.

I am not taking sides here; this playground needs a teacher. If you kids can’t learn to sit together quietly and leave each other alone, the entire class is staying after school, soccer practice be damned.

Right-wing writers and fans–science fiction is growing up. Get over it. There’s plenty of room left for what you want to read; I know for a fact that you’ve gone out and started your own magazines and a publishing house (not to mention Baen). Good for you. Now stop complaining that the liberals are a bunch of lily-livered weaklings on the one hand, and that they’re bullying you on the other.*

Left-wing writers and fans–nobody ever said growing up meant you had to forget what it was like to be a kid. If you did, you wouldn’t read science fiction. Yeah, I know it’s not the juvenile lit all your friends think it is, but they do think that, and you have to live with the stigma. So stop acting so smug. And for heaven’s sake, when you take on the fans on the other side of the aisle, quit talking like you have a Master’s in literary criticism! (Even if you do–especially if you do.) Nobody understands you except other Ph.D. candidates,** and you’ll never get your point across if you’re condescending.

Which brings me to my point: Nobody is communicating. A writer friend told me long ago that “talking to somebody isn’t communication. Communication requires two people to talk to each other.” That doesn’t mean shouting back and forth, that isn’t communication. It requires speaking and listening.

If this is too hard for you, then be quiet. That’s all, just be quiet. Go about your lives and don’t bother anyone else. We all have our own problems, honest. Nobody needs to go out and find more.

And with all that time you’re not arguing, you could do something constructive, like lobby for the space program. There are a lot of other fans doing that, and you know what? Not all of them like the same books you do. But now you’ll have something you can communicate about.

 

*And leave the Hugos alone! You spend almost as much time decrying their relevance as you do trying to run them.

**I have a degree in English and I don’t understand what you’re saying half the time.

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I just saw a list of the “Twenty Core SF Books Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves.” I have no problem with people publishing such lists, and I have no problem with this list in particular, particularly with the fact that all of the listed works are by women.* It’s one person’s opinion, and we all know such lists are not meant to be taken seriously, but as a springboard for discussion–the kind of intellectual discussion which seems all to lacking these days, both in SF and in the world in general.

The problem with such lists, actually, is that they appear to stand for the proposition that you can make up a definitive list of must-read books of any stripe. Let’s disregard that literature is far too wide and deep for any real short catalog–there are so many classic novels out there; I submit that if you were to list the 500 books any “real” fan must have in his library, you would still get vigorous pushback about the books you left out. I guarantee it, in fact.

And the reason is that reading is a matter of taste. I’m not talking “literature” vs. “beach reads,” I’m talking about personal preferences. I have read a good portion of the books on that list, most I’ve heard of, and a couple were completely new to me. I can tell you that the books I’d heard of but not read, I will probably never read. Yet I’ve been an SF fan for decades, and I’ll bet I’ve read good books that someone else who sees that list has not, and never will. (Again, we’re not talking about how you define “worthy” literature.)

So if I love Asimov and you won’t touch it, and you adore Lem and I can’t get through one book, which is us is the true fan? All things being equal, we both are. We just enjoy different parts of the same fandom. It’s true that things evolve, and certainly, as N. K. Jamison said recently, SF has evolved.

But nobody ever said we had to evolve the same way. That’s a very science-fictional concept, by the way –in fact, I would say it’s true science fiction.

 

*I do have a problem with the grammar, but that’s an argument I don’t want to get into here.

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