I suddenly started wondering what science fiction of the future will be. Today most science fiction is focused on colonizing other planets, alien encounters, high-tech taking over, dystopias, the fall of civilization, robots, AI, time travel, extending human life. Ok, that’s a whole lotta stuff.
In say, a thousand years, when we’ve conquered space and how to travel millions of light years, encountered alien races and survived the fall of civilization and rebuilt, AI will be pervasive, robots old-hat – what form will science fiction take? What will future sci-fi writers write? Presumably by then the question of “are we alone in the universe” will have been answered. Possibly not, but my gut says another thousand years will see things we haven’t even dreamed yet; finding extraterrestrials will be small potatoes.
There’s been some discussion lately that science fiction no longer deals with the ‘big questions’ of what-ifs, that it’s focused on the immediate future: There’s some truth to this. Most of the sf I see lately is riffing on some current political issue, detours in tech that derail us, terraforming planets. These topics will seem like baby steps to future generations. :::just gave myself an idea…:::
I wonder what the ‘big questions’ will be a millennium from now. Or am I being too optimistic? Will we still be consumed by the things that concern us today: overpopulation, diminishing resources, pollution, corruption, greed, religious wars, politics. Will we be Borg? Will cyborgs be passé by then? DING! (another idea) John Steinbeck was right:
Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.
I would imagine all these topics that we spend so much time writing and thinking about today will be as normal to future humans as telephones and electricity are to us. I’ve been spending a lot of time wondering what future science fiction will consist of, and I guess I’m no visionary because at the moment I have no idea what people will be wondering about in a thousand years. If you look back at what people were doing a thousand years ago in 1013… The Norman Invasion hadn’t even happened yet. Brian Boru had not yet fought the Battle of Clontarf (that would be the following year in 1014). The Black Death, The Crusades, Copernicus, Columbus, Magellan, Galileo, Da Vinci, Gutenberg, the Protestant Reformation, Henry VIII, Mozart, Beethoven, the bicycle, the automobile, Kitty Hawk, Apollo 11… all that and so much more in just the last thousand year. Imagine even the same rate of advancement taking place over the next 1000 years. And at the rate technology increases and the fact that so much more is being done in general makes it almost scary to think where we’ll be in a thousand years. Or two thousand.
“Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.”
― William Gibson
If you’ve never read any of Gibson’s books, you’re missing out. He’s a brilliant writer.
“And, for an instant, she stared directly into those soft blue eyes and knew, with an instinctive mammalian certainty, that the exceedingly rich were no longer even remotely human.”
― William Gibson, Count Zero
No particular reason for the Gibson stuff today, I just liked that first quote and the second seemed so apropos to the current climate in the pre-election atmosphere.
I wrote this post at the urging of a couple of guys who wanted suggestions of books and movies to try to interest their spouses in science fiction. So I thought, ok, it could be that many women have simply not been exposed to it, or are not aware of the range of science fiction styles that exist. Traditionally it has been the nearly exclusive domain of men, as writers and consumers. Not entirely, of course, although many people remain unaware of women’s contributions to and interest in the genre. Most famously, Alice B. Sheldon wrote under the pseudonym James Tiptree, Jr. to get her work noticed and accepted in the ol’ boy network. To the delight and amusement of sci-fi girls ever since, her work was deemed “ineluctably masculine” by Robert Silverberg. Anyway, point being, women have had a hard time being taken seriously in sci-fi, so you can understand how it can be off-putting to many women.
With that in mind, you must accept the fact that she may NEVER like sci-fi. You must. Accept it. Everyone has their own tastes, and just as you would no sooner read romance, it may be that she will never share your love of sci-fi. To each his or her own. It’s nice that you want to share, but allow for differences. Also, there are many flavors of sci-fi: military, hard, soft or social, cyberpunk, time travel, alternate history, apocalyptic, space western, and more. She may find some of these sub-genres appealing and not others.
However, that said, if she is open to giving it a try, allow me to suggest some of my personal faves in both books and movies that I think will appeal to women more than the military or ‘hard’ sci-fi. I happen to like most of it, but that’s me, not her. And you didn’t marry me. Your mistake, but we’ll let that slide.
Try to find out what she doesn’t like about any of the sci-fi you may have dragged her to in the past. Is she not interested in the attack sequences in BSG? Too much politics and intrigue and soldiers behaving badly? Skip the military. Was Avatar more of the same? I’m not even going to go into how much I hated that movie with its cardboard, two-dimensional stereotypical characters, not to mention the cultural strip-mining… OOPS. Well, anyway, I hated it but not because it featured military stuff. Maybe she doesn’t get Star Trek with all the talk of dilithium crystals, and warp nacelles, positronic matrices, venting warp plasma, rerouting control to the battle bridge… I love Trek, in all its incarnations, although TOS (The Original Series) is still probably my favorite. It was the chemistry between the main characters that made the show, much as the cast of “Firefly” inspired such a loyal (ok, rabid) following, of which I am one.
So let’s dig back a little. One of my all-time favorite sci-fi movies was
Ice Pirates (1984)
Yep. Love it. I think it was grossly underrated. The story had a real message, the characters were fun, there’s the romance between Jason (Robert Urich – be still my heart) and Princess Karina (Mary Crosby) which may help your wife/girlfriend/significant other ease into the rest of what’s happening. There’s some campy humor, villains, anti-heroes, swashbuckling pirates, froggy alien women, time travel. What’s not to love about a movie with a character named Killjoy (John Matuszak)? This movie had it all. It’s lighter fare than Star Wars which preceded it.
Next up: Starman (1984)
Oh, this is just too wonderful. Jeff Bridges plays the awkward but benevolent and curious alien who gives Karen Allen her heart’s desire. It spawned a short-lived television series that sadly lacked the charm of the movie. In the movie you’re rooting for Starman to outrun the government agents chasing him as he tries to experience some earth culture (cherry pie being one of our good points). The humanity and relationship between Jenny and the Starman is what makes it go. But it makes you think. What would happen to an alien who came here to learn about us, and became the target of a manhunt by the government? What would you do? Help him, or turn him in? It received an Oscar nom.
Brilliant scientist Eleanor Arroway (Jodie Foster) devotes her career to searching for extraterrestrial life, to the chagrin of her superior played icily by Tom Skerritt. Matthew McConaughey plays her sometime love interest/nemesis Palmer Joss. When she picks up a real signal from space, the government once again steps in and takes control, almost shutting her out of the process of making contact. In the end, she realizes her dream, but then has little support when no one believes her. Jodie Foster took home the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama. It won several other awards, including the Oscar for sound.
John Carter (2012)
Just go see it or rent it on Netflix when it becomes available. It’s fun, the chemistry between John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) and Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) is wonderful. I’ve talked to lots of ladies who loved it, so it’s not just me. The guys like it, too. I’ve heard from guys who saw it three times in the theater. It’s got some steampunk-y flying craft on Mars, which was fun. The story is not so convoluted that you can’t follow who’s who, and even though it’s based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ vision of Mars which is all wrong scientifically, it is humorous, visually arresting, has interesting sympathetic characters, and a great musical score by Michael Giacchino. OMG I love this movie, I’ve got the DVD on pre-order through Amazon, but it’s not out until June 5. Argh.
Don’t try to start off with Alien or Event Horizon or Mad Max. And hold off on the comic book characters. If she’s not into graphic novels and doesn’t already know and love the characters, most of the movies based on them are not going to help.
On to the books. As much as I love books like Neuromancer by William Gibson and Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan, they’re not for everyone. Gibson in particular is not an easy read. He introduces a lot of tech and ideas and lingo, and there are a lot of threads and intrigue, a lot of layers to it. It’s not beach reading. It is also violent. Not the best choice to start someone off in the genre. Brilliant, but it’s heavy duty cyberpunk.
Instead, I suggest starting with something like Clifford D. Simak (I loved Way Station), Walter M. Miller’s A Canticle for Liebowitz, Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, or Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber.
Just about anything by Ursula K. Le Guin (The Earthsea Trilogy might be more fantasy than sci-fi, but a great intro to her work. Just ignore that terrible SyFy channel movie based on it), Anne McCaffrey’s “Dragonriders of Pern” series, Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan novels, Joan D. Vinge’s The Snow Queen, Margaret Atwood’s Oryx & Crake (although she has repeatedly denied the classification of sci-fi for her work). Maybe your wife doesn’t know women write sci-fi, as well as read it. Starting off with a book written by a woman might make it more palatable, less like a ‘boys club.’
So there are a few ideas run up the ol’ flagpole, see if anyone salutes. But honestly, unless she’s got some latent geek tendencies, it’s probably unreasonable to expect her to suddenly take an interest in space ships and ray guns. Good luck, and let me know how it goes.
Weekly cyberpunk chats in the Twitterverse continue this week, at 1:00PM PST.
Our lovely mods are Josh K. Evans, Johann Carlisle and Melissa Dominic. Today’s chat focuses on the movies Blade Runner, The Matrix, and Ghost in the Shell. If you enjoy William Gibson’s writing, and/or Philip K. Dick, you already know cyberpunk. You can either follow and add the hashtag #cyberpunkchat to your tweets, or alternatively log into Tweetchat and enter that same title as the hashtag, wherein you will see only those comments and the site will automatically add the #cyberpunkchat hashtag to all your tweets, saving you time and typing.
Last week’s chat focused on William Gibson’s book, Neuromancer, and was one of the liveliest. Mr. Gibson himself even retweeted one person’s comment but although he appeared to be lurking did not actively join in the chat.
Here’s a chart of time zones around the world, showing what time the chat takes place in your local environs:
Most of you are familiar with the cast of characters in my department, and my direct manager popularly known as HMFIC. Today just reinforced why I hate this man so much.
When I first started working for him, he made a big deal of not having me keep his calendar for him, reiterating again and again to anyone who would listen that he preferred to take care of it himself, book his own meetings and so on, how much easier it was for him to just deal with it himself, in the time it took him to explain to me what he wanted he could have it done, blahblahblah…
I hear you snickering, knowing what’s coming.
I don’t think he books anything for himself anymore, except his own doctor’s appointments (and I had a manager in the past who actually had me make dental appointments for him). So I guess he gets props for that.
Anyway, I’ve been enjoying taking the train to work, but this morning I drove myself because I had a bunch of extra stuff I wanted to haul in and didn’t want to be an obnoxious train commuter with bags of junk taking up excess space. So I’m struggling into my cube just after 8:00 (traffic. This driving stuff sucks), just barely walked past his cube, and he’s out like a shot saying “Well as soon as you get settled I need to have you set up a meeting for me…” and proceeds to tell me the details of who, when, what this meeting will include. While he’s talking I’m going about setting my purse and bags down, digging out my glasses from the purse, taking my coat off, etc., etc. Did I bother to stop and write down what he was saying? Hellz no.
Additionally, I’m the only person in the department who still has a desktop computer, not a laptop. When I boot this beast up on Monday mornings it takes a good hour to load all the programs and patches/fixes/spyware/bloatware/keylogger programs the company has loaded on it in over the last five years. So I did the only thing I could: Walked off to the cafeteria to get breakfast.
By the time I got back ten minutes later he was busy with Overseer discussing some football game. Uh-huh. Instead of sending out the frigging meeting request himself for the few people he needed in attendance at 9:00 THIS MORNING, it was clearly more efficient to wait for my computer to boot up while he talked football. Not that it really mattered, most of the people he wanted at the meeting don’t typically show their faces here until after 9:00 anyway.
So feeling rather martial and cyberpunky this morning, let’s have My Chemical Romance “SING” us out with some post-apocalyptic laser blasts (I wish there was a video for “Bulletproof Heart” but there’s not yet so this will work for now) This is from their latest release, “Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys”. The whole album is fantastic, not a single throw-away track. (if an advertisement starts in the video, pause it and you’ll get the button to skip it)
Just a short note for those on Twitter who are also fans of, writers of, curious about, or cowboys of cyberpunk, there is a moderated (meaning there are actually topics that the ringleaders try to keep to) cyberpunk chat on Saturdays from 1:00 – 3:00PM PST (2100-2300UTC) or longer, if people are exceptionally chatty. If you need to find your time zone you can check here: The World Clock).
For those unfamiliar with the sci-fi genre, think The Matrix, TRON, Bladerunner. It’s dark, it’s edgy, it’s the little guy using computers and technology to fight The Man. In books, the granddaddy of them all is William Gibson’s Neuromancer. It was in that book that Gibson coined the term. (although Gibson is on Twitter, he does not join our merry little band. I think I’d fall out of my chair if he ever did). Other authors who write in the genre include Neal Stephenson, Bruce Sterling, Philip K. Dick. Cory Doctorow’s YA novel Little Brother pits a group of tech-savvy teens against Homeland Security.
This past week we discussed Virtual Worlds-Metaverse, Matrix, Cyberspace, augmented reality and its role in cyberpunk. The mods are Josh K. Evans (@JoshKEvans), Sean Francis (@SeanDFrancis) and Johann Carlisle (@johanncarlisle). You can use the hashtag #cyberpunkchat to follow along, or better yet, log into Tweetdeck.com and enter the same hashtag, and it will essentially drop you into a chatroom and insert the hashtag term with every tweet so you don’t have to. Easy! Drop by if you can.