Spin off @Claudie and dgaughran

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Watcher55
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Spin off @Claudie and dgaughran

Post by Watcher55 » June 9th, 2011, 4:25 pm

I’ve been hanging out at Claudie’s blog today, dgaughran is her guest blogger. If you’re interested in sci-fi at all it might be a good idea to swing by and take a look. I’m posting here because the post has opened so many avenues for discussion and I don’t want to litter Claudie’s space (get it?) with matters that detract from the cool contest she and dgaughran are running. (btw dgaughran, I have similar tastes concerning the various sub-genres and media).

Circuitous to the point – in the comment section I had occasion to mention two books by Brian Greene, THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE and FABRIC OF THE COSMOS. Those two books are dated but valid. It turns out he released a third book at the beginning of this year – THE HIDDEN REALITY: PARALLEL UNIVERSES AND THE DEEP LAWS OF THE COSMOS (I will have a copy by the end of the week). I bring this up because, in a completely different context, I’ve heard the faintest of murmurs that current Science has left little room for sci-fi writers since the answers discovered in the last century have left little to the imagination.

The fear, I think, is that science has surpassed Sci-fi and that all the good ideas have been done to death. I have to disagree with this assessment because when you get down to it (IMHO), Sci-fi is about the human condition and the dynamics that manifest when we consider possibilities and strain toward the future. I look at it this way, Sci-fi needs to catch up to and reach beyond current THEORY. Scientific fact is the Sci-fi writer’s toy box; scientific theory is the playground. This is where Brian Greene (and other physicists and cosmologists) comes in.

Greene’s work revolves around the seemingly contradictory relationship that exists between Relativity (R) and Quantum theory (Q). Current theoretical research suggests that the bridge between R (the very large) and Q (the very small), is the nearly amorphous, M-Theory and the six surprisingly harmonious theories that point to it – five string theories and Quantum Physic’s supergravity.

Here’s a simple man’s (that’s me) vision of how these six theories are related. Think of a root ball (M-Theory) with six shoots (string theory and supergravity). You can’t see the root ball, but you know it’s there because the shoots prove that it is. OK hold that image and consider this: Not all of the apparent contradictions between R and Q can be explained by any one string theory, but many (most?) of the contradictions can be explained by at least one of them. This observation might suggest that none of them is valid. It only takes one contradiction to destroy a theory, but contradiction is not the problem. Language is. Each of the string theories (and supergravity) has its own mathematical language. These six languages share properties that strongly suggest they describe the same thing from a different point of view. If this is true, there must be a root language that binds them – M-theory. I think a good question for Sci-fi writers to ask and attempt to answer is: “What’s inside that root ball, and can I eat it? It’s like on the old maps – “There be monsters here.” As for the notion that all the good ideas have been done to death: if we run out of good ideas, it might just be time to die.

Is Sci-fi doomed to exit the literary stage and forced to take its show down the visual arts road? Which old school principles should be preserved and which should be replaced? Are there other directions Sci-fi literature might take?

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Re: Spin off @Claudie and dgaughran

Post by Claudie » June 9th, 2011, 7:46 pm

I don't think Sci-fi is doomed at all. It isn't different as any other genres in that it needs to morph from what has been done before to explore new territories. There is a lot of science out there - hundreds of technologies, theories, experiments and concepts to play with. Get acquainted with any of the current practices, ask yourself what might happen if it'd go wrong, and list more than 1-2 ideas (the first will likely be the generic ones).

You'll find good ideas.

Science-fiction will continue to have its place for as long as science continues to grow and evolve. We will discover new theories and develop new technologies and they will come with their lot of ethical questions or possible dangers. You just look for one second at the list of science-related fear on my blog's comment and you have a nest of ideas there.

Now, physics isn't my field and I have only a vague handle on what they're doing these days in there, so I can't speak about what the possibilities are there. My field, though, involves tampering with DNA. And we all know how many questions and fears this raises (with good reasons).

Sci-fi isn't dead. It only needs to return to the time when it examined the relation we, as human beings, have with science, the possibilities it offers and what we're willing (or not) to sacrifice for certain pieces of technology.
"I do not think there is any thrill [...] like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success... Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything." -- Nikola Tesla

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Re: Spin off @Claudie and dgaughran

Post by Watcher55 » June 9th, 2011, 9:06 pm

Claudie wrote:Sci-fi isn't dead. It only needs to return to the time when it examined the relation we, as human beings, have with science, the possibilities it offers and what we're willing (or not) to sacrifice for certain pieces of technology.
I think you've nailed a key issue here. The idea of examining the dynamics between science and humanity is what it's all about, and there's no shortage of ideas, and I do think we have to return to (remember) when rapid scientific advancement was a big deal. These days it seems, breakthroughs are becoming mundane (is that an oxymoron?), and sci-fi literature is becoming marginalized by a glut of superheroes and stories that stray too far into the paranormal (I got nothing against paranormal, I just want good sci-fi). Look at FIREFLY: arguably the best sci-fi show ever and it was cancelled after one season. Why? I think it was because it's sci-fi for grown-ups and that just doesn't sell.

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Re: Spin off @Claudie and dgaughran

Post by Sommer Leigh » June 10th, 2011, 8:54 am

No way, sci fi isn't dead or dying or in trouble or overdone or falling out of favor. I think, quite the contrary, we are seeing a brand new, bright eyed surge of it, particularly emerging from the YA world.

Ok so, let me back up for a second. You've got these kids, the young 20 somethings and the teens and those who will be teens very soon. These kids (and I use the term "kid" loosely, not in condescention) have only known a world where technology is literally moving at the speed of light. They've seen cell phones change from something size of your hand to prototypes that fit inside your eye like a contact lens. They've seen gene splicing working to make it cheaper and easier to feed impoverished nations. They've learned about the disappearing bees and they've seen the Japanese rolling out worker robots that take care of kids and the elderly in replacement of nannies. Their first computer might not have even had a twenty pound monitor, but even if they did they now carry several computing devices on them at any one time and their laptops weigh less than a book. A couple of years ago they were dealing with the blowback of people at the airport digging through their luggage looking for bombs and now they are dealing with full body x-ray scanners that take pictures of their insides. They have a unique perspective on privacy, security, technology, and possibilities that the rest of us never could because we are all old enough to know what came before the age of rapid advancement. They are not surprised when Japan comes out with news that they have been able to stop time inside a tiny bubble for .4 seconds or that they are scary close to cloning a whooly mammoth. How strange and wonderful to believe, without a single doubt, in the marvels that our imagination is able to produce. This is also a scary thing - if you are a generation of young, bright children of the age of rapid advancement, it maybe becomes harder and harder to say - Maybe this is a bad idea, because regardless, it is an idea that can be made real.

So it is no wonder that we're seeing sci-fi influences all over YA. The question these narratives are asking is no longer "What if?" so much as a reaffirming statement of "We can." I think the influence is very quickly going to change into a surge and then a storm. And no, it isn't going to look just like older sci-fi. Why would it? It can't. It is being written by people who have only ever known progression and possibilities. They've never known an impossibility. An influx of superhero stories? This generation has seen the invention of an invisibility cloak, armored soldier mecha, bio-luminescent gene splicing, and jet packs! Science fiction has always been a response to what is happening in the world, so it makes sense this is where sci-fi is heading.

So maybe the way science looks and feels will be different. I think we'll see the focus turning more to the consequences and human reaction to mathmatical and scientific absolutes and the every day applications of the extraordinary.

On a side note- I think the cancellation of Firefly had little to nothing to do with its sellability. During its airing, the episodes were shown out of order from their filming because Fox wanted "more action" up front and so the stories made absolutely no sense out of order. (The train episode came first-with all the characters together. The "first" episode where the crew is actually formed came later. Made no sense!) It was poorly marketed by Fox and very expensive to film. It was doomed from the beginning, whether it had an audience or not.
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Re: Spin off @Claudie and dgaughran

Post by Claudie » June 10th, 2011, 11:34 pm

Sommer Leigh wrote:On a side note- I think the cancellation of Firefly had little to nothing to do with its sellability. During its airing, the episodes were shown out of order from their filming because Fox wanted "more action" up front and so the stories made absolutely no sense out of order. (The train episode came first-with all the characters together. The "first" episode where the crew is actually formed came later. Made no sense!) It was poorly marketed by Fox and very expensive to film. It was doomed from the beginning, whether it had an audience or not.
They're shown in that order on the disks, too, and they made perfect sense to me. Unless by "when the crew comes together", you mean when River, Simon and Book up on board and not when they show how they met Kaylee and Wash. At which point, well, you are completely right and I withdraw any protest. ;)

As for the rest I am amazed by this post, Sommer! You might be right about the new era changing our perception of science and technology. I dearly hope sci-fi will make a comeback and address the entirely new issues of this fast-moving technologies.

I should say, though, that I had always been under the impression that when the first surge of science fiction happened, this feeling of "We can." was also very present. The whole space opera subgenre is a proof of it. Space-related technology moved so fast, you only needed to reach a little further to imagine humanity spreading over several galaxies. There was this feeling that yes, we COULD get there, and would. Science fiction authors dwelt on these matters because it seemed to be what humanity was shooting for at this point.

Now we have a whole new direction, and the fast technological advances often affect our daily lives instead of the Big Ass Future of Humanity. Screw Space! Our very lives and habits are changing every year. The entire Earth is moving at light speed!

Which is why I think you are so very right with this... (emphasis mine)
Sommer Leigh wrote:So maybe the way science looks and feels will be different. I think we'll see the focus turning more to the consequences and human reaction to mathmatical and scientific absolutes and the every day applications of the extraordinary.
"I do not think there is any thrill [...] like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success... Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything." -- Nikola Tesla

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Re: Spin off @Claudie and dgaughran

Post by Watcher55 » June 11th, 2011, 11:03 am

Sommer Leigh wrote:So it is no wonder that we're seeing sci-fi influences all over YA. The question these narratives are asking is no longer "What if?" so much as a reaffirming statement of "We can." I think the influence is very quickly going to change into a surge and then a storm. And no, it isn't going to look just like older sci-fi. Why would it? It can't. It is being written by people who have only ever known progression and possibilities. They've never known an impossibility. An influx of superhero stories? This generation has seen the invention of an invisibility cloak, armored soldier mecha, bio-luminescent gene splicing, and jet packs! Science fiction has always been a response to what is happening in the world, so it makes sense this is where sci-fi is heading.
I see what you mean, and I have no delusions that Sci-fi should stay the same, and this is a good way to frame one of the directions it's taking. Instead of dealing with one aspect of Science and projecting advancement into a fantastical future or building worst-case/best-case consequences, Sci-fi is turning more toward the dynamics created by current advancement in mutiple fields so the consequences arise from our ability (or lack there of) to harmonize that dynamic before it gets away from us and something bad happens.

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Re: Spin off @Claudie and dgaughran

Post by Sommer Leigh » June 13th, 2011, 4:34 pm

Claudie wrote: They're shown in that order on the disks, too, and they made perfect sense to me. Unless by "when the crew comes together", you mean when River, Simon and Book up on board and not when they show how they met Kaylee and Wash. At which point, well, you are completely right and I withdraw any protest. ;)
Maybe the Canada version and the US version of the box set are different? The first episode should be "Serenity," but Serenity wasn't shown until way later in the series. The Train Job was the first episode aired, then the next episode was shown (it was supposed to be third, but shown second) but then it jumped to the SIXTH episode in the series to show as number 3... It was all wonky. The character development made no sense as the episodes aired.


Also, I am glad you liked the post :-) I am so in love with the direction YA sci-fi is going.
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Re: Spin off @Claudie and dgaughran

Post by Claudie » June 13th, 2011, 4:39 pm

Sommer Leigh wrote:Maybe the Canada version and the US version of the box set are different? The first episode should be "Serenity," but Serenity wasn't shown until way later in the series. The Train Job was the first episode aired, then the next episode was shown (it was supposed to be third, but shown second) but then it jumped to the SIXTH episode in the series to show as number 3... It was all wonky. The character development made no sense as the episodes aired.
I don't own the box set, so I can't verify, but I think the Train Job was the second on it. And the first episode was the one in which Walsh does his famous dinosaur play. What I do remember distinctly is that after that, it wasn't very well-indicated in what order the episodes should be watched, and I ended up mixing them anyway. So... in my case it doesn't make a big difference. XD
"I do not think there is any thrill [...] like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success... Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything." -- Nikola Tesla

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Re: Spin off @Claudie and dgaughran

Post by knight_tour » June 14th, 2011, 4:32 am

So much of the sci-fi that I have read is far-future sci-fi, while what I am most interested in is the relatively near future. I want to see the beginnings of the great technological changes rather than see them far in the future. It's interesting to see humans turned into cyborgs by advanced technology, but I'm even more interested to read about when those technologies first started. I'm writing my current book set only about a century from now, so I can explore what I think things may be like in regards to technology like mind/data interfaces. I don't see that it is possible for sci-fi to get burnt out, because there will always be a future unless we kill ourselves off, and that future has so many logical possibilities for exploration.

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Re: Spin off @Claudie and dgaughran

Post by Cookie » June 15th, 2011, 2:30 pm

I don't think sci-fi is doomed. Like others said, it will evolve with our changing technology and subsequent fears.
So much of the sci-fi that I have read is far-future sci-fi
Really? I'm the opposite. I've only really read near future sci-fi, but am interested in the far future. Can you suggest some titles?

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