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Blinded by Science--is sf obsolete?

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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 09:30 am:   

This commentator seems to think so...what does everyone else think?
http://discovermagazine.com/2007/aug/blinded-by-science
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PM
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 11:16 am:   

Skimmed through it.

I think there's a certain truth to it inasmuch as many authors are not particularly interested in writing science fiction.

Or at least that's the way it seems to me.

Aliens, space travel, time travel, robots, bio-tech, cyberspace, the post-apocalypse. Nothing new to report.

Exercises in conceptual regurgitation.

We can blame the scientists for not doing anything substantially novel from which one can expand through fiction. So I wouldn't blame the writers.

I'm not suggesting that good science fiction has not or could not be written. Just the concepts are familiar to the point of [near] boredom.

Does that make them obsolete? Certainly science hasn't overtaken science fiction.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 12:46 pm:   

I think this guy just hasn't read any good sf lately. (or maybe ever, if he points to Crichton as an important sf writer). Yes, it's harder to write exceptional sf today but I think there's still plenty being written by writers such as Maureen McHugh, Ted Chiang, Alexander Irvine, China Mieville, Daniel Abrahams, M. John Harrison, Christopher Rowe, and many others. "Newness" isn't what counts--it's fine to use older concepts and rework them into something different.
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PM
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 01:21 pm:   

I agree with you on what the author likely hasn't read.

I'd suggest that the lack of "newness" is either at the heart or somewhere around the intestines of much of the perceived decline in science fiction.

Once upon a time folk were genuinely entranced by the thought of going into space. Now it's as familiar as my alien lover...:-)
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Byron Bailey
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 03:40 pm:   

Much of the literary establishment has been fantasizing about science fiction becoming obsolete for decades. That's all it is. Fantasizing. I wouldn't begrudge Bruno Maddox, though, especially since he's not going to have to worry about going blind. He already seems to have that covered.
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GSH
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 12:32 am:   

"For one, it was around that time, the mid-1990s, that fiction—all fiction—finally became obsolete as a delivery system for big ideas. Whatever the cause—dwindling attention spans, underfunded schools, something to do with the Internet—the fact is these days that if a Top Thinker wakes up one morning aghast at man’s inhumanity to man, he’s probably going to dash off a 300-word op-ed and e-mail it to The New York Times, or better still, just stick it up on his blog, typos and all, not cancel his appointments for the next seven years so he can bang out War and Peace in a shed. If one truly has something to say, seems to be the consensus, then why not just come out and say it? If your goal is to persuade and be believed about the truth of a particular point, then what would possess you to choose to work in a genre whose very name, fiction, explicitly warns the reader not to believe a word she reads?"

Since Mr. Maddox apparently believes the whole of fictional literature became irrelevant by the mid-1990s, why (I ask in the most polite manner possible) should anyone give a rat's ass about his opinion concerning the relevance of science fiction?

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