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"The problem with s.f. today..."

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MarcL
Posted on Monday, April 25, 2005 - 08:18 pm:   

Beth Meacham: “The problem with science fiction today is that it has become two extremes. There's the extreme of the mimetic novel (a real-life mainstream book) which has a little bit of a science-fictional element thrown into it -- a disease, a device, a something -- and becomes a successful mainstream-accessible book. They sell very well, but I don't think they really feed the science fiction junkie. At the other extreme there is the rarified, almost decadent science fiction that nearly everything being written these days seems to be."

http://www.locusmag.com/2005/Issues/04Meacham.html

I must admit, these are the two kinds of science fiction that don't interest me much, but I will take the former over the latter most times. Maybe I have become really lazy as a reader, but as soon as I experience that disorienting shock of being in an unfamiliar world with every single rule being one I must learn from scratch, I put down the book and go look for a good thriller, so I can watch someone messing with rules I already understand.

I appreciate the effort that goes into these stories--it's not just fiction about aliens, it's fiction for aliens. They require nerve to carry off. Greg Bear, for instance, occasionally writes stories (whole books) that read as if they have been delivered from the future; and he does these in between his more accessible works, so you know he is doing it with great deliberation, pushing the boundaries of the field.

But can I rarely get past appreciating the effort and move into pure enjoyment. Embarrassing confession, perhaps. I should be smarter.
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Jörn Grote
Posted on Tuesday, April 26, 2005 - 05:02 am:   

The writer is building on decades and decades of shared experience, and everything has to be strange and wonderful and extrapolative. You have strange and extrapolative characters in a strange and extrapolative world, doing strangely extrapolated things.

I don't see why that should be an problem of SF, that's exactly what SF is for me. Occasionally I read some of these mimetic novels, but most of them are just not imaginative enough.

You can't envision yourself there because there's no one you can identify with, and at every point of the story you have to worry, 'What does this mean? How does it relate?' There's nothing relaxing and comfortable.

That I don't see at all, if you can't immerse yourself in such a future, relate to these characters, then it may be because your worldview is dated.
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Bill G
Posted on Tuesday, April 26, 2005 - 06:26 am:   

Puzzling out the new is part of the fun for the experienced SF reader. However, the new and unexplained can be taken too far, as in Terry Dowling's "Flashmen," which annoyed me greatly. For 20 intense pages, Dowling lays on one unexplained concept after another to the point where your brain explodes in confusion.
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Jörn Grote
Posted on Tuesday, April 26, 2005 - 06:50 am:   

Ha, that was the only story in YBSF 21 I really hated. But I think Beth Meacham in the Locus interview is more talking about Far Future SF, like John C. Wrights "Golden Age" trilogy or maybe Charles Stross "Accelerando" stories, which share a common language mostly known by people who read SF for a long time, instead of science fantasy like "Flashmen" where the author invents new words and idioms every page.
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John Thiel
Posted on Tuesday, April 26, 2005 - 08:09 am:   

SF today lacks a spirit. The only way to recover that lost spirit of sf would be to invoke it from the past, so I suggest it needs a new spirit, one of contention, progress, and transition. Anyone want to help build a new spirit for sf?
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Jörn Grote
Posted on Tuesday, April 26, 2005 - 08:28 am:   

SF today is better than it ever was. If you want to channel the spirit of past SF, you probably only get grumpy old Heinlein. If you want to create a new spirit of SF, unlike what is produced in the present and you bemoan as lacking, write something worth reading.
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Mastadge
Posted on Tuesday, April 26, 2005 - 09:03 am:   

Its not SF that lacks -- it's I! I lack enough time to read all the good stuff being published these days!

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