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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Time Marches On. . .

. . .and provides an example of a point I was making over ten years ago. You may or may not have visited my home page, which predates this blog by about a dozen years or so, if you have, buried in the writing portion are a couple of essays I did on plot and world-building when I taught some classes on those subjects way too many years ago. While such writing advice, when it isn't market-specific, isn't prone to become dated (one of my favorites in my collection of writing books is a little compilation of essays entitled Of Worlds Beyond which was originally published in 1947. And Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses are as offensive today as when Mark Twain wrote about them in 1895.) it is true that specific examples used in such advice may date badly, especially if you are talking about SF and technological change.

Exhibit one from "Worldbuilding: Constructing a SF Universe" by your's truly:

Unintended consequences are especially rife when talking about technological change. Every piece of technology will eventually find niches other than what its developers intend. (Consider the identification of pagers with the drug culture.) [emphasis added]

I mean, wow. You can now add, "consider how short that identification was." Or, "and aren't those obsolete yet?"

But more germane, and what got me thinking about this, is a quote earlier in the same section:

Making your world different can be as simple as locating it in that vast unknown territory, "The Future." But for every element of difference you introduce in a story, there will be a multitude of consequences rippling out from the point of difference. Consider one example: Once computer animation becomes cheap and detailed enough that a lone hacker can produce a feature film, what will this do to the major movie studios, television, advertising, intellectual property laws, politics, culture, and the nature of celebrity?

I wrote that over a decade ago. Now think about the fact that I just posted a Muppet re-mix of a Pulp Fiction trailer. Now think about the fact that the RIAA and the motion picture industry are having trouble just getting their heads around file sharing, I doubt it's even possible for them to respond rationally to this kind of "fair use." Then we have advertising like so:

And when it comes to celebrity, we now live in a world now where this guy is famous:

If you think about this as an SF writer, you have to conclude that it is a lot less likely that your future is too weird, and a lot more likely that your future just isn't weird enough.


Maureen McHugh said...

I think it is no coincidence that William Gibson, having spent a couple of decades immersed in current weirdness, no long really writes science fiction so much as write fiction that takes place pretty much right now that feels like science fiction. The older I get, the stranger and more interesting the present gets. And I know I have a lot less to say about the future than I ever did. Which was, frankly, not a whole lot to begin with.

S Andrew Swann said...

I've noticed the same thing, which I think is partly why I took an extended road trip into fantasy. I think this anxiety may, in part, be the impetus behind the whole Mundane SF movement. I only recently realized that it was an anxiety, a fear of a failure of imagination. I think recognizing the fear for what it was helped me get back on the ball again with Apotheosis.