Defending the SF genre with terminal intensity
- Dec 7, 2011
The main reason I've moved away from SF to Fantasy and Alternate History is that I feel I can do so much more in the latter genres. These days I find SF too limiting, with the sole exception of AI, a sub-genre I feel I still have a lot to offer. The other big part of it for me is that I'm getting a tad more depressed about the state of the world, and the likely state of the world in the future... I don't really want to contemplate then write about that any more.
I would like to add that the new science that can be manipulated for new science fiction is there, just not been written about. The results can be jaw-dropping amazing.The drift to fantasy could be because science is finally catching up with science fiction.
A good story has got to have an element of unreality about it since real life is boring (that's why we like stories). SF had its heyday at a time when we had enough science to look on space travel and life on nearby worlds as an exciting possibility, but not enough science to know just how difficult and limited space travel really is (and how inhospitable those nearby worlds really are).
That doesn't meant there mustn't be a robust underlying reality as well. World building can't strain our suspension of disbelief too much, so John Carter on Mars works only in a parallel universe - and it was a failure anyway. A fantasy world has got to be consistent. When the laws of physics are invoked they must work as per the real world. The plus side with fantasy, unlike science fiction, is that the realism element does not steadily encroach on the storytelling. Thanks to the internet, people have become very well informed as to what is and isn't scientifically possible. They want an SF story that is believable inasfar as it affirms science, and that has become very hard to pull off. When it is pulled off it's a great success, like The Martian.
There is of course always the halfway house of science fantasy where you just give scientific sounding names to magic. I don't know if that's getting more or less popular. I'm guessing that as people's scientific culture grows, believing in ray guns and hyperdrive becomes harder to do. They are no longer exciting exciting possibilities.
What kind of jaw-dropping are we talkin' here?I would like to add that the new science that can be manipulated for new science fiction is there, just not been written about. The results can be jaw-dropping amazing.
Talking from personal experience, trying to get that really innovative science fiction published is difficult. Sometimes I am left thinking it is because publishers and editors are too 'old-fashioned' for them to stomach.
I'm not sure what can be done about it... if I knew I would be doing it!
One example I like to quote is Mike Hardwick's short story A Glitch in Humanity inWhat kind of jaw-dropping are we talkin' here?
I'd add Charles Stross: his Merchant Princes and Laundry Files series are, in the way the underlying concepts on which their universes work, more fantasy than SF, the former being portal fantasy, the latter being more Urban Fantasy (with more than a touch of Weird and Horror).Most obvious example I can think of, off the top of my head, to add to your list is Iain Banks
Yes that's an interesting point...but as you hint, that'll drop us into the black unforgiving hole that is 'What is SF' etc.Others may disagree with me, but I feel that both are written in more of an "SF style" (please don't ask me to say what this is ) than a fantasy one... but this may be more a result of me being less aware of, say, Urban fantasy tropes than other readers on this site.
To be honest many of his 'mainstream' books are pretty weird and uncategorisable(???), The Bridge being a classic example (and also one of my favourites).One of his mainstream books (and definitely my joint favourite of his, along with Use of Weapons), also defied easy classification, namely The Bridge.
Yes that's the one and although as you say the main protagonist is a technology user she very rarely uses any technology throughout the book which is why it felt to me more like a fantasy, albeit one with no magic.Are you thinking of Inversions? Is it fantasy simply because the setting is medieval, even though the protagonists are technology users?