I’m amused by how intent people are on making human beings immortal or at least extremely long-lived. One of the consolations of dying is that [you think], ‘Well, that won’t have to be my problem’. Seriously, the world is changing so quickly that if you had any more than 80 years of change I don’t see how you could stand it psychologically.”
Most of Franzen's comments on e-books and technology are pretty shallow — he's an admitted atavist, as per his essays in How to Be Alone — but he does touch on something worth expanding on here, even if he doesn't seem to realize it.Read more
An incredibly well-timed post from io9: Great Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Who Never Wrote Sequels or Trilogies.
"Well-timed" in big part because I was just debating this very issue with others earlier today, and because it's something I've taken a stance on re: my own work. No sequels, no multiple works in the same universe.
That said, I am fully prepared to admit I might reconsider once I have to deal with the way publishing works apart from hustling individual copies across a table at a convention.Read more
A common trope of far-future technology is matter synthesis — essentially Star Trek's transporter, wired up in such a way that you just spit out copies of things via energy-to-matter conversion.
We're not going to have anything remotely like that for a long time, but right now we have a fabrication technology which has been turning a few heads: 3D printing. The technology has advanced quite a bit in a very short amount of time, so much so that it's a little intimidating. Check out the Shapeways site, and the range of materials available for use in a given project: it's not just ABS plastic. Naturally the implications vis-à-vis patent and copyright are pretty hair-raising.
What got me thinking, though, is a slightly oddball, sidelong aspect of the whole thing. At what point does the term "handmade" become pointless, especially if you could program a 3D printer to emulate the very imperfections and quirks that make a handmade item so endearing? Or is it even any of those things? Is it just the cachet that goes with knowing you have something an actual human being created with their own hands? How valuable is that feeling going to be in the future?Read more
... "sympathetic" isn't the same thing as "compelling" — a character can be unsympathetic but utterly fascinating and spellbinding. Like a lot of the things on this list, this is all in the execution — if you're going to go with a protagonist who's fundamentally unsympathetic or unrelatable, you're going to have to do an amazing job of making the reader care about him or her in spite of everything.
The Stars My Destination comes to mind as a great example of this. Gully Foyle, the hero — er, protagonist — is one of the less likable characters of any SF story I've read. What makes him the center of such a compulsively readable story is a) we know exactly what he wants, but we never know how he's going to go about trying to get it next, and b) he does humanize as the story goes on. He begins as a brute, mutates into a creature of revenge, evolves into a spy / supersoldier, and ends as a repentant and a transcender of human limitations.Read more
Theological Science Fiction - Reason Magazine (Gregory Benford)
The point of speculative ideas and science fictional treatments is not to foster propaganda (though many do so, usually obviously and unsuccessfully), but to make us think. As a literature of change driven by technology, science fiction presents religion to a part of the reading public that probably seldom goes to church.
The piece as a whole is only okay — it was written in 2003, and it doesn't trot out a lot of stuff that we haven't heard before and since — but the above comment deserves some expansion.Read more
(Note: My boilerplate Point-In-Time Disclaimer applies for this post.)
Not long ago, in another part of the web, I watched a discussion wherein someone attempted, very unconvincingly, to defend the position that money should be abolished. He had no coherent idea about what to replace it with; in fact, he didn't seem to be of the opinion we should replace it with anything.
From what I could tell, he had far bigger problems than the fact he was stumping for a not-very-defensible idea in the first place. He could barely hold a train of thought long enough to complete a sentence, let alone complete it coherently.
But out of that grew some thought on my end: would there come a time, far enough in the future, where money might well be abandoned as no longer serving any useful purpose? Note that I'm not talking about a "cashless society", but a society where the very concept of money has been ditched.
I didn't think this would happen, and here was my reasoning for same.Read more
I've been hinting on and off about a new novel-length project, Flight of the Vajra, but I haven't actually talked about it in detail for a couple of reasons.
One, I'm always a little reluctant to reveal a lot of details about a project in progress, because things could change quite radically between now and the final draft, and I hate the idea of looking like I'm pulling a bait-and-switch. Earlier this week I read about how Dostoevsky fed his original draft of Crime and Punishment to the flames after realizing his story deserved to be told anew in a better way. I was appalled at first, but then I realized a) it was his damn story, and b) look what we got because of his willingness to break from his own continuity.
Two, I don't want to get into the habit of substituting talking about my work with actually producing it. I have a deep-seated aversion to such things — I think it comes from having spent time with too many people who were themselves more talkers than doers, and I don't want to imitate their habits if I can help it.
So here's what I'm gedankening: Rather than blog about the book, I'll be talking on and off about themes related to the book, posted under a general topical heading (Flight of the Vajra). Some of the stuff I talk about there may make it into the final draft; some might not. At the very least you'll be guaranteed an interesting time.
As they say in advertising: Watch this space.
(Smartass voice from off-stage: "Why, what's it doing?")