Ramblings from the Desert

The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either. ~Benjamin Franklin

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Location: New Mexico

Author of the urban fantasy novel, The Music of Chaos, and the paranormal romance, The Canvas Thief.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Death of Science Fiction?

When he's not getting fixated on self-publishing or putting the hate on fan fiction, Lee Goldberg can be interesting. His latest posting looks at the supposed demise of science fiction.

To be blunt: I don't like science fiction. ("Sci-fi, sci-fi, sci-fi, sci-fi!" To piss off the genre Nazis.) Why? Dunno, exactly. My aversion makes no sense.

I love science. Heck, in college, I majored in just about every science except chemistry. I totally dig insects and all things that crawl and creep. I can identify nearly all the constellations and I think Brian Greene and Stephen Hawking are good reading. I know how engines work (more than most men) and why the sky is blue. Some days I need to dink with computers--a compulsion.

But with the exception of S.L. Viehl's StarDoc series (especially Blade Dancer) and Stacey Klemstein's The Silver Spoon, SF doesn't move me. No an inch, not a millimeter. (I suspect the genre police will argue that neither of the above are science fiction. What-ever.)

Michael Swanwick's The Iron Dragon's Daughter sits on my keeper shelf, but I couldn't get past page five of his award winning Seasons of the Tide. Neuromancer? Left Hand of Darkness? Fuggetaboutit. Brain hurty, yuck.

A Best of SF anthology sits on the shelf (because I haven't gotten around to getting rid of it), only a few of the stories read. (Okay, so I'm really not a fan of short fiction.) The first paragraphs of the first story have more jargon than my master's thesis: "commensal species," "iron sulphate," "iron-sulphate complexes." To paraphrase the old lady in the ancient Burger King commercial: "Where's the character(s)?" Hell, some of the stories in the collection aren't even stories, but rather some weird-ass-shit pseudo essays that appeared in the magazine Nature. "Where's the fiction?" David Langford's "A Different Kind of Darkness" is one of the few that utilize good characterization in such a way that the hard SF part of the story goes down easy--spoon full of sugar. "Grandma's Jumpman" by Robert Reed tackles prejudice with a chilling ending. The rest? Big meh.

Am I suggesting that writers of hard SF should write something else? God, no. As a writer of prosaic, fluffy stories, I've had too much derision flung at me from the "substance crowd" to go there. Write what you love, otherwise, what's the point? There is nothing I loath more than people who presume to tell others what to write.

Because of my tastes, do I welcome the "supposed" demise* of science fiction or any genre for that matter? No, no, no. (*I suspect SF will never die, though sales have declined.)

But it's not hard to see, in today's market, where cell phones, television, movies, and video games rule, why hard crunchy science fiction is fading. And deriding the public for their tastes will not shame them into newfound sophistication.

Big concepts and hard science are great. But I suspect, for many readers (remember, most readers aren't writers), in the absence of character (or plot), there is no story.

I think Goldberg's got it right in this respect:
The moral of this story? Writers are never happy.

Many words...1000?...yesterday. Also did some storyboarding for next scene.



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