February 15th, 2005

bear by san

the predictive purpose of science fiction?

This has come up on a couple of mailing lists I'm on recently, and I'm afraid my reaction is a profound and heartfelt "ehn."

More specifically, I tend to think of science fiction--or speculative fiction, if you prefer, since I'm cheerfully embracing papersky's definition of SF as a more limited subset of fantasy and mimetic fiction as a more limited subset of SF--as the literature of testing to destruction. Science fiction is the genre that lets the writer break stuff--the rules of physics, cultural expectations, mores, planets, societies--in an assortment of interesting ways, and look at the consequences.

I'm not interested in predicting the future. I'm writing for now--and, well, hopefully people fifty years on will find what I write interesting, but sister, I know it'll be dated. Litfic dates too. It doesn't signify--it really doesn't. Some stuff dates more troublingly than others--generally because it's accepting of cultural mores rather than questioning of them--but if it's any good, the questions that it addresses are significant enough that they don't get hashed out in a generation or two.

Anyway, I guess what I'm saying is that I'm not really all that interested in second-guessing the future, although I do engage in a good bit of of-this-goes-on, and I try to ground my near-future scenarios, at least, in semiplausible geopolitics.

I used to get very bogged down in creating believable science, rather than in making the science I invented believable. It was actually Brian Aldiss who broke me of that particular bad habit, because I realized that if he could get away with giant space spiders spinning webs between the earth and the moon, well--the sky's the limit.

I think that's what sensawunda is about. Not possibility, but plausibility. Possible stuff does not create sensawunda.

Sensawunda comes from "holy-bugaboo, that is the shit!"--Steve Brust's Cool Shit Theory Of Literature, in other words. In other words, yeah, yeah, Ringworld engineering problems, FTL doesn't work, ESP and time travel are not science, nit-pick nit-pick.

Yeah, we know. But the thing is, we're engaged in telling stories, not providing blueprints.

Yeah yeah. I know. I'm on it, already. Gimme the giant spiders and the positronic brains and the jaunting--or the teleportation of Mars as a plot device. (I'd say gimme slow glass, but AFAIK slow glass is still possible as well as plausible.)

Which is not to say there's not some real good writers doing real good work with the possible, or the nearly-possible, or the only slightly handwaved--but that's not my patch. I'm over here breaking stuff, just to see what happens when I do.
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bear by san

Remember me? I brought your groceries in.

arcaedia is smart about advances against royalties here.


I hit page 300 of the line edit on the wolf book last night. Going to bang out the last hundred pages today and send it back to truepenny, because she doesn't have enough to do. Then I guess I have to send Worldwired back, huh? Eee, the empty-nest syndrome! Aieeee!

Interesting meta things about A Companion to Wolves: I've never written a chosen-one fantasy before, and it's a lot of fun doing it from the POV of the chosen one's sidekick. Also, it's fun deconstructing fuzzy wish-fulfillment companion animal fantasy from the viewpoint of the companion animal who is having its personality subsumed into the relationship*. Even if the companion animal happens to be a teenaged boy, and the chosen one is a wolf....

Oh, this is so not YA.

*There's some interesting academic work to be done somewhere on the psychology of wish-fulfillment companion animal fantasies, and the way that, say, Pernese dragons are essentially telepathic yes-men, reflecting their rider's personalities and wishes--kind of externalized projections, invisible friends with wings. Fortunately, I am not the one to do it.

All right. Time to make tea and finish the edit.
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