Friday, June 27, 2008

waiting for the perfect scifi writer

Tom Hofmann:
"The best tool for understanding the intersection of technology, society and politics taking place now and in the near future is good science fiction set more or less in the present. Kim Stanley Robinson's "Science in the Capital" trilogy, and Little Brother, being notable examples"
- what really stings about obama and FISA
I think that claim for science fiction is too strong. Tom sort of admits this anyway in the final paragraph of his blog. Science fiction can show us possible techno-scientific-imaginative pathways into the future but usually fails if it tries to make too much objective social commentary. For me, one of Cory Doctorow's better scifi writings was the challenge to Asimov's three laws of robotics. ie. scifi writing is just another area where different ideas battle it out.

It would be great if we had someone who deeply understood technology, (science), society, politics and was also a great writer of futuristic imagination who could create believable characters on the page. We don't, so we have to try to stitch it together the best we can.

For an imaginative futuristic feast I'd recommend the Rudy Rucker trilogy, Software; Wetware; Freeware. This had me up at 3am, terrified of the aliens outside my window.

My all time favourite is Ursula LeGuin's, The Dispossessed , because she can do incredibly good social commentary as well as imaginative writing with great characterisation. (The great characterisation is where many scifi writers disappoint me.) She describes perfectly how groups founded on equality and continually proclaiming equality can generate incredibly sophisticated and devious methods of power seeking

btw Marvin Minsky co-authored The Turing Option (link to some unpublished chapters), with Harry Harrison as an original way to promote his ideas about AI.


Anonymous said...


Rob Vens said...

Indeed the science fiction that would come close to those claims is rare.
For me, as I tell in a book review on my site, Doris Lessings "Shikasta" series are the best. But what may be worth mentioning in this context is the afterword she wrote in the first book of the series, explaining her thoughts on the science fiction context for her books (which was, at the time, new for her). The best explanation why science fiction can be a useful vehicle for the exploration of new ideas I have read!

Bill Kerr said...

Link to rob vens very interesting website and blog (have subscribed to rob's blog)

Many thanks rob for recommending the 'Shikasta' series by Doris Lessing. I've just spent some time reading reviews and will probably order the 5 books of the series:
The marriage between zones three, four and five
The Sirian Experiments
The making of the representatives for planet 8
The Sentimental Agents