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Go Back   The Trek BBS > Entertainment & Interests > Science Fiction & Fantasy

Science Fiction & Fantasy Farscape, Babylon 5, Star Wars, Firefly, vampires, genre books and film.

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Old October 24 2012, 09:30 PM   #31
Admiral Buzzkill
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Re: Is SF in a state of exhaustion?

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....downloading/uploading our brains, child's play...
No one has any idea how to do this. No one has demonstrated how it might be done even as a pilot experiment. So-called "tech evangelists" simply assert that it's so and their followers uncritically lap it up.
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Old October 25 2012, 12:03 AM   #32
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Re: Is SF in a state of exhaustion?

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So the store was one of those who mis-shelved the fantasy in with the sci-fi...
There's such a thing as a Science Fiction And Fantasy section, which is true of basically all bookstores I've regularly frequented. Grouping them together isn't exactly uncommon (and given the ambiguously genrebending works that many of these articles talk about, it's also a little conveinent).

I mean I dunno. Yeah, my bookstore has some TV&M books, but they actually take up a small fraction of the shelf space given over to SF&F (and are seperated). There's a lot of fantasy, true, but there's still a lot of science fiction titles, and it's dependable in having the latest Sci-Fi Masterworks releases from Gollancz (a series that has served me dependably for almost a decade now).

It can be frustrating if I'm looking for a specific author - the Le Guin selection, for example, feels waifishly thin - but given the space allocated and granted the popularity of fantasy fiction there's a lot of SF available (and the tomes that make up Mr. Reynold's Revelation Space series were quite nicely lined up when I last checked...)

And besides, honestly, ebooks. It's a boon for getting anything less-than-pervasive, or possibly out of print.
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Old October 25 2012, 02:28 AM   #33
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Re: Is SF in a state of exhaustion?

Science fiction and fantasy are marketing categories, and they're pretty much the same thing as far as booksellers are concerned.

In point of fact, science fiction is simply a subgenre of fantasy.
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Old October 25 2012, 03:12 AM   #34
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Re: Is SF in a state of exhaustion?

^^Not to me lol... but I don't know if we want to start THAT discussion here.
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Old October 25 2012, 03:23 AM   #35
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Re: Is SF in a state of exhaustion?

as a reader or writer, Science fiction and fantasy are not the same.

As a bookseller, they are both put together, and sell well.

I think that if the Enders game movie is good, it might cause a upswing.
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Old October 25 2012, 04:14 AM   #36
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Re: Is SF in a state of exhaustion?

Hard science fiction is quite distinct from fantasy, but hard science fiction is a niche subgenre of science fiction. It isn't and never has been the definition of science fiction. Outside of books from the likes of Asamov, science fiction is the exact same thing as fantasy.

When you have stuff like Rocket Robin Hood, Star Wars, Power Rangers, Doctor Who, and Yor: Hunter from the Future how are you possibly supposed to separate those into either fantasy or science fiction? You can't, so clearly the two genres are one and the same.
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Old October 25 2012, 04:32 AM   #37
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Re: Is SF in a state of exhaustion?

^Those aren't the only non-"hard" SF out there.
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Old October 25 2012, 05:29 AM   #38
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Re: Is SF in a state of exhaustion?

^ Of course not. Star Trek is the perfect example of soft science fiction that clearly falls within the category of science fiction, but most media doesn't fit so neatly in one of the two categories. Sure, you can always use the Science Fantasy label, but when that covers the majority of science fiction and fantasy it's just getting silly.
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Old October 25 2012, 05:54 AM   #39
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Re: Is SF in a state of exhaustion?

IMO fantasy and science fiction are similar in that they are literary genres in which the author alters the mechanics (or "physics") of the world in which the story unfolds and the characters interact. In fantasy, how the mechanics work is relatively unconstrained, with the exception that, usually, good fantasy makes sure these new 'fantastical' rules are consistent from beginning to end.

With the advance of science, and the realization that the natural world worked according to a series of rules (i.e., physical laws) that were both objective and invariant, it became possible to write stories in which the mechanics of the world were altered, not fantastically, but by using different physical rules and laws. You could either disregard existing laws entirely and use new ones on the basis of being in a different time or location, or by speculating about what the laws would be like in an area where real science had not provided answers.

A science fiction story is a story where the setting of the story unfolds not according to the established understanding of science at the time the author wrote it, but by altered scientific rules. For example, according to our understanding of physics since 1905, faster than light travel is impossible. Therefore, a story where the characters are traveling faster than light is science fiction. If the author is (relatively) lazy and does not explain the faux-science which allows this to happen, it's more like soft sci-fi, while a story that allows FTL travel by means of exotic ideas such as wormholes, or Alcubierre drives, and attempts to explain these FTL drives and how they work, is more a hard sci-fi story.

When one writes a story that takes place in the future (or past) but uses the same physics, whether that story is sci-fi or not is a difficult question. If it's in the past, I would have to say no, but a future story I would say yes, because almost by definition one usually invents at minimum new technologies as part of the story, because it is a historical fact that technologies tend to evolve over time. Strictly speaking, I prefer to use sci-fi only if the scientific laws and understandings in the story are different from reality, not just technology, but it's not a hard and fast rule.

How does this relate to the topic of whether the sci-fi genre is exhausted? I don't think it's a problem of being able to comprehend the future, because creating a distinct setting for a sci-fi story that takes place in the future is the easy part, one that any competent sci-fi author can do; all it requires is a basic knowledge of physics, being clear about what laws you're altering, and being rigorous and consistent about the consequences of those changes.

The hypothesis that technological evolution is such that it is altering society at a pace beyond which writers can cope is better, but it's still beside the point: the point of a sci-fi story is not to be both a precise prediction of the future and a precise explanation of the present. The point is to create a plausible future which helps to illuminate the author's view of the present. There's nothing that says that either of these views have to be correct, just plausible.

If authors are not careful about working within this fundamental constraint of sci-fi, then of course they risk creating mixed-genre stories that are neither science fiction nor fantasy. That doesn't mean the stories won't be good, but it does mean you can lose the strengths of each genre without compensating for their weaknesses. And stories which are based on fantastical technologies, that are not carefully thought out as to their consequences, can fall prey to what I call the Jetson Fallacy: the idea that you can have radical technological change without radical social change that impacts your characters.

The observation that 'there's nothing new under the sun' is very old, so the burden is on current and future sci-fi authors to either recombine what's old to make it appear new, or to truly create the new. They should welcome the challenge; after all, successful science pushes the boundaries of actual knowledge. Compared to that, pushing the boundaries of fiction should be child's play!
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Old October 25 2012, 05:55 AM   #40
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Re: Is SF in a state of exhaustion?

Technically, all fiction is fantasy, so every type of fiction is a subgenre.
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Old October 25 2012, 06:10 AM   #41
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Re: Is SF in a state of exhaustion?

sojourner wrote: View Post
Technically, all fiction is fantasy, so every type of fiction is a subgenre.
I would agree with that, but be even more precise; all fiction is alternate history; there is only one History, but infinitely many Stories!

Someone earlier made the point better than I, but to use my own example: a story where people travel faster than light is a science fiction story. If the story could be told without the characters being able to travel faster than light, that's a bad sci-fi story. If the story not only required that the characters be able to travel faster than light, but also showed how the characters were altered by this fact, and their actions, words and thoughts provoked an interesting comment about people today, that would be a good sci-fi story; perhaps today, a great one.
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Old October 25 2012, 06:27 AM   #42
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Re: Is SF in a state of exhaustion?

Crystalline Entity wrote: View Post
all fiction is alternate history;
Not really. No matter how far back in time you go and branch off the timeline, you'll never get Lord of the Rings, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland....
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Old October 25 2012, 06:28 AM   #43
Ian Keldon
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Re: Is SF in a state of exhaustion?

Kelthaz wrote: View Post
^ Of course not. Star Trek is the perfect example of soft science fiction that clearly falls within the category of science fiction, but most media doesn't fit so neatly in one of the two categories. Sure, you can always use the Science Fantasy label, but when that covers the majority of science fiction and fantasy it's just getting silly.
Fair point. I may have been a bit snappy...we got in a furball over the idea that anything that wasn't "hard" sci-fi was full-on fantasy not too long ago over here, and I'm still a bit touchy.

Didn't mean to take it out on you.
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Old October 25 2012, 06:31 AM   #44
Ian Keldon
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Re: Is SF in a state of exhaustion?

Actually, "alternate universe" might be a better term for all fictions.
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Old October 25 2012, 06:54 AM   #45
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Re: Is SF in a state of exhaustion?

Ian Keldon wrote: View Post
Actually, "alternate universe" might be a better term for all fictions.
A better way of saying it; let me also acknowledge here that sojourner's point above is persuasive.

Having read almost none of the works cited in Kincaid's article, I am in no position to comment on whether current works support his thesis or not. But it might be a symptom of a larger issue, which was mentioned in some of the responses to it: that popular culture in general is stagnating under the weight of duplication. 'All music sounds the same, all movies/games/TV looks the same, it's all remakes, sequels, etc.' In another forum discussing this phenomenon, someone suggested it was the Internet itself that was stifling creativity, due to the ease of copying, downloading and remixing. Perhaps it's infected books as well, even though it would seem most resistant to this trend.
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