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james_nicoll
SF: our FTL drives, time machines and zero point energy generators are ever so more realistic than anything stupid fantasy books offer.

Reading science fiction practically makes you a real live scientist!

I can feel my psionic powers growing! Maybe I am evolving into a higher life form.

How fortunate you will be able to communicate intelligibly with the aliens at the next planet you stop at, and your cultures' differences will all be easy to detect and comprehend.

I'm afraid the cats do not accept applicants to that club

OF COURSE I jumped in with both feet. Among other things I offered up my theory that the increase in attention that fantasy has been receiving of late is one of the signs that the collapse of western civilization is not too far off. (People would rather not deal with reality….)

A lot of silliness followed.

I think all those time machines have confused his sense of the flow of time and left him living backwards. Like Merlin!


You gotta watch out, though, it's true. Remember how civilization collapsed after the Romantic Era?

It's not called "science fiction" just because we don't want to admit our wormholes might just as well be the mystical anuses of space-borne genies, but because... umm... genies are just nonsense. Unless they're extradimensional post-Singularity quantum AIs from the end of time.

our wormholes might just as well be the mystical anuses of space-borne genies

This image is going to make my ST:DS9 rewatch immensely more entertaining.

(Deleted comment)
Ooh, is that a new icon?

MIT-trained astrophysicist husband: *starts to laugh*

Has he stopped laughing yet?

A scientific approach would be to study science fiction fans and fantasy fans to find what intellectual differences there are between them (if any) rather than arguing from first principles like an ancient Greek philosopher.

But that opens the possibility of evidence that DOESN'T support his argument! {clutches pearls}

It is pointless to consider any so-called evidence of this sort, since it would be trivial for the Eddoreans to fabricate it. Philosophic visualization is, can be, and MUST be our only true guide!

I'm glad to know that, according to his hypothesis, I apparently only like one genre or the other. I'd been under the impression I enjoyed them both, but clearly that was merely self-delusion.

Exactly! Evidence-free ratiocination from inflexible first principles is how you decide how to vote.

This would actually be a good, feasible small-scale study. You'd have loads of candidates of both types on a university campus, and instead of paying all of them you could just promise to let them argue with each other when you're done.

Well, FTL/ZPG is actually fantasy. The only true SF is the realistic sort that realistically portrays or grim meathooky future of DOOOOMED!!!! AMERICA and Eurabia.

It IS so possible to write science fiction that is ever so realistic and doesn't play with six dozen impossibilities before breakfast!

Except if you do so, you get reviews that denounce it for not being real science fiction at all, but a second-rate thriller like Michael Crichton:
This tension between quality and lack of critical success has, on the other hand, led to a tradition in SF that tried to make the genre palatable, relatable, clean, acceptable, slowly draining the genre of everything that made it as powerful as it was. Charles Stross’ 2007 novel Halting State represents a kind of end point for this development. It would be silly and facetious to compare it to accomplished works of science fiction. In fact, the author it most resembles is not strictly speaking a SF writer, it’s Michael Crichton.

Draining the genre of power by eschewing zero-point energy and FTL!

Edited at 2011-02-08 11:35 am (UTC)

In other words, you don't have to worry about power drain if you're using zero point energy?

You could worry about it, but it would be ... pointless.

... I am apparently missing some key point somewhere. Namely, "how is Jurassic Park not science fiction?"

As I understand it, because the words "science fiction" do not appear anywhere on the book cover.

Indeed, you're replying to a man who wrote a Completely Not Science Fiction story for contractual reasons, isn't that right, Charlie?

Not a book: a series. Which is absolutely not science fiction, despite the presence of extradimensional narcoterrorists, paratime machines, secret US government agencies building said paratime machines, and, and, and ...

But! Horses! Nobles! Women in frocks! Ergo, fantasy!

Edited at 2011-02-09 07:01 pm (UTC)

That review quote once more makes me think that what a lot of people really mean when they say science fiction is action adventure stories with robots and ray guns.

This all rather leads aside the unexamined claim that "realism" is the prime literary value. And if it is...


Raymond Carver for SFWA Grandmaster?

He was experimenting with a technique where the science fictional element is present and never mentioned. Many people mistake that for there being no science fictional element just because it's not present in the text.

But really, all of his stories have a shared universe background where the aliens have dominated the earth for almost a century and forced humanity into a 1970s-1980s simulation environment. Just because the aliens or time frame are never mentioned, people assume they're not there.

Also, none of Carver's stories have any incidents that break the laws of physics! It was like he used a slide rule to write his sentences!

See? That's why he should get the Grandmaster award. The hardest of hard SF.

With John Gardner's permission, this universe was extended about 1500 years from Grendel.

(Aside: Like monotheism and atheism, hard SF is just one assumption away from realistic fiction...)

>It was like he used a slide rule to write his sentences!

...now I want one of these devices. With little diacritical marks spaced along it, and a blog blog scale, and the sliding clear thing with the embedded Mark of Quality, and two scales written in entirely other languages for ease of translation, and an instruction pamphlet that shows you how to keep your place in the script when you're using this to diagram unfamiliar sentences.

--Dave, oh dear, did I just invent languagepunk?

'Cause even in black-and-white, robots with human-scale (or maybe better) intelligence and the ability to cause all electrical devices on a planet to cease functioning without permanently wrecking them are real, and magic isn't.

P.S. In 1951, when Gort appeared on the screen, lasers weren't real, either.

(Candor forces me to admit that this may not be a valid argument.)

That was a Military Hardware Annihilator Ray, not a laser.

Bruce

This reminds me of the time when a man at Origins told me that he just didn't get fantasy, with a level of condescension on the word "fantasy" that implied he felt it was beneath him to even consider trying.

He was wearing a Marvel t-shirt.

I've heard it argued that superhero stories are really a third genre of fantastic fiction, apart from both SF and fantasy (though they borrow trappings of both, combined with those of crime fiction).

Magical thinking is a kind of thinking.

Superhero stories are very unusual to me in that the world they take place in is superficially identical to ours, but shouldn't be. In any setting where there's more than one high-powered superhero and has been for a while, everything should be totally unrecognizable, and even in settings with a handful of low-powered superheroes and villains, the law would be completely different as a result of their presence, not just in the sense of a "superhero registration act" but systemically. Law and the Multiverse is a great take on this.

I think this is particularly noteworthy with technology. In comics technology (including drugs like Captain America's super-soldier serum) tends to be just another "power," meaning that it's a part of the character rather than a part of the setting, and so nobody else can use it and it doesn't change the world no matter how outrageous it is. The problem is that you then have a setting where these assholes are sitting on all this amazing technology that nobody else is allowed to have, generally with a really feeble rationale like "the blueprints were destroyed" or "the world can't be trusted with this technology."

Uh, where was I going with this? Oh yeah. In superhero comics the fantastic elements seem much more character-internalized, while fantasy and SF are "worldbuilding" genres, so I think maybe "fantastic fiction" is a family rather than a genus.

Every so often someone does run with the world-changing possibilities, such as in Miracleman, or in various Imaginary Stories, non-canon one-shots and the like. But it can't be sustained for very long.

Building bridges would be a lot easier with ninety-five construction workers in Iron Man outfits, that's for sure.

I remember a discussion on rasfw, some years ago, started by (I think) Rebecca Rice, in which she observed that many fans of hard SF seemed to act like fantasy had cooties, and worked hard to keep their stories free of cooties.

If memory serves, the thread, full of posts dedicated to proving her wrong, then developed into a proof that the original post was correct.