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It’s difficult for writers to get their hands around the idea of the Singularity, be it the Vernor Vinge version or just what happens to society once limitations on scarcity are removed. So the question for the panelists this week is:
Q: Post Scarcity and Post Singularity novels have a problem of giving interesting conflicts to characters. When scarcity is no longer a concern (or sometimes even death!) what are the stakes for characters?
Here are their answers…
(Note: This is Part Two of our discussion of our question. Don’t forget to read Part One…)
‘ latest novels include Troubletwisters: The Monster, in collaboration with Garth Nix, and Invasion of the Freaks. He lives with his family in Adelaide, South Australia.
I don’t think this is an issue confined solely to Post Scarcity or Post Singularity novels. It’s not even confined to SF. There are plenty of unfeasibly rich characters in realist or historical novels, say, just as there are characters who don’t fear death. What motivates them?
The answer to that question speaks to the very meat of our existence, something much more interesting than just following the money.
I pondered this issue (as many writers have) while developing my Geodesica series. It’s set in a deep-space post-human future, one in which humanity has speciated into several quite distinct forms, each of them still regarding themselves as “human”. Given the vast expense of interstellar travel, the highly diffuse nature of interstellar empires and other significant barriers to cultural overlap (and given also that this was intended to be a space opera, with all the splodey goodness that implies) what were my characters going to fight over?
The only thing I could think of was the very idea of being human. None of my characters were so removed from the reader that they felt truly alien, not quite, so it stood to reason that they might regard their common origins as a matter of some importance–that they, specifically, were properly human and therefore best qualified to decide what was best for all humanity.
This ownership of racial identity, warranted or otherwise, seems to me to be the one thing that we might fight over when we (in theory) have everything else at our fingertips. It’s certainly something we’ll fight over in the real world with distressing frequency.
When the characters of Geodesica aren’t squabbling over such lofty stuff, though, they’re worried about interpersonal relationships. Love in other words. Money can’t buy it, and it’s stronger than death (we’re told), so it’s been a prime story generator for about as long as we’ve been telling stories. I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon. We’ll know we’re heading into truly post-human territory when we stop worrying about all the other humans, or even just one of them, and what they think of us in return.
That’s the time, I think, when all stories will end.
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