[This week's question was submitted by an SF Signal reader. Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]
Recently Neal Stephenson wrote an article for the World Policy Journal titled “Innovation Starvation“. In the article he discussed the serious lack of innovation in science today. Later in the article, he discusses a presentation that he made at the Future Tense conference where he said that good science fiction supplied “a plausible, fully thought-out picture of an alternate reality in which some sort of compelling innovation has taken place.” One scientist that he talked to complained that SF writers are slacking off, saying that SF writers need “to start supplying big visions that make sense.” With Planetary Resources announcing their plan to mine the asteroids, it seems that reality may be encroaching on science fiction’s “big idea” territory.
We asked this week’s panelists:
Here’s what they said…
Possibly neither. The arc of big, epochal, scientific ideas may have run its course in science fiction – having flowed on into nonfiction and reality. In addition to asteroid mining, think about Google as an example. Bruce Sterling remarked at a convention that despite a unitary artificial superintelligence being a big idea in SF, there hasn’t been one invented, but there’s such an amazing, unanticipated thing as the distributed intelligence of Google searching and all.
I don’t think SF writers are slacking – although many on the advice of editors and agents have been writing fantasy because it sells better. Some are creating alloys of SF and fantasy. In the century we’re in now, for a big idea to catch fire with the upcoming scientists and engineers it may have to be not just an an overweening head trip, but a profound heart trip as well.
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[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]
2012 is an election year in the United States and you can bet we’ll be inundated with all things political. Our question is -
Here’s what they said…
For me, it’s very, very simple: I love a good wish-fulfillment fantasy. One of my favorites is the idea of a female President in a futuristic setting. Battlestar Galactica’s President Laura Roslin ranks right up there at number one.
The concept of a female President defies expectations, invites readers/viewers to question their assumptions about women, and serves up an empowering character.
It’s disheartening to think that in my lifetime, the only place I can experience a female President is in fiction. But I’m grateful that authors and filmmakers have dared to dream and have pushed those characters into the spotlight.
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Swarming across the Internets is news of Peter Watts’ recent horrifying experience of being beaten and arrested at the border between the U.S. and Canada.
From Peter’s own account of what happened:
If you buy into the Many Worlds Intepretation of quantum physics, there must be a parallel universe in which I crossed the US/Canada border without incident last Tuesday. In some other dimension, I was not waved over by a cluster of border guards who swarmed my car like army ants for no apparent reason; or perhaps they did, and I simply kept my eyes downcast and refrained from asking questions.
Along some other timeline, I did not get out of the car to ask what was going on. I did not repeat that question when refused an answer and told to get back into the vehicle. In that other timeline I was not punched in the face, pepper-sprayed, shit-kicked, handcuffed, thrown wet and half-naked into a holding cell for three fucking hours, thrown into an even colder jail cell overnight, arraigned, and charged with assaulting a federal officer, all without access to legal representation (although they did try to get me to waive my Miranda rights. Twice.). Nor was I finally dumped across the border in shirtsleeves: computer seized, flash drive confiscated, even my fucking paper notepad withheld until they could find someone among their number literate enough to distinguish between handwritten notes on story ideas and, I suppose, nefarious terrorist plots. I was not left without my jacket in the face of Ontario’s first winter storm, after all buses and intercity shuttles had shut down for the night.
In some other universe I am warm and content and not looking at spending two years in jail for the crime of having been punched in the face.
But that is not this universe.
If you ask me, Peter is handling this amazingly well. He was invited to participate in next week’s Mind Meld interview and emailed me this morning. He had this to say:
- Interviews & Profiles:
- The World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award winners for 2009 are Jane Yolen and Ellen Asher.
- Win Scott Eckert posts covers for Phantom Chronicles 2.
- Cory Doctorow explains Why free ebooks should be part of the plot for writers: “…the right time to do a free ebook release is when the printed book is available…”
- David Brin has some issues with LOST, that “infuriating television show”.
- The Outer Alliance is a new group dedicated to intelligent discussion of LGBT issues in speculative literature. [via Cheryl's Mewsings via Hal Duncan]
- Amy Sterling Casil looks at more Star Trek book covers.
- James Wallace Harris asks: Has the Universe Gotten Too Big for Science Fiction?
- EVENT: As part of the Fantastic Fiction free reading series, Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Andrew Fox (The Good Humor Man and Calorie 3501) & Chris Genoa (Foop! and the upcoming Lick Your Neighbor) Wednesday September 16th, 7pm at KGB Bar in NYC.
- Quiz: Can you name the books of George Orwell?
- The chicago-sf.org has some tidbist of interest:
- Apex is running a promotion in support of Harlan County Horrors.
- @Wired: Marvel Moves Into Motion Comics With Spider-Woman.
- The Steampunk Workshop points us to the cool steampunk artwork of Ivan Mavrovic.
- Publishers Weekly‘s Genreville blog gets a reboot and a new (redirect) domain name.
- Horror Squad looks at science fiction horror films. [via ScifiSquad]
- Retro-Geek-cool: USS Enterprise record player.
- Neil Gaiman and Wil Wheaton make the list of Top 10 Twitter Feeds to Follow by HowStuffWorks.
- @Geeks are Sexy: Top 5 Places to get Free Science Fiction Online.
- @GeekDad: 5 Science Fiction/Fantasy Books We Wish Had Never Been Written.
- @Comicbook.com: 10 Fall Movies For Comic Book Geeks.
- @Bookstove: 5 Sci-Fi Books That Should be Made into Movies.
- @io9: The Best of SciFi’s Oppressed Alien Species.
- @SFX: SciFi’s 26 Greatest Tearjerkers.
- @Fancast: 50 Sci Fi Things You Must Watch Now.
- @SCI FI Wire: The 10 most badass sci-fi battlesuits ever.
- A response to Quentin Tarantino’s picks for Top 20 Movies of the last 17 years: Joseph Mallozzi’s Top 20 Movies of the Past 17 Years.
- Just…Wow. Concept Art World has 25 Inspiring Examples of Spaceships and Aircraft.