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Discover Magazine: Sci-Fi is Obsolete

According to the Discover magazine article Blinded by Science: Fictional Reality, science fiction helped make the present but now it’s obsolete:

Then again, it could also be the other thing–the thing that nobody’s quite bringing up over the plastic cups of Yellowtail Merlot. Which is that science fiction, the genre that lit the way for a nervous mankind as it crept through the shadows of the 20th century, has suddenly and entirely ceased to matter.

Granted, the ways in which it once did matter were never obvious. The early days of science fiction, much like all its later days, found its exponents bickering about what the genre was, what it should be, and what its relationship was–if indeed it had one–with the more established human pursuit known as Science.

But the genre has an even bigger dragon to slay with its new profusion of cheesy, dwarf-wrought superswords: the scarcity of foreseeable future.

The world is speeding up, you may have noticed, and the rate at which it’s speeding up is speeding up, and the natural human curiosity that science fiction was invented to meet is increasingly being met by reality. Why would I spend my money on a book about amazing-but-fake technology when we’re only a few weeks away from Steve Jobs unveiling a cell phone that doubles as a jetpack and a travel iron?

[via Christopher Paul Carey]

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

7 Comments on Discover Magazine: Sci-Fi is Obsolete

  1. Some people take science fiction just a weeee but too serious. SF is not a driving force for new technology. It is not the source of new ideas or a shaper of the future. The fact that it has served those purposes in the past does not imply that it has to continue doing so. Those things were merely curious side effects. The real purpose of science fiction… ANY fiction… is entertainment. Entertainment grounded in science (or not) that answers a question of “what if…” (or not.)

    Science fiction as some sort of quasi-techno-religion may be obsolete. But as good old fashioned entertainment, it will continue doing just fine as long as writers keep asking “what if” and keep entertaining people with stories. Will they have to cast their mental nets further into the future in order to actually GET to the future… yes. Does this mean that scifi may become harder to write? Probably. But as long as real technology is driven by human minds, it will never out-pace the human imagination. When technology starts advancing itself without our help, then we have larger problems than whether scifi is “relevant” or not.

    It’s just stories, people. Calm down and enjoy them.

  2. And it is nice to see that Discover has (errr) discovered the arguments that folks like Stross and Doctorow were tossing around a few years ago. Funny, SF keeps getting read and written.

    I agree with Icon, it is the stories, not the technology that drives my interest in the genre. The technology in the works of John W. Campbell, Jr., “Doc” Smith and the early tales of folks like Williamson and Hamilton are totally obsolete. However, they are cracking good tales.

  3. joshua corning // July 22, 2007 at 12:53 pm //

    Makes me wonder how Einstein came up with the Theory of relativity with out Nueromancer or Solaris.

    Of course there is the alternate argument that for the last 50 years we have had very little in brake through scientific discovery and most science today is incremental adjustments.

    Science fiction could be blamed for focusing scientific resources and great minds on our technical fetishes rather then fundamental discovery.

    I-pods rather then the truth.

  4. joshua corning // July 22, 2007 at 12:56 pm //

    oh yeah…

    Dark icon is right. Sci Fi is Entertainment.

  5. Sheesh, what bunk. I haven’t noticed that Steve Jobs has invented a warp drive lately.

    As long as technology is relevant to the human condition, there will be science fiction. The whole “sci-fi is obsolete” theme is fodder for people who aren’t paying attention and who really prefer not to.

  6. It’s funny how Discover publishes an article like that in the same month that Nature publishes an entire issue praising sci-fi in a much more educated style.

    I’d say overall, I have just a tad bit more respect for Nature’s authority in all matters. This is just more proof for it.

    I would say if Maddox does indeed have a prdeliction for SF he should go read some Stross or Doctorow while simultaneously eating every word of that artice.

  7. joshua corning // July 22, 2007 at 10:45 pm //

    I’d say overall, I have just a tad bit more respect for Nature’s authority in all matters.

    That is to bad, nature is where all those fraudulent stem cell papers were published….and they continue to refuse to hold up there own standards in making available data used in climate studies.

    Not saying that everything published in Nature is crap…just enough so it is impossible to take anything they publish as reliable.

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