Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Matthew Jarpe stands up for hard sci-fi

My two favorite quotes from this post:

"Hard science fiction is science fiction played with the net up." (Jarpe says this is a quote of Gregory Benford.)

"A story is about people." (This is pretty close to my motto.)

I also can't agree more with the argument that science fiction authors are absolutely not in the future predicting business. This got started with people talking about Jules Verne predicting things like the modern submarine. Two things need to be emphasized here: submarines had already been invented when Verne wrote 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, though they weren't big like that of course. And aside from being really big and going underwater, the Nautilus is nothing like a modern submarine. That is just not why we read that story.

This is the second round of a debate started with a previous post that Matthew perhaps over-confrontationally titled Singularity Shmingularity. But, if it got close to a score of a million on Technorati, more power to him. (Title of my next post: "Hey Urban Fantasy, Go F**k Yourselves!")

Later he pointed out he actually likes to read (and write) singularity fiction. I do to, though I'm finishing a hard scifi novel now. I don't think Jarpe ever intended for this to be an either-or thing. We've got a big tent here, and readers have much broader tastes than most of the writers do.

For all of the people running around saying that everything but singularity fiction is irrelevant now (yes, they're saying that, I read Matthew's comments), you're making a mistake of seeing the future through the rear-view mirror. I'm sure there will be a lot of other good singularity novels in the future, just as people are still writing good cyberpunk novels now. But The Singularity's big moment has either already happened or at best is happening for the next year or two. If you've got a novel coming out very soon that refers to the singularity (or acceleration, or whatever you choose to call it), you're right on the zeitgeist. If you're shopping one around to the agents right now, or still writing one, then by the time it's out (up to five years, as I understand it), the idea will be no fresher than hard scifi, or perhaps less so because hard scifi has been around for awhile, and was never so dependent upon being The Thing of the Moment. That doesn't mean people won't read it, if it's good.

So let's all go back to our corners here, and think up believeable characters and engaging challenges to overcome and write something interesting enough to read.

1 comment:

Matt Jarpe said...

Good post, Jim. I hear a lot of rants and manifestos and calls to action on the internets trying to divide up that big tent. Anyone with a scrap of canvas to hang wants to declare his corner the one and only true tent and tell the rest of us to come inside or face the wrath of the elements.

I read the whole tent. I write in one corner, but some writers I like a lot (Alex Irvine comes to mind, and Wen Spencer) swing everywhere under the big top. OK, this metaphor is about to collapse like a tattered army surplus canvas and aluminum tent set up by a webelo scout with an X-box jones working under the eye of a randy scoutmaster while a noreaster is coming on.