Science Fiction is a limited idea

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Blake Mason, Aug 11, 2015.


Science Fiction is a limited concept

  1. I agree

    1 vote(s)
  2. I disagree

    3 vote(s)
  3. I agree to a limited extent

    1 vote(s)
  4. I reservedly disagree

    1 vote(s)
  5. My consciousness soars like an eagle and has no bounds

    2 vote(s)
  6. There is no point to thinking about an existance which has no basis in who I am

    0 vote(s)
  7. Science Fiction is a creation of humans and therefore should reflect our expereinces

    0 vote(s)
  8. None of the references in this discussion are familiar to me and I have no interest in this diatribe

    0 vote(s)
  9. I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment of this thread and want to become your disciple

    1 vote(s)
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Blake Mason

    Blake Mason New Member

    An unfortunately realisation has come to me. Science fiction is limited. Speculation and extrapolation has to be capped … masses won’t entertain concepts or story lines which don’t tug at their personal heart strings. Story writers rely on the masses – the general population – to fund their continued ability to write. Masses can’t dream to speculatively, because once the basic principles of who they are and how they operate are surmounted, the story line becomes to challenging.

    The recent trophy hunting and murder of enigmatic Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe recently caught the global consciousness. The continued prolonged systematic torture and gruesome murder of cows, whales and other animals deemed utilities’ for our existence is ignored ...

    · Masses selectively choose their focus, based on their heart strings and based on what they need. They feel bad for an animal which is relatively rare (albeit one which would rip their face off given the chance aka Travis the chimp … )

    · Masses choose to ignore what they regard as their right at the top of the food chain, even though the ongoing cruelty and abuse is far more insidious and malign – and overarching into a system of murder far more demanding and inhumane than any hunt of Cecil which reportedly left him wounded and struggling for life 40 hours before he was beheaded and skinned …

    Admittedly, the above analogy is not science fiction. The issue is more the ability of the masses to only put themselves out of their skin on a very limited and selective basis. It’s about ignition … what can ignite people generally. Certain stories appeal to certain people – that’s obvious … therefore to get any general indication of the scope of what can appeal to the masses, the only real basis is what is popular … and then the issue of a parred down scope of science fiction.

    I have an issue with the extrapolation that in the future, humans will be (generally) the same as we are now – biologically, mentally … motivationally … In most stories there is a protagonist, or an evil empire or some other device, and a heroic figure or matriarchy (or any other given device) which are all based on what exists NOW, and what we allow to exist in our minds now …

    There are a variety of exceptions to this rule – but by far the majority of writing postulates that in the future, the experience of humans is basically the way we are now. As I mentioned, there are a variety of exceptions. I read Charles Stross Saturn’s Children series with interest and they were all based around the premise of the extinction of the human species and the rise of dominance (have we heard that one before?). His writing style, and the slant of the series put an interesting spin on the concept … but … the motivations of the individuals was mostly human. So … we overcame the reliance on biological foundations … but we had to fall back on those key aspects that drove the decisions of the main characters …

    One example of getting into another reality is Greg Egan with his exploration in many stories of uploading into virtual worlds. His ideas seemed to relish dislocation and complete other-worldliness – and his rational argument seems an excellent ultimate conception of a line of thought …

    Of course, there are people who are exceptions to this rule. There is a gradient – a bell curve if you will … It seems only a few outliers really relish things completely outside their existence. Maybe only a few are allowed into the realms of "Infinite Fun Space".

    But how fast is humanity really changing? Are we evolving? Restrictions on biological science and experimentation seems limited and tentative … but surely there are concepts coming into reality underground? Surely the ever expanding limits of science continue to challenge social norms … doesn’t it? Well .. .does it really? Defying age, medical science with augmentation and military science continues to broach new bounds … but how break through and reality-challenging is this? Do we see anything which really delivers matter transmutation (Star Trek replicator style) or nano technology which would challenge the scarcity situation? Do we really ever see ideas of uploading consciousness onto technology or biology? The idea of karking our beings into something entirely different, and the requirements and living situations which would eventuate are not really within people’s ability to reach …

    I’d love to hear people’s ideas which challenge this diatribe … please feel free to write back to me!
  2. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Hi Blake and great post!

    The argument that science fiction is a limited exercise harks back to our limitations as a species. There will always be limitations since we are constrained by the process of evolution that has shaped our biological and psychological selves. We are constrained by not just evolution, but also by the physical characteristics and laws of this particular universe (putting aside the speculations on multiverses).

    For example, we as 3-dimensional beings inhabiting a 4-dimensional universe find it very difficult to imagine a 4-dimensional object existing in a 5-dimensional universe (a point could never imagine the existence of a line, the line could never visualise a plane and a plane would be shocked at the thought of something as far-fetched as height).

    However, even within these constraints, and by virtue of our sapience which has endowed us with an imagination that seems nearly boundless (even if not infinite), we manage to find ways to break free. Mathematics is one branch of knowledge that we have cultivated (arguably the major one) that allows us to generalise to an infinite extent, to the point where we can 'see' the existence of 4-/5-/6-/n-dimensional objects through a system of rules extrapolated from what we can experience, even if our brains aren't hardwired to intuitively visualise it.

    I think science fiction and its various speculations is limited only by our imagination, and imagination with a flexibility to extend beyond borders previously set often depends on a good combination of innate ability (I'd include random external influences during formative years here) and structured practice (though these two elements could even be said to be the same, "from a certain point of view").

    When you want truly wild speculation (be it in science fiction or any other arena), you're necessarily talking of those 3% of outliers under the two opposite tailing areas of the bell curve. And it's always the outliers where progress (leaps and bounds) are made. This is similar to Sturgeon's Law or Revelation. The majority is stultified crap; that small percentage is where excellence is to be found. The hope is that the excellence exhibited by that small percentage will open avenues for the majority to follow. The centre of mass of a bell curve can only shift incrementally like this. So with science fiction. The majority of speculative fiction caters to tastes that have been set by the excellence that once paved the way before. Those examples become popular and are imitated ad nauseum, and the themes they innovated are become unto tropes. This will keep on happening until it reaches a point of saturation and even supersaturation before it's finally discarded or taken into an heretofore unknown/unimagined direction.

    That doesn't mean that expression of innovative ideas has been curtailed. Like you mentioned, it's only a few that are initially daring enough to completely leave the comfort zone and dive into Infinite Fun Space. It's by the measure of these authors and their speculations that the value of science fiction needs to be considered. Masses (or other aggregate entities) have rarely been at the forefront of progress and innovation. That is almost exclusively the arena of the individual.

    Your example of Greg Egan is an excellent illustration. That sense of dislocation and complete alienness that he exhibits in his stories makes for some truly fascinating, disturbing and, sometimes, difficult reading. Permutation City (1994), Diaspora (1997) and Schild's Ladder (2002) are novels that are challenging to follow/visualise because Egan completely breaks through the comfort zone of your average (and even non-average) reader - he essentially takes you to task. Most people are either not up to the challenge or simply don't want to bother. But if you do follow through, your perception of reality shifts or expands to encompass new vistas.

    Even Isaac Asimov. Reading his The Gods Themselves (1977) during my teens was the first time in my life that I came across a being so alien as to be thoroughly confusing. Really expanded my consciousness, not just with the idea of an alien being, but the first time I had truly come across an explanation of 'Brane theory' that someone like Simon Green properly explained in his popular book about String Theory, The Elegant Universe (1999), which I finally read during university. Imagine, Asimov wrote his book when the idea of String Theory was still in its gestation period in the late 60's to mid 70's!). I was (am) no scientist, but the novel left me awed on a number of levels.

    I'd say science fiction more often follows extant ideas in science. It's rarer for actual science to take a speculative idea from science fiction and run with it, though that has happened, too. Most of the cutting edge speculation in science fiction are ideas already floating around in the public/global consciousness in some form or another.

    When it comes to extrapolating into the future and why it all seems so same-y as it is now...Arthur C. Clarke regularly said that those who try to imagine a future as it might actually turn out will be labelled crackpots because it will sound so absurd. If it seems plausible, it's likely too tame a speculation and will soon become dated. Most people will only speculate so far as they can given what they know and what they see around them so as to seem strange, yet still plausible. Few are they who will risk their speculations being labelled as nonsense.

    Star Trek matter transmutation is pure fantasy, the modern equivalent of the mythological philosopher's stone. This kind of technology would probably be contingent on the unlimited harnessing of energy first, the core problem if we are to move away from a scarcity based civilisation. Nanotechnology is certainly more feasible, and while I'm not at all current on the subject, I keep hearing tidbits that seems to imply substantial headway with this technology in certain fields. I don't know if nanotech could banish scarcity, though it could likely do much to alleviate the problem. To truly cut ties with scarcity we need free energy, and that won't happen without a level of technological advancement that's currently only a dream.

    I loved that you used kark (it should be a regular part of the vernacular as with gabbleduck) even more than I would have loved your use of grok! If I could, I'd like to kark myself. In my darker moments, I'd even consider slelling.
  3. MrMarbles

    MrMarbles New Member

    The masses may have certain expectations, but the genre just taken by it's own definition, and broad history, certainly seems to support a wide range of potential storylines, and imaginative worlds. I feel it to be the most unlimited genre, along with fantasy :)
    Boreas likes this.

Share This Page