21 Sep

Core SF’s visions are getting almost 100 years old, let’s bold on a few new ones?

An interesting thought by Alex Steffen:

While a lot of people think SF/F is futuristic, and shiny, one of the things I’m noticing about some of the discussions being had about stuff that’s just over the horizon is that the ideas that many fans at conventions want to focus on end up being a lot of those symbols of that 100 year old stuff. I was especially thinking of the fetishizing of rocket technologies (what Winchell Chung points out to as Rocket Punk):

However, regardless of whether the proposed science fiction background is Rocketpunk or something more like NASA, there is the elephant in the room to consider. Basically, there currently is no reason compelling enough to justify the huge investment required to create an extensive manned presence in space.

Yes, I can already hear the outrages screams of SF fans, and the flood of arguments attempting to refute the elephant. Just keep in mind [a] you are always free to ignore the problem in the same way most SF authors ignore the difficulties associated with faster than light travel and [b] chances are any arguments you have are addressed below, so read this entire page first. Since everybody is busy ignoring the elephant in the room, nobody will notice if you ignore it as well. Like I said about FTL travel: you want it, they want it, everybody is doing it.

It was interesting to run up against the religious belief that rockets would give us all super cheap energy with a solar mirror at the last Worldcon I was at, and see the tremendous outrage and anger at the suggestion it wasn’t economically realist anytime soon. Rocketpunk has a fundamentalist streak with some followers.

I do like playing with the symbols and ideas in rocket punk, as a child of the cyberpunk years and having been born post-Apollo, my own baked-in impressions of rocket punks religious regalia are not so nearly wide-eyed.

And it’s not that I mind a spirited clash of ideas, I think Elon Musk might well get us to swerve around a grim, no humans-in-space mode, but we have a lot of technology to invent yet. He’s doing more to make it less horrible, but there are still major challenges.

The other thing that fascinates me is how Elon is fast becoming a saint in some techno-fetishist circles. With his double threat of leading both electric cars and space access, he’s fast on his way to embedding there (and he’s doing SolarCity as well).

But, while these things do play with bread and butter SF, some of the most amazing thinking is coming out of authors not playing with some of the obvious symbols. And that disappoints me slightly, because after almost a hundred years, we can’t remain defined by only those older technological obsessions.