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Old 2nd October 2012, 02:59 PM   #1 (permalink)
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"Is SF Exhausted?" Interview with Paul Kincaid

Not sure if you guys caught Paul's fantastic and controversial piece for the LA Review of Books, or Ian's blog post on the Hugos (which talks extensively about it), but I did a follow-up interview with Paul for my blog, and got some pretty mind-blowing answers back.

Do you think SF has reached a "state of exhaustion?" Why or why not?

Part 1: http://www.nerds-feather.com/2012/10...exhausted.html

Part 2: http://www.nerds-feather.com/2012/10...hausted_2.html
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Old 4th October 2012, 02:13 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: "Is SF Exhausted?" Interview with Paul Kincaid

Interesting, thanks. I wouldn't say exhaustion - I'd say complacency, nepotism and self-regard.
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Old 5th October 2012, 02:00 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: "Is SF Exhausted?" Interview with Paul Kincaid

very interesting read. thank you.
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Old 5th October 2012, 12:51 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: "Is SF Exhausted?" Interview with Paul Kincaid

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Interesting, thanks. I wouldn't say exhaustion - I'd say complacency, nepotism and self-regard.
Would you care to expand on that statement?
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Old 8th October 2012, 07:47 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: "Is SF Exhausted?" Interview with Paul Kincaid

I, for one, feel a bit of vindication regarding his "crisis of identity" point. I had whined in some of my earliest posts in this forum that so much "science fiction" conveniently left science out of the story and thought it was enough just to stick a plot into a sci-fi setting, throw in some plasma rifles, and suddenly it's science fiction. I still have trouble calling Star Wars science fiction regards how big the spaceships get. I did mellow my viewpoint a bit after discussion with some other folks here (http://duane.duane-n-lisa.net/wordpress/?p=32) but maintain that it is a valid argument. I want science to be crucial to the plot.
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Old 9th October 2012, 08:03 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: "Is SF Exhausted?" Interview with Paul Kincaid

That's one reason why I did Rocket Science. I've become increasingly bored by all the magic spaceships in sf, the way in which the models which have inspired sf stories have become more important than the fact they take place in space or on alien worlds, in difficult and dangerous environments.
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Old 9th October 2012, 09:51 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: "Is SF Exhausted?" Interview with Paul Kincaid

Star Wars is essentially a soap opera in funny costumes.
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Old 9th October 2012, 02:52 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: "Is SF Exhausted?" Interview with Paul Kincaid

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That's one reason why I did Rocket Science. I've become increasingly bored by all the magic spaceships in sf, the way in which the models which have inspired sf stories have become more important than the fact they take place in space or on alien worlds, in difficult and dangerous environments.
I think Alastair Reynolds said one inspiration for Revelation Space was to the idea that you could do far-future space opera while obeying the laws and established theories of physics.

...and yes, completely agree on the "models" thing. This is a source of endless frustration to me in the genre.
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Old 9th October 2012, 02:57 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: "Is SF Exhausted?" Interview with Paul Kincaid

Btw it's not all bad in short SF/F. Though I agree with most of the criticisms that Paul and others like Ian have put forward, I also do think there's some great short SF/F being written at the moment.

Here's a list of 6 stories I think are really good--with links to free copies for 4 of the 6. Worth seeking out the other 2 (Jennifer Egan's "Black Box" and Alice Sola Kim's "The Other Graces).
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Old 17th October 2012, 11:28 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: "Is SF Exhausted?" Interview with Paul Kincaid

Of course 'exhausted' doesn't only mean depleted. Scifi should take a nice long holiday and come back relaxed and refreshed to embark on some new direction

The point made in the second part about trying to shovel in every scifi trope the author can think of really hit me with the new aliens film Prometheus. It just tried to do too many things and so did none of them well. Was Alien ever even science fiction? Perhaps it was so great (IMO) because it pushed the boundaries of both scifi and horror

I think Paul Kincaid is wrong to say science fiction shouldn't be about escapism in the way fantasy is, because actually it's always been escapism. Otherwise scifi would be a very narrow genre of fiction by scientists for scientists, and wouldn't appeal to anyone else (this can be argued for hard SF regardless).

Ultimately, really great fiction gives you an insight into human nature. The genre is just the wrapper. That's why non-scientists are able to enjoy science fiction, and it probably part explains the staleness of the genre

Science fiction is no longer being written nor read by scientists, so the genre has evolved into fantasy set in the future

The other half of it is that back in the 60's, we were sold a dream of spaceflight and mankind colonising the stars. What we got instead was something no less fundamentally radical: the internet.

However, it has crept up on us slowly. Not suddenly and dramatically. There was no fanfare when the first google search was made or wikipedia article written in the way there was with the first footsteps on the moon.

So we take it for granted. We live in a world of technological marvels, and we take it that they will just keep improving and that by and large, we don't need to know how they work. Nor do we want to know their limitations, just how next year's smartphone will be better.

That same thinking translates into attitudes towards spaceships. You don't have to be a geek to operate one, and in fact, the most interesting aspects of them are not the tech behind them, but the social implications
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Old 17th October 2012, 01:37 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Re: "Is SF Exhausted?" Interview with Paul Kincaid

I agree. I don't think SF has to talk about realistic or even feasible science to be relevant. A book with completely incorrect science can still have a lot to say that's worth hearing - take The Island of Doctor Moreau or The Day of the Triffids, for instance.
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Old 17th October 2012, 02:16 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Re: "Is SF Exhausted?" Interview with Paul Kincaid

The problem is that science has come under attack in public discourse - climate change denial, creationism, etc. So putting the science back into science fiction is going to make it especially relevant. And yes, I think sf needs more science and less hand-wavy authorial bollocks. The genre needs to tie itself more firmly to the real world and remember that sf exists to make explicit the wonder which exists in the world around us. Sf is more than just its trappings - in other words, putting boyracer speed stripes on the side of your car doesn't actually make it go faster.
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Old 17th October 2012, 03:01 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Re: "Is SF Exhausted?" Interview with Paul Kincaid

Spaceships, planets and space are quite a limited definition of science, especially in a world where people are starting to realise to a greater degree that there are other kinds of science (such as semiotics, sociology, economics, etc.) which aren't as physical as chemistry, biology and physics... :P
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Old 17th October 2012, 04:30 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Re: "Is SF Exhausted?" Interview with Paul Kincaid

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Spaceships, planets and space are quite a limited definition of science, especially in a world where people are starting to realise to a greater degree that there are other kinds of science (such as semiotics, sociology, economics, etc.) which aren't as physical as chemistry, biology and physics... :P
There's a long tradition of sociological SF, including classics like The Dispossessed, Stand on Zanzibar, Neuromancer, etc. Iain M. Banks' culture series is also, arguably, as sociological as it is space operatic.

A recent book I really liked, in large part because of its sociological bent, is Rob Ziegler's post-apocalytpic novel Seed. I reviewed it recently, and found that its vision of a near future society marked by increasing scarcity and degraded state authority and legitimacy was suitably complex and subtle.

Let's just say, if a book or story tries to tell us something profound about the way humans relate to one another, it's got my attention. Sociological fantasy is similarly attractive to me. Andrzej Sapkowski's Witcher series stands out as one of the best examples.
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Old 17th October 2012, 05:32 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Re: "Is SF Exhausted?" Interview with Paul Kincaid

Doesn't every genre of fiction tell us "about the way humans relate to one another"? Shouldn't sf tell us about more than that? And, let's face it, given the lack of writing chops of the bulk of sf writers, anything they do have to say on the the topic is going to be either borrowed or banal.
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