Editorial – July 2016: Can Science Fiction go any further than it is today

Hello everyone

Reading ‘Cyberpunk Women, Feminism And Science Fiction by Carlen Lavigne’ last month made me realise once again that it’s been a long time since the last major attempt at change or addition to Science Fiction. My observations there that the real failure of cyberpunk, itself marketed since 1984, was because William Gibson took the tactic that young people would eventually rebel at computer tech taking over their lives when, as reality has shown, they have not only embraced but now can’t live without it. No major dissenters. No rebellion. No attacks on authority, be it corporation or government for privacy invasion, let alone taking over their lives. SF put up the markers and both sides are a little cautious or haven’t totally strayed into that area, with maybe the exception of China and some other dictatorial states. Well, not yet, anyway and the security services elsewhere don’t admit how much they can access so people tend to forget it. Those that fall into that category are either lone wolves or some rogue government wanting to stir things up but I doubt if it’s done for the dislike of computer software.

Oddly, there hasn’t really been a cyberlove sub-genre. ‘Cyberlove’? Forgive me, I haven’t got a name for it yet but we really do need a sub-genre where people are in love with computer advancement than in rebellion and orientate their stories that way. I don’t think anyone has. I suspect that, in part, its just engrossed in the other sub-genres without making anything special of their use of computer tech and just see it as part of everyday life. You can trace that back as far as Otto Binder and Isaac Asimov who made robots friendly and not menacing. Outside of Artificial Intelligence, I don’t think even I’ve gone in that direction. Mind you, as outside of my laptop, I don’t own a mobile phone or an iPad or any of those gadgets, I might not be qualified to write with authority on the subject of it taking over my life although I might be able to take it to extremes if I wrote a story. It isn’t that I don’t like using gadgets, it’s more a case of not needing them yet.

Many of these gadgets are just the next stage of advancement from what we normally use. A telephone is still a telephone. Just smaller and more mobile and no longer communal and queue-based, assuming you’re old enough to remember that. Even an AI, is just a different form of intelligence only likely to be a lot smarter and less able to forget things. The usage is the same, all that’s really advanced is how and making it more individualistic.

There’s also the question as to whether a cyberlove sub-genre would garner a large enough fanbase to survive. I mean why read stories about the subject when you can experience it for real? It might give suggestions as to what can be done but, even with a probable two year before release in the paper world, a novel could easily be out of date by then. I suspect even a ‘true-life story magazine’ on the subject would die an early death because a lot of this is easily accessible on the Net. Even if you came up with something advanced, like implanting the tech in a story, although it has been done before back in the TV 1972 series ‘Search’, how long before some company would jump up and say they are making strides in that direction and be marketing within the year. Any related fiction would soon be obsolete or even wrong on the outcome.

I’ve often pointed out SF totters between pessimism and optimism throughout the seventeen sub-genres and yet no one has really gone in this direction. Based on my reasons above, that’s not difficult to see. You do have to wonder that there has been a deliberate but subconscious realisation in SF authors that they can never get that far advanced, at least, not in that subject. Even when it comes to cybernetic technology, even the Golden Age SF writers have got there first in favour far more than not. Cyberlove is already there, just never as a specific sub-genre.

Even so, there are still areas that can be covered and that is often where they got things wrong, either through lack of knowledge or where our science and modern technology have moved beyond and how people have reacted to it. SF isn’t putting up the warning flags anymore. Maybe that’s because too many people are using the tech and who wants to spoil the fun?

Surely we can’t believe we’ve come up with all the technology advances we are ever likely to get now? Even applying Hard Science Fiction rules of not going beyond our current awareness of scientific laws and including not being able to exceed the speed of light, it does seem odd that SF authors can’t come up with how the next advances are going to change our lives. In many respects, we have all we need, it’s just how far and how much faster the technology we need is going to go next.

An odd thought came up while I was composing this editorial. There are a lot of Steampunk fans out there who go far further than wearing a leather jacket to signify their Cyberpunk interest but, as pointed out above, ‘punk’ means rebel, doesn’t that make ‘Steampunk’ a bit of a misnomer? After all, you’re not rebelling but in love with your genre. I suspect, like Cyberpunk, the name is now too embedded to change now.

Although I doubt there will be new SF sub-genres beyond the seventeen I’ve already noted. There needs to some thought in the use of the word ‘punk’. Well, unless it means rebellion. I doubt if ‘Atomicpunk’ will ever catch on, although ‘Veggiepunk’ has a nice bite to it.


Thank you, take care, good night and let all your words be honest ones.

Geoff Willmetts

editor: SFCrowsnest.org.uk


A Zen thought: How did the world become such a madhouse so quickly?


Observation: With the latest Ryan Reynolds ‘Deadpool’ film, do you wonder why he never took the name ‘Bartab’ when looking for a name?


Observation: I had a rare occasion this month to fit in a re-read of AE Van Vogt’s 1948 novel ‘World Of Null-A’ and it suddenly dawned on me in the end sequence that Lavoisseur might not actually have died but moved onto another spare body. It seems a bit crazy for him to kill Thorson and happily die, while reassuring Gosseyn that his own next set of spare bodies (this was written before ‘clones’ became the accepted word) were only 18 years old and I doubt if the extra brain had grown enough. Of course, this is only a supposition as the computer in the Crypt Of The Sleeping God, in the sequel ‘The Pawns Of Null-A’, observes that Gosseyn is the only human with the ‘extra brain’ in the galaxy at the time but it is a bit damaged…


Observation: I was examining the face of the young Harrison Ford playing Han Solo in the original fourth ‘Star Wars’ film for an art commission and wondered why his face looked so bland compared to his look in ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Raiders Of The Lost Ark’. More so, as he does have a scar on his chin and its clearly missing before the ages of digital polishing. One has to surmise that he had a lot of make-up on in the ‘Star Wars’ film.


Observation: Now here’s an odd thought about the second original ‘Star Trek’ pilot, Where No Man Has Gone Before’. Lieutenant Gary Mitchell was originally going to be marooned on Delta Vega than be killed. Now bear in mind that he was being left in a trilithium cracking station where fuel was already being made, how long would it have been before he built his own starship and left? After all, he could have created an illusion that the Enterprise had destroyed the planet.



2 thoughts on “Editorial – July 2016: Can Science Fiction go any further than it is today

  • I see it’s been a while since you’ve read Gibson.

    First, It’s *William* Gibson, not Ian.

    Second, Gibson did *not* take “the tactic that young people would eventually rebel at computer tech taking over their lives”

    Gibson’s point was the the street finds its own uses for technology, and they aren’t necessarily the ones the tech was designed to meet. Gibson’s protagonists *embraced* the technology, but turned it to their own purposes.

    There were plenty of attacks on authority, but precisely what authority was had shifted. A fundamental element of Gibson’s technique was what he *didn’t* say. You had to read a fair bit of Neuromancer, for example, before you realized that the political entities known as the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics no longer existed, having imploded in the aftermath of an abortive war between them that brought underlying structural weaknesses to the breaking point. Multi-national corporations had filled a fair bit of the power void those collapses left. (And you will find people today quite concerned over the role of multi-national corporations and their lack of meaningful accountability to the nation states in which they exist.)

    And there are parallels with technology use today. Many current popular applications of technology are things no one was likely to imagine before they appeared, and it’s likely that at least some were accidental by-products of other efforts.

    If you think there aren’t attacks on authority these days, you live in a very different place than I do. I see a lot of underlying paranoia about pervasive institutions, and privacy is a huge concern. (I am personally not as concerned. My general response to the tin foil hat crowd is “You *wish* you were important enough that anyone could be *bothered* to specifically spy on *you*. You aren’t important, you don’t matter, and nobody *cares* what you think.”) If your notio n of attacks on autghority take the form of armed rebellion in the streets, no, we haven’t had them in the US, and if you think about it, thats

    While it hasn’t become a genre, you can find the notion of computer enhancement of biological entities in a variety of stories. Consider what a cyborg is. Examples are things like Samuel R. Delany’s “Nova” and “Triton”, where everyone has implants permitting them to interface directly with computers on a neural level, the Holoesthetes of Poul Anderson’s “Avatar”, the Cobra of Tim Zahn’s series of the same name – future soldiers with implanted high tech skeletons and musculature, embedded weaponry, and a built in tactical computer to control it, or the sort of prosthetics available in David Weber’s Honor Harrington universe, used by those who, like Honor herself, cannot regenerate damaged body parts after serious injury. The replacements are often more capable than the originals they replace, and there are references to folks we don’t encounter in the series who deliberately replace healthy body parts with artificial ones because they feel the replacements are better.

    Can science fiction go further than it is today? Certainly. But like the development of tech and how it gets applied, it’s likely impossible to predict what directions i will take. We likely won’t realize it till after it’s happened.


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