Flight of the Vajra: The Future Is Right Here At Home Dept.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2012-03-06 15:00:00 No comments

From Life With and Without Animated Ducks: The Future Is Gender Distributed - Charlie's Diary:

One of the things that has frustrated me about science fiction is that technology pertaining to the smaller aspects of our lives is often neglected in favor of big giant rockets and exotic weaponry. Birth control seems non-existent and childbirth is still rocking the stirrups. And the home is at best not mentioned much.

This is something I've tried to avoid — although again, I can't claim I'm successful just yet — with Vajra. When I create a spaceship, I don't just think about the faster-than-light drive; I try to give at least as much thought to the bunks and the bathroom, because that's what people who ride in it are still going to care most about. If it takes ten days to cross the galaxy, that's still ten days of bad food and crowded quarters. And then there's everything that happens planetside ...

I think part of why SF ignores domesticity, or at least doesn't think of it as much, is because a lot of it is about people who are at the top end of the Being Somebody spectrum. Domesticity just isn't that important to the story, because the characters have been liberated from having to care about it by dint of being Important.

I'm guilty of this myself: most of the folks in Vajra are movers-and-shakers of some kind, with a couple of exceptions. But I did think that much more about how those people would have daily lives, homes to go back to, a degree of domesticity that still exists for them despite them being creatures of "the future".

Another reason I think domesticity gets short shrift in SF ties back into something else I've written about before — about how most of the audience for SF is trying, even if not all that consciously, to get away from all such quotidian, mundane, boring things. They want spacedock porn, not talk of kitchen utensils and (shudder) changing diapers.

Granted, most any of us read SF because we like the thrill of immersing ourselves in what we think are the most exciting parts of the future. But what we think is exciting about the future may not be what's exciting to people who actually live there. Most of us don't get excited much any more about air travel, for instance; we think of it more as a tiresome obligation at best and a horrid pain in the tuckus at worst.

Another thing that came to mind is how what makes up our future may consist of things that are so outside of our experience that we might not know how to connect with them emotionally. Someone from a thousand years past might come to Manhattan and have no trouble understanding certain concepts because parallels exist for them in his own time: the restaurant, for instance.But I imagine they might have trouble with, say, the concept of buying and selling the future value of a thing.

And I suspect they would really have trouble with the idea of a woman doing more than simply rearing children and cleaning house. After all, we seem to still have trouble with this concept today!

(That reminds me: at some point I need to finish that post I have in the works about how people from previous eras might have been superstitious and regressive, but not actually stupid. If you want to see how great intelligence and abominable superstition can live cheek-by-jowl in the same civilization and sometimes even in the same people, open the paper.)

Tags: Flight of the Vajra science science fiction technology