A car is not just for sitting in, and SF&F aren't just chewing gum for the mind.
In Daniel M. Pinkwater's Alan Mendelson, The Boy From Mars (it's a great book, go read it already), there is a wonderful moment when one of the characters explains why the use of psychic powers for boorish mischief does such terrible harm. I don't have the book here in front of me, so I'll have to paraphrase.
Imagine (he says) you lived in a world where there was no such thing as an automobile, and then one day you stumbled across a fully-restored Studebaker Lark, all gassed up and ready to go. You'd invite all your friends to come and marvel at this strange wonder, but you wouldn't know that it was a machine with the power to take you from place to place. Instead, you thought the function of the Studebaker Lark was to sit in the front seat and play the radio. You'd pretty much have missed the point, right?
I've come to call this attitude Studebaker Sitting, and I've ended up devising a label for it if only because I see it so often. Mostly, I see it in creative terms, and specifically, I see it in SF&F shirking its birthright.
My space opera "... Vajra" has been finally put to bed, and some things have been learned in the process.
Four drafts and over 360,000 words later, Flight of the Vajra is finally done and off to the printer's. (The e-book version will need some more work and will debut later in September.)
I do not think I have ever worked this long or this hard on any one project that I have actually finished, and it has left me with a couple of convictions. First is that I was right for sticking to my guns about not doing sequels: as much as I loved writing about this universe and it's people, it's now a closed book for me, literally and figuratively. I don't think I could go back into it even if I wanted to.
What happened to the cool future we all imagined? Maybe it wasn't all of us that imagined it, or wanted it.
My good friend Steven Savage riffed on The Loss of Cool Futurism: Disunity after a discussion on our part about how something like the sciento-optimism of OMNI Magazine would be a no-show today.
Like Steven and a lot of other nerdy kids of the '80s, I was an OMNI reader, and I read it for just about every damned thing that was jammed between its gorgeous covers: the fiction, the speculative pieces, the journalism about the way science touched everything from art to human behavior. OMNI, by the way, is now being rebooted, and available in the Internet Archive until someone yells at them to take it down. I suspect that's one of the fastest ways to find out who actually owns it, since there's some dispute there.
And like Steven, I dug the way OMNI posited a future that was by default better than the one we had. We were getting our first little whiffs of the future courtesy of the personal computers only just then poking their digital little noses into households. Never once back then would I have entertained the idea that all this would be, could be, seen as a terrible pain in the ass. The biggest shock that came to my naïve little self back then regarding anything in OMNI was discovering the same folks who put out OMNI also put out Penthouse.
This can-do attitude stood in stark contrast to the cultural skepticism many people had manifested about science for some time -- since at least the Fifties and Sixties, which was the last stretch of time when it was possible to take seriously slogans like "Better Living Through Chemistry".
How something classifies as "original" for us may be just as arbitrary as whether or not we like it in the first place.
With a special "long trailer" in theaters and out on the web for Elysium (a tactic I'm coming to associate with films that are an uneasy sell for mainstream audiences, but more on that later), there's some rather weird fan backlash circulating. Not to say that fan backlash is by itself some exotic circumstance -- look at how much of that we got for Man of Steel -- but the way it manifests in each case is weird. In this case, it's something to the effect of there being nothing original here, that director Neill Blomkamp is just repeating himself anyway, and that he isn't all that and a bag of chips in the first place.
I find this attitude bizarrely parochial, the kind of popularity-contest and my-dad's-bigger-than-yours thinking that dominates too many online forums.
If Blomkamp makes a good movie, a genuinely good movie -- he has before, and I hope he has again -- what difference does it make if he's doing so by incrementally refining a set of ideas he's been interested in all along? Granted, it helps for any creator to broaden their focus over time and try different things, but we're only talking about the second feature film in a director's entire career here. (Plus which, shouldn't we judge the quality of the movie by, you know, seeing the movie, and not by looking at the advertising?)
This page contains an archive of posts in the category Science Fiction Repair Shop for the month of August 2013.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind