Gaia is the word for "unity-of-life-processes". The experiment here is to unify the various threads of voice and sense of self together into an undivided unity. Spirituality, economics, politics, science and ordinary life interleaved.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Positive Sci-Fi

The thing about science fiction that frustrates me is that I finish m0st modern novels in depair, depressed by the story and deeply sad that such technical brilliance and 300 pages of writing could come to this.  Why is sci-fi so profoundly negative?

The audience of sci-fi books (as distinct from the visual sci-fi medium, which has remained popular) has not changed in thirty years except for having grown 30 years older.  The cynicism and disillusionment in sci-fi is palpable.

Worse, publishers, perceiving the deep darkness of spirit in the genre, now promote authors whose negativity makes them seductive to the audience.  For instance, Alastair Reynolds, a remarkable writer and dreamer, puts out incredibly negative stuff under a pretense of goth-cyber-punk black humour.  But I know when I finish his books and feel crestfallen for hours afterward that this is bull and sci-fi is in a sad way.

What is the source of this?

I think it has to do with the evolution of overall themes within sci-fi.  Sci-fi reflects on the whole field of science freely.  The essential theme underlying science fiction for the last thirty years has been human ignorance and fallibility.

In itself a recognition of limitations such as buddhism teaches is ennobling.  But too often in sci-fi the limits are fears arising from paranoia, not cautions arising from wisdom.

The essence of the problem seems to be that science fiction has no acceptable way to recognise the significance of the heart and the human spirit.  Reductionism deletes the anomalies of caring and courage; or else reduces them to caring becomes an evolutionary affiliations and courage becomes the survival of the fittest.  This hikacks the context of stories themselves, which is to entertain the moral senses as well as the physical, weaking science fiction at the root. 

No wonder young readers turn to Star Trek and Star Wars for a universe that retains its sense of wonder along with the integrity of its characters.

Here are a few positive influences in modern sci-fi.  Note especially Kim Stanley Robinson's powerful and morally-strong Mars trilogy, and Maria Doria Russel's The Sparrow and Children of God, both skilful science fiction works.  Partly it will be seen that the motive of the writer herself organises the same theme and material with consideration for shared human values. 

Contrast these writers with the skilled, excellent but disempowering Paul J. McAuley, Adam Roberts, Robert Reed, Ursula le Guin and many more of their sad ilk.  The latter seem to unfortunately be as forgettable these days as Roger Zelazny and Poul Anderson were in the seventies.  For a good sample of Alaistair Reynolds style, try the depressing and dazzling 'Diamond Dogs'.


Post a Comment

<< Home

follow me on Twitter