Rudy Rucker: “SF fans are a strange lot of people. They like cons as they’re then unfettered by ordinary life. I have a theory that the fans have huge sexual orgies, that they get it on much more than the pros do. A mound of them naked on top of a Star Trek figure, like the South African 'erdmaennchen' or “meerkats” who live in great heaps.”
“Technology brought back to us the sense of wonder and legitimized it.”
Gillian writes a couple of months ago about an idea for a science fiction story she wanted to write: “I hadn't thought about this story of mine in a while, but it came up the other day. I was thinking about how easy it is to remove people from your life who are making you unhappy. Disregarding family and workmates, it's not all that much effort to just stop seeing some people. It's almost too easy, in fact. You could push out everyone.”
I've written this elsewhere, though I forget where, so here also works: in the science fiction I've read, the science was just the plot device. Authors whose work is arguably science fiction include Douglas Adams, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Arthur C. Clarke, and Cory Doctorow—which is pretty limited considering the amount of good science fiction I haven't read, and skewed 100% towards male writers—and only with Clarke and Asimov were attempts to predict a future more obvious than the others and with Doctorow technology takes center stage, but human drama is still pretty important. Adams was a comedy writer, Asimov (at least with the Foundation trilogy I read) wrote about politics, Heinlein about sex and politics.
Gillian's unwritten story—though her article about it works as a sort of post-modern short-story told from the perspective of the author writing itâ€”the science (or the unlikely ability to make those one touches disappear) is the device she uses for commentary about how easy or hard it is to end friendships or acquaintanceships. In a follow-up, she writes about how hard it was and how easy it now is for her.
Matt Patterson: “The men whom jealous types call 'eggheads' represent should represent all that is desirable in the male species. Of course, if Sci-Fi Guys got outside more and hung out with real women, maybe they'd stop referring to them as 'chicks' and 'babes' and start seeing them as real people with problems of their own that usually have nothing to do with an alien hive mind infiltrating the colonists on LT-7. Maybe they'd would even loosen up and enjoy a few things that involved hand-eye coordination. A little mingling in the outside world might just bridge the gender gulf of misunderstanding. ”
Sandy Starr dismisses the criticisms against science fiction and fantasy, but “the criticism of science fiction and fantasy fans - that we are infantile and escapist people, and socially inept to boot - sadly has a little more truth to it. Of course, there are many pastimes that people pursue obsessively, and it may seem a little unfair to stick the boot into sci-fi geeks rather than car fanatics, opera buffs or stamp collectors. But of all the hobbies and interests out there, being preoccupied with the details of otherworldly settings and characters, at the expense of being engaged with the world you actually inhabit, does bespeak a certain retreat from society into the safety of one's imagination.”
I have trouble with people who define themselves in terms of what they consume and I stand by my statement that "being a nerd still hasn't gotten me pussy yet." (Yes, "yet" is a redundancy.)
More from Starr: “the broader reason why mainstream society has become more disposed to immerse itself in fantasy is because of a general cultural stagnation that exists today. At a time when we feel less certain of our ability to impact on the world around us, we tend to retreat into fantasy worlds instead. One consequence of this is that we are increasingly more comfortable contemplating the ins and outs of life in Tolkien's Middle-Earth, than we are confronting the ins and outs of life on Earth proper.”
Jeff comments: “This curious, courageous and maybe a little over-argued thesis deserves some attention. (It's definitely one way to get Slashdotted!)”
The first speaker in the section quoted below is newspaper columnist Ben Caxton and the second speaker is respected Fair Witness James Oliver Cavendish—Fair Witnesses are, when they are on duty, capable only of telling the truth based only on the information they witness for themselves and have perfect memory of the events they are called in to witness. Both have just come out of a meeting with who the former believes to be the Man from Mars. (This appears on pp. 52-3 of my copy of the book.) The Fair Witness points out that the columnist may have missed something.
"Huh? What did I miss."
"Surely. A man's history can be read from his calluses. I once did a monograph on them for The Witness Quarterly. This young man from Mars, since he has never worn our sort of shoes and has lived in gravity one third of ours, should display foot calluses consonant with his former environment."
The bold is added to highlight the part that almost ruined the entire book for me. A good 70 years had passed since Arthur Conan Doyle published his Sherlock Holmes stories when Heinlein published his novel, and anybody—myself included—that that has read more than a few of Doyle's short stories knows that Sherlock Holmes proudly reminds his assistant Watson that the former has written monographs on marginalia that have direct impact on the cases the latter solves. A quick search reveals that nobody seems to think this is satire. If this isn't some kind of law with regards to popular fiction than it should be: if a character in a book says something Sherlock Holmes would say, then it's a cliché.
I plodded on and finished the book, and I'm glad I did: the book is overflowing with ideas, mostly about government, society and, of course, sex, all of which are controversial, even today. (Especially today, some would say.) It challenged a lot of core assumptions, and the book will have to somehow be incorporated into my belief system.
Relately, at Electrolite, there is an interesting discussion about Heinlein—partly in response to an article about Heinlein's recently-released first novel—which is, at least for the first half, about whether Heinlein got the science right in "The Roads Must Roll". One commenter asks three questions that I think apply to a lot of SF authors: “Is Heinlein really a hard SF author? Or a technophilic sociological SF author who used his talents to propagandize for science? Or someone who just liked telling good stories?” Basing this only on the SF authors I've read, some do just "hard science" (Clarke's 2001, 2010, 2061 and 3001), and some do political science fiction dressed up as science fiction (Asimov's original three Foundation novels) and others do comedy with science fiction as the plot device (Douglas Adams' entire works: even his science fact writings can be funny). At least with Stranger in a Strange Land, Heinlein uses science fiction and fantasy to serve up social criticism (especially with regards to sex, but also with regards to religion and cannibalism) and political opinion (government, law and authority).
In that last book, though, all that was nearly ruined by a few lines near the beginning.
Angua: “If you want boys to notice you, get into Sci Fi PDQ, is my advice to you young things. I came by my interests honestly, incidentally - I am a voracious reader and lived with a geek for the better part of a decade.”
Probably accurate, except I still cringe when I hear people say "Sci-Fi" instead of SF. (I had a science fiction writer from my home town lecture me on it, and ever since...) I've only read three series of science fiction: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (all five of the trilogy, the first four twice, and the first book three times); Arthur C. Clarke's 2001 series; and Isaac Asimov's Foundation series (just finishing up the third, but there is a prequel and many more sequels; and hey, no dissing me for not having read the classics yet: at least I'm reading them now before turning headlong into contemporary stuff), so a science fiction nut I am not. But quoting Douglas Adams is one of the quickest ways to my (atrophied) heart.