Thursday, April 14, 2011

How do you like your science fiction?

I've recently been reading more science fiction than I normally do. I used to read lots of it back when I was in my late teens and could recognise the covers almost by instinct. (Back then they used to arrange everything alphabetically by author under 'fiction' in libraries so you couldn't ignore almost everything and head straight for your favourite genre. It also meant that you didn't have to fight past a gang of spotty, spoddy oiks next to the Sci-Fi section to get to crime novels!)

However, just lately the science press (the serious science press) have started commenting on science fiction and the way it is headed. Thirty or forty years ago most sci-fi was based around space, because that was the big news, and any terrifying potential disasters took the form of aliens. Shortly after that (when the world realised that actually we weren't too good at space travel and we managed to kill a lot of people trying it) there were the 'lump of space debris/comet/abandoned atomic-powered rocket engine is falling towards earth and will hit it with such force that it'll dislodge the planet/wipe it out completely/kill everyone in an atomic-bomb-like explosion' stories.
Then there were the post-Apocalypse tales where humans prove to be a bit sh*t at maintaining civilisation once the balance of power shifts.

Now, apparently, it's all to do with genes. And scientists are getting worried that ordinary, non-scientific folk are believing the horror stories, so that's why we're all scared of genetically modified plants/animals/food etc. They want more 'realistic' stories - aka hard science fiction - where the outcomes are actually scientifically possible.

What do you think? Do you want your science real? Or do you want true fantasy?

Photo details:
The photo is the National Space Centre in Leicester. It's quite a cool place to visit. There's a full-size rocket inside that pod. Thor - the largest rocket ever built in the UK.  (You might just be able to make it out in the photo)


Margo Berendsen said...

I do tend to trend toward the more fantastical, and I prefer positive books over doomsayers. But you know?? If it's really well written, I'll love it regardless if its soft, hard, fantasy or dystopia.

Interesting to see the trends SF has gone through.

snafu said...

You are talking about my favourite kind of fiction. I have been a fan ever since Dan Dare burst onto the scene in the Eagle in 1950 and the BBC broadcast Journey Into Space. Ever since the term Science Fiction was invented way back in the 1920s, (It was a scientific romance before it became a genre) people have debated what SF really is and how to define it. Essentially it is whatever sells best. Most book shops have a SF shelf but it is blurred with fantasy and many bookshop staff do not know the difference. I personally like what is usually called ‘Hard SF’, where science is important and often reasonably accurate, but any kind of speculative fiction cannot be constrained by what we actually know to be possible now. With present day technology, no one could get to another star in less than a thousand years, so whilst that is technically possible with today’s technology, it would not be very useful if the action only took place every couple of thousand years or so. We have to accept that some new science is just around the corner and make use of something not yet invented or discovered, or even a bit fanciful, as the means of moving the plot on.

Margo Berendsen said...

I'm back because I just had to reply about that comment you left on my blog - why second hand bookstores always appear large inside than they do outside! That was AWESOME!!!! I might have to Facebook that, even tweet it, if I can get it to fit. I am definitely going to read me some Terry Pratchett here soon.

Sandra Davies said...

I like my science fiction to be people-based: the first one I ever remember reading was John Wyndham's 'The Chrysalids' - green cover, yellow six-toed footprint - and Robert Heinlein's 'Farnham's Freehold' really impressed me more than anything else I remember reading of that ilk. So genetic would be a possible line to follow. But then I am not in the least 'scientific'.

Jarmara Falconer said...

I'm writing a Sci-Fic. A friend of mine who writes family sagas has just read my opening chapters. She said she found my story enjoyable because it read like it was real life. So after reading your posting lifted my spirits. Thank you