Who doesn't love science fiction?
If you just said "me," keep reading—you'll change your mind by the end of this article. (If you don't, I reserve the right to send a drone to your house. Isn't living in The Future great?!) As you'll see, science fiction goes beyond funny aliens and laser beams that conveniently miss. Some have even argued that, without science fiction, the Internet wouldn't have happened, and then we'd all be...outside right now. Quel horreur!
SRSmith has been a mainstay of the dA literature community for a long time, and he showcases other awesome dA writers on his flash fiction project,365tomorrows.
What is "science fiction"?
In my opinion, Science Fiction is any story that uses present or future science or technology as a key component, or where it provides the required underlying fabric on which the story is built. Future science or technology is speculative by nature, as it's not been invented yet, but it must be a logical extension or evolution of current known science or tech.
If it's impossible, it's probably fantasy, if it's improbable, there's a good chance it's Science Fiction.
I tend not to think of stories as meeting the SciFi standard if you can take out the 'SciFi' elements and not impact the story at all. For example, if someone runs into a bakery in the middle of the night with a plasma gun and robs the baker, I'm not going to consider that SciFi, as he or she could just have easily been carrying a .38 and the story wouldn't have changed. If, however, the robber folds space and time to turn the bakery inside out in his pantry on another world, emptying it of baked goods and then returns the bakery to its rightful place and time, that I'm going to call SciFi.
What about concepts that violate the laws of physics?
There was a time in history when it was known the world was flat, and the Earth was the center of the universe. Up until the 1940s, there still existed a 'sound barrier'. Even though there were examples of things travelling faster than the speed of sound, no one had figured out how to get a vehicle on the ground or in the air to reach, let alone exceed that speed. I expect that the science of the day could explain how faster than sound travel was possible, and that differs from today's laws effectively prohibiting faster than light travel, however I expect that, while improbable right now, there will come the discovery of some new law of physics that allows for it. Perhaps we'll find some way of folding space, or compressing or elongating time, who knows, but there's nothing in modern science that convinces me that FTL travel is fantasy, we just don't know how to do it yet.
Terry abandoned the powerbike at the bridge a few hundred meters before the checkpoint, running it off the road, down the embankment and parking tight against the understructure before he waded into the river.
He swam across, letting the current take him downstream towards the woods where he exited the icy water, discarded his neoprene coverall and closed the distance to the fence on foot.
Beyond the chainlink the thin tether of the skyhook was barely visible against the moonless sky, just a tear in the blackness of his peripheral vision.
The fence, wired as it was, posed only a momentary barrier. Terry lit a monofibre blade and divided one post neatly in two to the ground before spreading the post halves, fencing still intact and live, into a large enough V for him to step through.
He had just enough time to reach the outer wall of the storage facility before he heard the sirens, saw bright blue and red light strobing against the darkness up the road. He watched for a moment, working
The pig carcass filled most of the stainless tub where the delivery men had laid it. Freshly slaughtered, but not butchered, it had taken four of them to lift it there. None of them spoke to Rinnovi, only pausing for him to sign for the animal before they left.
On the way to the door, one of the men pointed at the stickers affixed to virtually every item in the house; black typewritten names and addresses on white shipping labels. The leader of the group nudged him and shook his head 'no', before hurrying him out the door.
Rinnovi poured a scotch, and turned on the kitchen vid display, his own visage peering back at him with a smile. He froze the frame, leaving the remote on the island beside the second stainless tub.
"Osiris, prepare to renew." He spoke aloud to the empty room.
"Preparations underway." The voice, angel soft and faintly Irish filled the room seemingly from everywhere at once. Both of the tubs began to fill with a steaming viscous liquid, spattering against the steel, a
Memories, Light the Corners of our Minds
Lucas Three sat in the coffee shop long after she left, long after the people that had watched the scene play out had moved on. He sat for hours after she'd calmly, mercilessly ended their three year relationship with a calculated precision of language that even he couldn't have delivered more succinctly.
"This has been fun, really, it's been fantastic, but you knew this was never going to last." She didn't touch her latte, which was never a good sign.
"You're never going to get old, and I'm going to age out and die. At some point you're going to leave me for someone younger, and by then I'll be too old to find anyone to love me and I'll simply die alone." Her hands flew about the space in front of her as she spoke. He often wondered if she were forced to keep her hands in her pockets, would she be able to speak at all? He smiled at that thought, and the smiling caused him pain.
"Already my friends find you 'quaint', and your friends look upon me as some kind of lesser thing. Janson Fo
And changes to the underlying society—if the dystopian world has made plasma guns cheaper than bread?
If the dystopian world has made plasma weapons cheaper than bread, then I would hope that there would be a lot more going on that would earn the story a SciFi classification. If someone were to rewrite Les Miz with SciFi weapons and costumes and change nothing else about the story, I would have a really hard time calling it SciFi, but if the underlying fabric of the story was based on science, if the lower class were the cast outs from the clone stock kept on hand to provide parts for the upper class, either escaped, or factory seconds improperly disposed of, then you'd have a SciFi story. If the upper class were all machines, gradually taking control of everything and relegating the humans to the alleys and the sewers, and brutally disposing of those who opposed them publicly without remorse, then you'd have a SciFi story. If Éponine were a machine rejected and cast out from an upper class employ rather than a dirty girl fallen from grace, and was reduced to running messages for Marius to Cosette, while having fallen in love with him, that would be classic SciFi fodder.
It all depends on the specifics of what's been scienced up, and why—what's the message that's being communicated through the SciFi elements. SciFi has most traditionally been used as a way to examine the social, moral and ethical dilemmas of progress, and present hypothetical situations that force us to examine the 'what if' of that possible future.
If a raygun is just a gun, then it's not SciFi, but if a raygun is something that can be printed by the thousands from the 3D printers everyone has in their home now where traditional projectile weapons could not be, that technology has the potential to dramatically shift the social, economic and political structure of society, and that's where it gets interesting. It's hard sometimes to define what is and isn't SciFi, even though you can point to a piece of work and know in your gut that it is or isn't.
Is social awareness also a prerequisite to writing good SciFi?
I don't think that social awareness is a requirement to write SciFi, there's a lot of enjoyable SciFi that doesn't make much, if any, statement on the social or economic state of the time, but I do think that writing very good SciFi requires a strong awareness of social and economic dynamics, as these form a large part of the world you should be building in which to base your story.
Something I find unusual is the fact that I can walk out my front door and be surrounded by dozens of different cultures, languages and religions, and when I'm interacting with people in my day to day life, they represent a broad cross section of cultures. Yet when I'm reading most SciFi, I get the sense that everyone is white and agnostic, and typically male, at least in the primary roles. There's often a woman in the story, but she feels either token or is the love interest, and perhaps there is an ethnic secondary character, but the overall social fabric of the stories by and large feel like they've been whitewashed.
Whether the author is trying to make a social statement or not, the fabric of the world should be accurate, and it quite often doesn't feel believable because it doesn't accurately represent the cultural reality of the present, much less project it to a logical future.
The orbiter had touched down at Vandenberg, and Lewis and a dozen others had flown cargo the thirty minutes to San Francisco airport. They trudged in from the tarmac in loose formation out of habit, unprepared for the crowds in the terminal.
The debriefing team had talked about friction, that the religious right had taken offense to their involvement in the colony war.
There was an awkward moment when the soldiers met the seething mass of people, unsure if there would be familiar faces, confused by the angry looks and rumbled undercurrent of discontent.
Murderers, a lone voice lit the fuse, causing the crowd to erupt into a cacophonic barrage of unfettered hatred.
The soldiers had faced more threatening forces, but here, at home, unarmed and unprepared, they could do nothing but close ranks and retreat to safety.
Police raised riot shields as picketers raised placards, the two groups squaring off as the tired soldiers slipped away through the terminal.
Lewis took the shuttl
Observation without Affection
She watched him, often, from the other side of his bedroom mirror, a floor to ceiling affair that allowed her the privilege of spectating from the comfort of her own space.
He would come and go, sometimes alone, sometimes with others. He would wrap himself in sheets of colour, most times his companions would too, but other times they would press just their flesh against one another.
This fascinated her.
The shapes his face made were peculiar, and she began to recognize them as states of being. Sometimes his face was broad, his mouth wide, insides showing white and gleaming. Other times his face creased, contracted in upon itself, on occasion becoming shiny in patches as he quivered.
An unusual specimen to be sure.
She knew she was pleasing, knew from the various shapes and colours of the creatures he kept company with that she too could be satisfying to him, be satisfied by him. She was certain that he would share with her his illuminated state of being, the broad face and gaping maw t
Eliot hunched his shoulders against the wind, the relentless sand picking at the seals of his gloves and headgear trying to find a way inside. He watched the glow of the sun disappear beyond the horizon, his waking period now fully begun.
It had been weeks since he'd seen another soul, perhaps years. Who kept count of such things anymore anyways?
The last city he'd abandoned to the ravages of this dust bowl planet had been a graveyard, he'd taken what he could carry, what little food and fresh water remained before the decay and vermin forced him back into the desert, back to his search for living humans.
There had to be more, they were so prolific on this rock before the coming, had spread so far, achieved so much. He'd visited countless monuments to the species' achievement here, each sprawling steel and glass expanse a testament to human drive and ambition, each barren, vacant ghost-town a reminder that the planet doesn't welcome strangers, doesn't tolerate intrusion.
Who should be responsible for increasing diversity in writing (taking the SFWA brouhaha into consideration)?
Who do I think would be most responsible? Given that SciFi Authors come from all over the globe, there could be an international body that represents the SciFi writing community as a whole, and then localized national bodies made up of a representative sample of the diverse pool of current SciFi writers, many of whom are not, as amazing as this may seem, white males of the Archie Bunker era. Perhaps the global association of these local associations could oversee them, help appoint members to the local boards, and coordinate international events.
It would appear that the current SFWA, or at least the version that immediately precedes the current one, is more than a little outdated in its makeup and certainly in its views. Whether the ideals, or lack thereof, of the Beales and Resnicks in the group are representative of the group as a whole is unclear, but they certainly were able to state their offensive views on the company soapbox and on company letterhead, which calls the entire group into question.
Given the movie industry's capitalization on SciFi in such a massive way in recent years, and how they seem to have a pretty good handle on racial, sexual and religious diversity, maybe the SFWA can take a lesson from them and get some help getting their act together. Then again we could have Michael Bay on the board, and that would just blow everything the hell up.
I hope that a North America body, SFWA or otherwise, can be made up of a representative sample of the amazing authors today, many of whom have been writing for years and are men and women who come from many different cultures, have varied religious beliefs and social sensitivities, and are what I think Gene Roddenberry imagined when he was looking towards this near future on his way to the stars. It's a sick bit of irony that the visionaries of our time are represented by a group with such deplorable and outdated beliefs, and I for one much prefer the Roddenberry version of our future.
Beyond learning from movies/etc., should science fiction writers be doing more to make use of interactive media?
I think there's a tremendous opportunity for writers to adopt social and interactive media, and it makes sense for the SciFi writers to do so as their target demographic are the most likely to embrace it.
William Gibson, arguably one of—if not the—writer who first conceived of the Internet, has made great use of social media in engaging his fans online, feeding them parts of his current work, the stubs from his research as well as occasionally answering questions and swapping ideas and thoughts with his peers out in the open for everyone to see. Warren Ellis is another who makes heavy use of social media to engage directly with his audience, and often Gibson and Ellis can be seen bantering on Twitter with each other. Both are much more of the 'output to' social media mindset than the 'input from' camp, and I think that's the expected norm. There still seems to be a not-irrational fear that someone will put an idea in front of a writer and then sue him or her later for some similarity to it in a published work, so I can understand why writers limit their bidirectional engagement over social media.
I am surprised that there's not an evolutionary version of the 'Choose Your Own Adventure' concept, as hyperlinked media would be a perfect and virtually limitless canvas on which those stories could take shape. Hypertext fiction exists, but it certainly doesn't seem to have the mainstream traction that it could have, which leads me to think it's not being leveraged in a novel way. Multiple path, multiple outcome literature could be done effectively in this way, or some kind of non-linear story-lines could be very effectively developed as well. It's going to take someone notable to engage in a project with a lot of hype I think before this really gets any traction.
"Mama?" A tiny voice slipped quietly through the room. Between her and the woman in the bed an impenetrable forest of metal stands, tubes and blinking machinery stood guard.
"Come in sweetheart, it's alright." Her mother's voice warmed the space, shushing the noisy equipment. "Mama's alright baby, come see me."
Clad in a pink dress and knee socks, the girl of no more than five years bravely stepped away from the safety of the door frame. Big blue eyes focused and fixed on her mother lying in the hospital bed, and her legs carried her along that line of focus until she could reach out and touch her hand.
"There, there, Mama's all better now." She held her daughter's hand gently, but firmly. "The doctors made me all better. Come. Climb up here and cuddle with me." She tried her best not to wince, shuffling a little to one side to make room. She held her one arm away so her daughter wouldn't become tangled in the web of cords snaking away from her body.
The girl climbed cautiously up the
My Sign? Exit.
Levon leaned his head against the cold steel of the shower tube, letting the jets of water assail his body from all sides. As the sweat of the previous night's activities rinsed away, the more subtle indicators of his exertions seeped in. Both his head and kidneys ached from the soup of chemical stimulants and depressants he'd drank, sniffed and injected with the woman now sleeping naked in the next room.
Dimly pulsing warnings hovered in his peripheral vision, reminding him that his kidney augments were still on standby, having been parked the night before so as to not filter out his buzz. While he'd been busy not sleeping, they had been sifting through the different compounds in his bloodstream he'd forbidden them to remove, tracing their signatures for any information about them that may prove relevant. A brighter warning flashed, the proximity alarm on his equipment locker had been triggered. It would seem his night time entertainment was awake and nosing around. The warning strobe
Two hours ago, Pete had been pulled gasping from a tank of jelly. Now he sat in an immaculate office, wearing borrowed clothes with his employer staring him down from the far side of a granite slab desk top.
"Welcome back, Pete." Terrence Carter, syndicate heavyweight and the man Pete ran data packets for. "I must say, you look better than you did the last time I saw you."
Pete sat straight in his chair, tentatively rolling and flexing muscle that remembered thirty eight years of abusive mileage, but didn't feel a days wear and tear. "What happened Terry, what's going on?"
"You were running a very special package for me Pete, one we couldn't copy, one we had to risk transporting as original data." Terry paused, pulling at each of his white shirt cuffs in turn, evening their length against the dark fabric of his suit. "You had an incident Pete, for some reason you seem to have hidden my package from me. I don't know exactly what went wrong in your head, Pete, but when we finally... reco
Twitter fiction exists, which is an interesting use of social media, and flash fiction has taken off and gained fairly widespread acceptance in the recent years, largely I think as it's designed for, or at least the ideal format for, consumption on mobile devices. It's interesting to me that the group of writers who founded 365tomorrows.com (before I became involved in the project), did so in August of 2005, two years before the introduction of the iPhone, which to me is the perfect delivery mechanism for the flash fiction that is the staple of 365.
365tomorrows was conceived by Kathy Kachelries when she was stuck at a particularly long red light and found herself thinking there should be short stories for people to read quickly in all those lost minutes spent waiting during the day. Other than short-short story anthologies, flash fiction is pretty much exclusively found online, a prime example of writers leveraging new media technologies to get their ideas out to their target audience and fill a very specific need that traditional old world print can't effectively meet.
There are numerous multimedia artists, many who have been active in the public eye since the birth of the 'new media age' that could push interactive literature into new and wildly engaging directions. Laurie Anderson has been a pioneer in the digital music, video and performance art space since the 70's, and I always expected her to gradually cross over her performance art into a more spectacular form of story telling. Neil Gaiman, since his marriage to Amanda Palmer, has been taking his literary work on the road and blending it with AFP's incredible performance skills to create a fantastic joint literary, music and performance art show—a kind of reading and alt rock experience that's really fantastic.
I've seen some great examples of animated and interactive kids' books in iBooks on the Apple iBook store, but these seem to be more examples of what's possible than mainstream adoption of interactive capabilities. The introduction of the iPad, and the plethora of other tablets and smartphones, present a compelling market for writers to exploit, and that hasn't really happened yet beyond the electronic paper versions of new and existing books. I read a lot of technical publications on my iPad, but my pleasure reading is almost entirely paperback novel, and there's nothing revolutionary in the digital space that would encourage me to change my mind yet, at least not that I've seen.
Going back to the earlier comment regarding the movie industry, there have been some interesting cases where literary and multimedia fiction have been leveraged in the promotion of movies, for example when Prometheus was on the horizon, there was a tremendous amount of backstory being developed online, from the fictional www.weylandindustries.com website, to Peter Weyland's fictional TED talk, to the marketing machine promoting not the movie, but the products available in the fictional Prometheus universe. That kind of crossover isn't exactly new, but that's the most compelling example I've seen, and I'd love and expect to see more of that in the future. There's a great opportunity for writers to engage in the offscreen expansion of the movie universes as well as writing the screen plays, or adapting existing novels to the screen. Philip K. Dick has provided an incredible wealth of material from which some truly fantastic (and not-so-fantastic) movies have been made, and there are many other SciFi authors who's works have been adapted to the screen. I'd love to see the movie studios engage SciFi writers to expand each universe and develop more content for offscreen consumption.
There's no good reason why there needs to be a separation of the paperback, browser and silver screen; they could and I think should be leveraged as a multifaceted mesh on which to deliver rich SciFi experiences.
Could a person who considers themselves primarily an author go that route on their own?
If you're an author, are outgoing and have some stage presence, I'm sure you could put on a show of sorts and captivate the attention of your fans as long as you weren't completely embarrassing. For the most part, if your writing is good and your books are popular, people will show up for just about any kind of performance you might want to put on.
I've been to several readings by popular authors, William Gibson for example, where he simply read some pages from his book and answered some questions. None of them were particularly exciting, but all were enjoyable for what they were. I think Neil Gaiman likely wouldn't be doing what he and AFP are doing if not for Amanda Palmer's amazingly outgoing personality and comfort being in the public eye.
Gibson at one reading had Tom Wilson, front man for Blackie and the Rodeo Kings open for him playing guitar and singing, which was quite the surprise, so yes—I think anyone can take a literature road show and turn it into something more if they're smart and creative enough.
Why do you think we're still so wedded to linearity in stories?
Most people don't think in multiple streams, and can't easily follow multiple possible paths simultaneously. I think that is a particular type of wiring that's not the norm. For example, if you take your average person and play chess with them, they can see a move perhaps two ahead, whereas the chess masters can project almost the entire game in their head considering each possible branch of the game for each potential move that may be made by their opponent.
The average person can follow a single linear plot line, and while I think many people would enjoy the possibility of that single plot line being somewhat randomized or interactive in some way, I think by and large people would get confused by multiple different non-linear plot lines for a single story. It does require some focus to keep all those things aloft while reading, and again, considering how much mental clutter we have in our lives, with work and family stress, constant media bombardment and smartphones and social media relationships constantly begging for attention, I think people just don't have the available bandwidth to keep up with anything that's not fairly easy to follow.
Pay Yourself First
The Argon cruised through dense fog heading out to sea in weather most trawlers wouldn't brave. She lined up between the marker buoys and throttled up, downwash from her propulsors kicking up spray from the water thirty meters below her hull.
"Full ahead, light the finder, kill the beacons." Captain Creavy barked orders to the ready crew, "See that the nav gear is decoupled before we change course."
The Argon took to sea weekly, bringing in a belly full of fresh fish none of the other locals could match. She was the largest of the fishing vessels by an order of magnitude and never came home empty.
"Captain," the first mate finished wiping the ship off the Coastal Guardian network, "we're clear for a new course."
The Captain studied the maps he had before him, charts he'd bartered for along with this vessel. These maps were from a satellite's vantage, the likes of which not even the Coastal Guardians could have seen. Creavy loved the advantage barter and off-worlders brought to his live
Was social media as necessary for microfiction as the need to compete with newer entertainment? Would microfiction be around with or without social media?
I feel like this is a chicken and egg scenario. We have developed shorter and shorter attention sp— Oooh! Shiny!
Sorry—where were we? Right. Short attention spans. Anyways, Social media is either catering to our short attention spans, or directly responsible for that particular problem, I can't really say which. Ernest Hemingway's six word story 'Baby Shoes' ["For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn"] predates all electronic micro fiction and social media, so we can't credit social media for the creation of microfiction, but given our proclivity toward short burst communications, I think social media has provided the ideal petri dish in which microfiction has flourished and become mainstream where it likely would not have otherwise.
Getting back to the sci-fi as a writer thing, should sci-fi writers consider other media as they put their stories together?
I'm going to answer this from several different perspectives. First, SciFi writers have a unique responsibility to think about everything when they put their stories together. SciFi explores how our lives may change in the future, what things may be invented, how our environment may change, where we may go and what we might find when we get there, and most importantly, how we as people may react to these changes, what their social, political and economic impact may be. Social media is a huge part of today, impacting every aspect of our daily lives whether we like it or not, and to not consider that, and consider what it may become and how any extrapolated concept of social media may present itself in the future is ignoring a fairly major element of our culture.
Second, given the difficulty in being heard over the information cacophony of modern life, any author who creates a SciFi work and doesn't make a deliberate attempt to leverage social media in order to promote it is missing out on a massive component of the marketing machine of today. Not only that, but I'm going to be a little suspicious of the SciFi writer who wants me to believe he or she has a compelling vision of the future but doesn't understand Twitter and/or Facebook.
Finally, given the popularity of SciFi literature being adapted by Hollywood into major feature films and mini-series, I think that the SciFi writer that can create compelling works of fiction with an eye to their suitability for the big screen elevates themselves in two ways; they will be writing books that are accessible by the movie going audience that may not otherwise be interested in print, and they'll be providing possible targets for acquisition when the motion picture industry goes looking for content to fill their ever expanding need for new engaging silver screen properties.
My favourite time is just before dawn while she still sleeps. I stretch out, savour the crisp night air, feel the coolness of the sheets against our naked flesh. Soon the earth will turn us to face the sun again, and I'll feel the warmth as its energy permeates the room, watch as its light drives out the shadows. Until then, I'll content myself with the sounds of soft breathing, and the rhythmic music of her heart propelling life throughout her body.
I've only been with her a short while, but she has taught me so much. Helped me experience things I could never have known without her, not so completely.
We seem to have been made for each other. She's so physical, tangible and alive, but lacking in drive, control. I lack her physicality, but more than make up for it in unencumbered motivation. We're perfect together.
When I found her, I was content to merely follow, to do no more than observe. Lately I need to take more control, to dominate. My desire has grown from this place of comfort
Any final thoughts for aspiring writers?
As a writer, I read a lot, and not just SciFi, but a cross section of numerous genres of fiction and some non-fiction as well, and if you're a writer you should try to do the same. Feed your creative engine with knowledge and new ideas.
Through 365 I've had the great pleasure of curating a tremendous number of stories submitted by talented creative thinkers and writers from around the world. Some of these writers have gone on to have novels published, and I can't wait to see who's next. Maybe you? If you're not scared of the work, and if you really want to, there's absolutely no reason not to. Ready? Go!
Many thanks to Neurotype for taking the time to interview me and asking such great and thought provoking questions, and if you've made it this far, many thanks to you for taking the time to read.
Thanks for your time!
Skin by fantasy-alive