Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Blig Ideas In A Shrinking World

I'm looking forward to making something bigger out of this blog. There's so much potential! I've been slowly contacting a few other authors, and this is what we aim to do:

A Grand Discussion tackling the BIG IDEAS of science fiction!

- Whenever I find the time to organise it! Definitely not before September, hopefully before Christmas.

- Whoever would like to contribute their comments, but to begin with I'll be getting together with a few like-minded science fiction authors, scientists and engineers, and who knows, perhaps poets and people from other walks of life.

- Each core contributor who has a blog or web page will host one of the Big Ideas, with handy links to all the others.


Too often, the 'sci-fi' that's served up publicly is shallow, badly thought through, or more commonly still, shovelled out mainly for profit, pumped full of special-effects hormones, bloated with worn cliches. One reaches 'The End' often with a sense of deja-vu, or possibly with a sense of 'So what?'

And I say, enough!

Yes, noble gentlepeople of intelligence and wit, for too long your minds have been coddled and your eyes made sore with spurious laser blaster fire and convenient sprints into 'hyperspace'. Too many charred corpses have been strewn gratuitously across the page for no thematic reason; too many gelatinous aliens have parachuted into the plot to save an author's hide.

Now it is our destiny to turn the tide and to raise the bar, focus the lens and hoist the mainsail. Ahem.

As I was saying, the online debate will aim to delve into such questions as...

HUMANITY - What does it mean to be human? Or post-human? Where do you draw the line?
MANAGING SPACE - As we expand into space this century and eye asteroids for mining, what ethical and legal basis can we cobble together to guide mining companies?

HOPE - How can we as SF writers encourage scientists and technologists towards a hopeful future instead of the easy dystopian vision that's so common?
ALIENS - What do you think - are they out there? How can you be so sure? If we should meet with some, what would guide our interaction?

SCIENCE - How does SF interact with Science Fact? How best do I research my technology before writing? Does SF encourage real science or cheapen it?

The goals may be a little nebulous right now, but I see it as a way for we writers to develop our craft, to think through the science of our fiction, while building much sturdier bridges to the factual world we live in - to use SF as a lens to focus on the issues that concern everybody. The question of 'Hope' interests me greatly: Is science fiction any use to anyone apart from its writers, readers and viewers? Could it help to inspire scientists towards a better tomorrow?

Please note that this is all still a loose cloud of ideas-in-development. And this means that I welcome suggestions and contributions.

Apologies to Randy Stonehill for the loan and tweaking of his song title.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Too Much Science Fiction?

On the way home from two great weeks in Europe I bought a Peter F Hamilton novel in Heathrow to read on the plane. It tidily vacuumed up the rest of our loose British change, relieving my pocket of a considerable burden. But the book itself was far, far heavier! Wait, let me measure it: over four centimetres thick; 745 pages; I estimate well over 200,000 words. It's taken me nearly a week of dedicated reading to get within a stone's throw of the ending. It has about five separate plot strands, and very few explanations about what's going on.

How can someone write something like this? Has Peter Hamilton actually cloned himself, like some of the characters in his novel, to team-write this colossus?

I only found out that it's Part II of a series after I settled down with it on the Boeing 777 at 32,000 feet over Iceland.