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"Is Science Fiction Out of Ideas?"

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Edited: Jan 21, 2008, 9:44am Top

Bruce Sterling drew my attention to this piece and I think it's the basis for a good discussion, contrasting the derivative nature of cinematic SF compared to SF literature. Are we seeing the same old ideas being rehashed over and over again? William Gibson has observed that SF fans are resentful of authors who seek to do something different with the field. Is such conservatism and resistance to innovation holding the genre back? Who's breaking new ground, thematically and stylistically? Why do fans read so many media tie-ins and "sharecropped" franchises? Do we REALLY need another "Star Wars" or "Alien Vs. Predator" novelization?


Jan 20, 2008, 7:25pm Top

Gibson certainly is.

We don't need fiction writers, period, when it comes to that.

Although LT would have a lot less entries. ;)

Edited: Jan 20, 2008, 8:18pm Top

I draw more comfort and hope from SF fiction than I do films. The films rehash the same tired ground, whereas scribes like Vernor Vinge and Tony Daniel and Peter Watts are taking us into trippy new territory.

Someone recently said that humankind won't ever conquer the stars...or even this solar system, that exploration will be handled by small, cheap robot craft...and presumably not too many generations down the road 98% of humanity will be living out their days in virtual boxes, stoned on fantasies tailormade to their tastes. Horrifying notion. When I was a kid, I dreamed of being the first man on Mars, emulating my hero Neil Armstrong. THAT'S what draws me back to sci fi, the thought that the next odyssey will take us beyond this remote blue world, not in the spirit of colonization but of adventure and exploration and that most fundamental and basic of all human traits, a desire to KNOW that transcends mere curiosity.

What film has ever done that, except perhaps Kubrick's "2001". Good sci fi books, however, have expressed this aspiration far more often. SF literature reminds and reassures me that while technology will play an increasingly larger and more prominent role in human affairs, we will always dream of distant horizons and new worlds...and won't be satisfied until we gaze upon them with our own eyes and leave non-virtual footprints on terrains alien, spectacular and bright...

Jan 20, 2008, 11:34pm Top

Sometimes it's good to go back and read some of the older science fiction. They tell good stories without getting all wrapped up it technology and scientific accuracy. Ray Bradbury has a story about a space traveller who goes all over the Solar System yet comes home to visit his family and on his last trip crashes into the sun. I do read some of the new, hard science fiction, but I always go back to the old stuff. There is so much old, there will always be something new.

Jan 21, 2008, 2:17am Top

I look at the current predominance of military sf by the likes of Jack Campbell, Chris Bunch, David Weber and the like, and I have to wonder if science fiction is regressing. The thoughtful, well-written intelligent sf now seems to be in a minority. The market has decided that mindless action-adventure that panders to readers' preconceptions is more profitable.

Fantasy, OTOH, has yet to finish its childhood... although that still looks to be decades away yet.

Jan 21, 2008, 8:42am Top


I'm no fan of military SF either and some of those authors you mention... (shudder). Not exactly prose stylists, eh, wot?

And your remark re: fantasy hits the bullseye with admirable accuracy.

I find LamSon's comment about older SF interesting--going back and rediscovering folks I might have missed. I never read any of "Doc" Smith's "Lensman" books, though I have a couple, and I've always wanted to lay my hands on more of Alfred Bester's short stories. Bradbury is a voice from my youth but is he an author that I'll be able to look at from a fresh perspective or will he seem dated and trite (and ruin my memories of how much I loved him when I was growing up)? How many of the guys from the Golden Age can withstand the scrutiny of our cynical times? Can we read Olaf Stapleton in 2008 and still enjoy him, his galaxy-spanning vision, or will his stuff seem as dry and withered as a mummy's ring finger?

Asimov and Heinlein have never interested me but what about Arthur C. Clarke? I have some of his novels from the 50's and 60's in my basement--should I risk the giant spiders nesting on my stairs and go down and dig them out? Questions, questions...

Edited: Jan 21, 2008, 9:17am Top

Here in the UK, Gollancz have been republishing old sf in their SF Masterworks series (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sf_masterworks) - including Stapledon, Bester, Clarke and many others.

I remember loving the Lensman books as a kid, but I've been a little scared to reread them. I reread Smith's Masters of Space last year and... it was dreadful. Bester, OTOH... I like The Stars My Destination a great deal, but I hate The Demolished Man.

Over the last year or so, I've been hunting down old sf novels from the 1960s and 1970s by the likes of Barry N. Malzberg, Keith Roberts, Colin Kapp and Brian W. Aldiss. They're short, and they pack a hell of a lot more thought into their 50,000 words than you'll find in most of today'd sf blockbusters.

(bah. Touchstones up to their usual random crapness again.)

Edited: Jan 21, 2008, 9:34am Top

Yes, that era and particularly the New Wave lads might be a good place for me to start on my retrospective tour. Some clever buggers on that roster--I can recall a story I heard about Aldiss around the time the film adaptation of his novel FRANKENSTEIN UNBOUND came out. The film was shown at a convention where Aldiss was one of the guests and at various point during the screening, Aldiss would call out after a particularly awful bit of dialogue: "I didn't write that!" and words to that effect. I have a soft spot for curmudgeons, have to admit. I think Malzberg would likely fit into that category too: sharp-toothed but with the literary chops to back it up. One of the first sex scenes in a SF novel I ever came across was in one of Malzberg's efforts but for the life of me I can't recall the title. Knocked me back a step or two when I was fourteen, I'll tell you that.

John Brunner is an author I'd like to give some time to and I love a number of Norman Spinrad's short stories--his novel BUG JACK BARRON used to be a big favorite of mine and I think I have a tattered copy of THE IRON DREAM around here somewhere.

Ian, now you've scared me off Doc Smith for another 20 years. Perhaps I should substitute Murray Leinster or dig out something by Van Vogt (I recall VOYAGE OF THE SPACE BEAGLE with some affection)...

Jan 21, 2008, 9:55am Top

Van Vogt is fun, but completely bonkers. I still have a great fondness for Undercover Aliens, but it's barking mad. An alien robot ship crash-lands in California, and bestows immortality on a handful of conquistadores... and there's a power struggle amongst them centuries later just after WWII...

The Malzberg novel... The Falling Astronauts, perhaps?

I've always wanted to try The Iron Dream but I've yet to stumble across a copy.

Leigh Brackett is definitely worth a try. Her Sea-kings of Mars is an excellent collection. They don't write them like that anymore.

Jan 21, 2008, 10:17am Top

I would agree somewhat with E.E. 'Doc' Smith (I am not going to even try for a touchstone on him). The work just seems horribly dated. I wasn't too impressed by how Walter Tevis's Mockingbird had dated when I read it last year.

I also read Dark Benediction a collection of Walter M. Miller's short stories most of which still work very well.

Edited: Jan 21, 2008, 10:50am Top


I think you're right. If I'm remembering correctly--it's been at least 30 years--the protagonist was woman and her lover an android. At least two pages of torrid prose (glancing behind me to make sure no one was reading over my shoulder). Dang, old son, that's pretty good.

Leigh Brackett has always fascinated me because of the diverse nature of her career--respected screenwriter, sci fi and mystery scribe...I shall add her to THE LIST.

Andy: I read MOCKINGBIRD but it was yonks ago--Tevis is another fella who could cross over and work effectively in different genres. And I'd like to lay my hands on the Miller collection you refer to. Miller came to a sad end, did he not? And someone else (Terry Bisson?) completed the sequel to CANTICLE posthumously...or am I way off the mark?

A friend once told me that H. Beam Piper spent his final years in penury. Harlan Ellison gave a speech to a gathering of SF writers and recounted an anecdote about visiting an aging Fritz Leiber, who lived in a small apartment, over-flowing with books ("Most of us here," Harlan thundered, "aren't fit to carry Fritz Leiber's pencil case!" I always loved that line).

I HATE these stories of depression, poverty, loss and suicide--afflictions that often go hand in glove with the writing life. Cautionary tales but also infuriating when you see far less notable scribblers making sacks of filthy lucre and living in relative opulence while grandmasters struggle to make ends meet. Which is perhaps why I reacted with such anger when I learned of the fate of Robert Sheckley's work and the problems with the estate establishing copyright over his writings, etc. These folks deserve better...

Jan 21, 2008, 10:59am Top

Cliff, definitely add Brackett to your list. You have to be careful, though - many of her stories were republished under different titles.

Um, the Malzberg - The Falling Astronauts is about an Apollo mission carrying nuclear bombs to the Moon, and the crew go bonkers. I haven't read enough of his novels to spot which one features an android lover. I'm not as quite as clever as you thought. Sorry :-)

Yes, Terry Bisson wrote the sequel to The Canticle for Liebowitz. It was titled Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman.

Science fiction writer. Penury. The two pretty much go hand-in-hand. Except for writers like Kevin J. Anderson. I think I'd rather be poor...

Jan 21, 2008, 11:04am Top


You HAD to mention Kevin J. Anderson. A pox upon him and his ever-growing canon of hackwork. Now I have to go wash my hands (in boiling bleach)...

Jan 21, 2008, 11:07am Top

Ha! I actually read one of his novels. I come off the pills in about six months...

Jan 21, 2008, 11:08am Top

Yep Miller killed himself. Bad health and depression.

His is a strange story, wrote quite a few short stories in the 50s, put together his first novel which was extremely well received and never published anything again. Worked on the follow up to Canticle for 6 or 7 years but never finished it.

Edited: Jan 21, 2008, 11:15am Top

Ian: I never use those fucking emoticons but if I DID, there'd be a big smiling face looking out at you from your screen right now. Were the pills anti-depressants or anti-psychotics (for picking up one of Anderson's books in the first place)? I detest him, his body of work and everything he represents. If I was on a desert island and a box of his books were the only thing to read, I'd still find other uses for them--starting fires, personal hygiene, etc...

Andy: I thought so. Sad, sad, sad...

Jan 21, 2008, 11:19am Top

Cliff - the pills made everything fluffy like clouds and sheep floating in the sky and little pixies and rainbows and marshmallow trees and and rivers of real ale and pork pie bushes and...

Jan 21, 2008, 11:23am Top


Huge smiling face fills the screen, a representation of pompous, elitist, arrogant, thoroughly obnoxious and opinionated Canadian author laughing his ass off...

Jan 21, 2008, 11:25am Top

More pills needed now, I think...

Jan 21, 2008, 11:26am Top

That's it for me this morning--my funny bone can only take so much. I'm off upstairs for some editing but I'll look in again when I take a break, perhaps this afternoon or later this evening.

Thanks for this...

Jan 21, 2008, 5:26pm Top

I understand your concern about how some of the older SF may not seem on par with earlier memories. When I go back to reread an oldy, I try and remember the fondness I had the first time. Occasionaly, even though I am way beyond their age level, I will pull an old Danny Dunn off the shelf and spend the next 45 minutes just enjoying a story I enjoyed 40 years ago.

The Golden Age guys probably can't stand up to the scrutiny of cynical times. Put the Golden Ages guys together on the shelf and the Cynical Age guys on another. Don't let them cross pollinate; read something completely different before switching shelves.

Every time we pick up a Williamson, Tubb, Alddis, Simak, etc, we give their work new life and make their efforts purposeful.

For what it's worth.

Edited: Jan 21, 2008, 5:35pm Top

--and it's worth a helluva lot to me, LamSon.

I hear you. I read some of Ray Bradbury's work to my sons when they were younger and even rediscovered an affection for my childhood heroes, the Hardy Boys (psst: please don't let that get around). I like the refreshing lack of gobbledegook in the older SF stuff--even from scientists like Clarke who, despite his credentials, still felt the STORY was the thing.

I think I should add more Silverberg stories to da LIST, maybe some of that Williamson and Simak you mention. I still equate Tubb with those crappy "Space: 1999" novelizations he used to write--can you suggest a title that is more representative of his best work?

Thanks for this...

Jan 21, 2008, 6:40pm Top


About Tubb:

I do not think his work can equate to that of Bradbury or Clarke, but I have found some of his stuff just fun to read. He wrote a 32 book series called 'Dumerest of Terra'. The stories are predictable. The main character, Earl Dumerest, reminds me of James West of the TV series 'Wild, Wild West'. He gets in a predicament engineered by his arch enemy, but always finds a way out and he gets the girl!

Each book is only about 150 pages, so the per book time commitment is small. I read the series over the course of a couple of years; putting it down when it became to predictable. (I carried a book with me that I would read as I, inevitably, had to wait for my wife.)

I was not happy with the way the series ended; I expected a climatic battle in the end. As I read the books I had, in my mind, the scenario of its ending, but I was wrong.

I am a little hesitant about making recommendations because individual tastes vary. For Tubb I would suggest trying any one of the Dumerest novels. They are almost stand alone novels, so there is no need to start with #1. The wost that will happen will be a couple hours lost time and the price of a used paperback.

Simak - I enjoyed 'City' and 'Way Station'

Maybe there should be two catagories for SF. Science fiction literature for the stuff that stands the test of time (Bradbury, Clark...) and science fiction novels; those read for the momentary pleasure, but not kept for posterity. John Steinbeck, literature...Tom Clancy,novel.

What do you have by way of recommendations?

By the way, if you are ever in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, be sure to check out Uncle Hugos. They have such a huge collection of new and used SF, your knees will quiver and threaten to give out on you.

Jan 21, 2008, 8:38pm Top

Geesh, I just had to go back and look at what thread I was on. Didn't take you all but a couple of posts before you were talking about 'old'...er...'classic' SF. What does that say?

Jan 21, 2008, 8:56pm Top

Sterling: "Hollywood out of ideas"

Everybody else: "Yeah Bruce, we noticed that a fair while ago"

Jan 21, 2008, 11:48pm Top

But the point is to compare and contrast--so, I suppose avaland, you're right in that we've wandered off the point of the original post.

Mea culpa, I'm one of the biggest transgressors.

While Hollywood continues to churn out sequels and remakes or plunges into the world of comic books for sources of new films (God help us), some SF writers are still managing to produce good, original work. But is it enough to compete with the movie tie-ins, especially when some terrific authors supplement their income by "sharecropping"?

Maybe we can revitalize the genre by looking back at some past masters, the way they eschewed science and techspeak for stories and captivated our hearts and minds with their visions of near and far futures. Is there someone out there who's the next Bradbury or Bester or Clarke or Simak? Is there a market for retro SF?

Ha! So the old stuff does tie in after all, avaland, and I haven't completely screwed things up. What do you say, folks--by looking backward, can the genre move forward?

Jan 22, 2008, 5:09am Top

I quite like the Dumarest books. They're not great literature, by any means. But they're entertaining, and EC Tubb's prose is still better than a lot of best-selling sf authors today. I agree with LamSon that the 32nd "final" book, Dumarest: The Return, was a bit of a let-down. Rumour has it that there's a 33rd book in the pipeline.

Moving forward by looking back... Not sure about that. Best-selling sf and fantasy these days is all about "immersion". World-building has become privileged over idea, story, plot, characterisation and prose. A well-built world is often used to paper over a whole ship-load of flaws...

Jan 22, 2008, 8:45am Top

Yeah, if I never heard 'world-building' again, I'd be more than happy.

I thought Bradbury was dated when I was kid, even.

Speaking of no ideas, saw a Ron Howard Lensman rumour, no idea if it has legs or not.

Edited: Jan 22, 2008, 10:47am Top

"World-building has become privileged over idea, story, plot, characterisation and prose. A well-built world is often used to paper over a whole ship-load of flaws..."

See, Ian, that's why I always click on any thread that has your name attached to it. We ain't simpatico on everything but your words are carefully chosen, your comments never lacking insight, whether I'm in total agreement or not.

In this case, I am.

I'm still rather taken with this "retro SF" angle and might explore it myself some day. I grew up on Chesley Bonestell paintings of alien environs and gleaming, silver starships resting on the surfaces of bizarre, gorgeous worlds. I'd like to somehow recapture that. I don't get the same sense of wonder from contemporary SF, there's too much clutter and the magic is lost in pages of exposition and filler. Big, fat books by Stephen Baxter, et all, A series of books when a single novel (or even just a novella) would do.

Jesus, and to think I'm ONLY 44 and already sounding like an old fart...

Edited: Jan 22, 2008, 11:17am Top

Cliff - well, I try to make it sound like I know what I'm talking about :-)

I wonder if post-Star Wars cinema has spoiled the genre. Spectacle in films has become so, well, spectacular that writers now feel a need to compete on the written page. But... rather than trying to convey an image that might be seen in a sfx-heavy film, they should be writing prose that evokes the same emotional response as a cinematic spectacle.

And if cinema uses subsonics as a shorthand for that response, sf writers have the entire past history of the genre. Unfortunately, the appeal of its many elements isn't universal...

Edited: Jan 22, 2008, 11:39am Top

Ian: I think there's something to what you're saying.

I heard an interview with Brit author Jonathan Coe in which he says that his generation of writers (which is probably close to mine) were the first to derive most of their inspiration, not from books, but film and TV. Does that make more writers visually oriented (special fx and imagery) and less tuned in to character development and STORY-building? Has that been a detriment or a logical progression? And then factor in the emergence of personal computers, video games (thus the vapidity of films like "300", "Beowulf"), graphic novels, style over substance, CGI glossing over ineptitude.


Jan 22, 2008, 12:52pm Top

"Does that make more writers visually oriented (special fx and imagery) and less tuned in to character development and STORY-building? "

Yes. I've seen this. The book that immediately comes to mind is Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith; many of the elements in the dreamland (not going to use the nauseating name) read like special effects from films. For example:the king shaking himself to pieces with laughter evokes that weird shudder effect used in the film Jacob's Ladder. There are other examples in that book.
And the book does seem to concentrate on this movie related imagery with less interest in an actual cohesive story.

Jan 22, 2008, 1:28pm Top

I think you're missing my point a little. It's not that authors are increasingly visually-oriented. It's not even that they're "borrowing" imagery from films and television. It's...

Well, you write a scene and you picture it in your mind's eye... and so you describe it as you see it. But there's a response from the reader you want that scene to evoke, so you choose your words carefully.

It seems to me that many current sf writers are not "choosing their words" carefully. They think that a plain description of a great spectacle will give the reader the same frisson they would receive from seeing it in a film (plus associated subsonics, of course). But it doesn't.

Edited: Jan 23, 2008, 3:26pm Top

I don't know if I see that. I see more of people not having the knack of plotting stories as neatly as writers in the past. Granted they are writing much bigger books juggling more narrative balls in the air than previous writers. I think prose skills are overall better. Perhaps the more "slide rule joe" SF writers can succumb to describing things as if they were making a blueprint, but that's a problem that's always existed.

BTW, I like Undercover Aliens aka The House That Stood Still as well. It has all that home invasion stuff that Vogt likes to do often -the central protagonist sneaking into a home and roaming around opening drawers and closets. I always find his handling of those scenes fascinating, and perhaps a tad creepy.;)

On the main topic, I think SF ebbs and flows with current technological developments. The atom bomb prefigured a surge in American SF, so did the Apollo moon missions, and also the onset of the computer era. Currently some SF deals with biotech and it's possible that a good portion of SF will focus on that in the future as major advancements in that field occur.

Jan 22, 2008, 4:06pm Top

Perhaps we should broaden the question - have writers in all genres run out of ideas? I think they have.

Shakespeare touched on many ideas, way back when, including, but not limited to: greed, prejudice, intrigue, conspiracy, conquest, infidelity, murder...

What has changed? Nothing really; it's the same old things in a new package with a few new bells and whistles. Every science fiction story I've read has had at least some of these characteristics. Maybe the problem is that there are to many bells and whistles so the stories seem shallow and leave us disappointed.

What is the difference between a Model T and a Corvette? Nothing really. They both have shells on four wheels, a fossil fuel powered engine and they move people from point A to point B.

I guess we will have to live in an era of perpetual re-runs. Going back to the Golden Age guys will not change anything, except to make science fiction enjoyable and refreshing.

I see this happening in movies. Story no longer seems important and the movie is just the vehicle for the latest whiz/bang special effect.

At the very least there has been some interesting discussion.

Edited: Jan 22, 2008, 4:19pm Top

Because of the limited time frame, the need to provide quick entertainment and "eye candy", SF films utterly fail to give even a HINT of the sheer scope and depth of space, the long gulfs that must be spanned (for that reason FTL is an absolute necessity in SF cinema). If films are to be believed, traveling about in interstellar space is about as time-consuming as a trip to the corner store.

I recall scenes in Vernor Vinge's A FIRE UPON THE DEEP that certainly succeed at elaborating the huge distances involved in space travel. A story about a multi-generation spaceship will never make a successful film; it simply moves too slow for people attuned to X-wing fighters and the Millenium Falcon hopping about the universe like a skipped stone.

Only SF literature gives a hint of the majesty of deep space and the time frames required, even at faster-than-light speed, to make the shortest hops to distant worlds. And while these long voyages of discovery take place, readers have the leisure of getting to know characters, learning some of their back stories and motivations.

Remember the scene in "2001" when the Orion spacecraft is docking with the slowly rotating space station to the tune of the "Blue Danube Waltz"? I'm willing to bet you good money that most "fans" of SF cinema get bored after about a minute and stab "fast forward". Kubrick respected the grandeur of space; the scene becomes a complex ballet. After all, a docking procedure is a tricky thing and a trip from earth to the station would take hours of actual flight time. It's one of the few really authentic moments in SF cinema and most "fans" would find it interminable...

Jan 22, 2008, 4:28pm Top

Sorry, LamSon, I think we were posting at the exact same time.

I see your point but, as an author, I resist the notion that all of the stories have been told and there's nothing new under the sun. I get a thrill when I discover an author like Colson Whitehead or J.G. Ballard, someone with a fresh perspective and approach to crafting fiction I haven't encountered before. Authors like John Crowley, Gene Wolfe, Iain M. Banks and Vinge take me places I've never visited previously...and tell great stories. I was STAGGERED when I came across Banks' CONSIDER PHLEBAS for the first time and ditto re: EXCESSION. Obviously, such books are the exception but there ARE talented scribes out there telling wondrous stories and who seek discriminating readers sick to death of sharecropped franchises and hackwork...

Jan 22, 2008, 7:22pm Top

What are some of your books? I'm always on look out for new stuff.
Better yet, if you have a series, I can drive my wife crazy by going to the ends of the earth to get a complete set. This has happened on more than one occasion.

Jan 22, 2008, 7:30pm Top

Never mind. I found the LT author page!

Jan 22, 2008, 7:37pm Top

I have a lot of fiction on my blog, "Beautiful Desolation"--and it's free so if you hate my stuff, you're not out a dime.


Sorry, blog pimping, I know (but you asked!)...

Edited: Jan 23, 2008, 5:20am Top

arthurfrayn - have you read The Mating Cry? It's the Beacon Books "spiced up" version of Undercover Aliens. Mistra Lanett comes across as a slut in it. I blogged about it here: http://justhastobeplausible.blogspot.com/2007/03/super-sexed-up-sci-fi.html

LamSon - there's a great deal of difference between a Model T and a Corvette. Yes, they're both cars. And Ralph 124C 41+ and Brasyl are both sf novels. But there's no real comparison between them.

Clifff - perhaps the problem is that we've lost sight (no pun intended) of the fact that it's not just spectacle that invokes wonder and awe. Ideas can do that too. And that's what sf always used to excel at - the throwaway idea or concept that took your breath away.

Edited: Jan 24, 2008, 9:41am Top

When I think of "spectacle", Guy Debord and the Situationists always spring to mind.

I can't recall any recent SF film where spectacle and eye candy didn't completely overwhelm the paper-thin plot and cardboard characters. I can, however, name some SF books I've read in the past few years where I was entranced by the worlds being created and (sometimes, not as often as I would like) the people who populated them. I'm a big fan of Peter Watts' BLINDSIGHT and doubly impressed by the book because it represented such a departure for him, his setting deep space as opposed to the underwater environs where his previous novels took place. But keep in mind, he had all kinds of hell with his publisher, which he candidly documents on his rifters.com site, because of the novel's darkness, its characters not exactly shiny, happy people. It was only by his own initiative that BLINDSIGHT made it onto the Hugo shortlist. It isn't just conservative fandom that has held the genre back: stupid publishers, editors and agents have also played a huge role.

Gotta grab some coffee--back to you guys...

Jan 23, 2008, 11:34am Top

"arthurfrayn - have you read The Mating Cry? It's the Beacon Books "spiced up" version of Undercover Aliens. Mistra Lanett comes across as a slut in it. I blogged about it here: http://justhastobeplausible.blogspot.com/2007/03/super-sexed-up-sci-fi.html"

I've seen the cover, and knew that it was the same book, but I didn't know that it was actually "spiced up" for that edition. ;) Might be fun to reread in that context -thanks for the heads up!

Jan 23, 2008, 6:25pm Top

One way of judging whether there are still new ideas is too read an anthologyof short stories

A science fiction omnibus which I've just found is a good starting point, there are tales from the 40s Nightfall right through to the present - the wonderfully weird Friends in Need by Eliza Blair.

It is very easy to guess whereabouts on the timeline a story appears, and probably unsurprisingly those I like most are written about when I started reading SF late 80s onwards.

I would guess it's just a matter of what you are used to, the early works are nowhere near as great as the later ones, the technology is obvious the plots equally so. But I am reaching the edge of my weirdness limit on the most modern stories, and I suspect in the next decade or so I will look at the modern works and think they aren't as good as what I used to read.

#32 you are very harsh on {only forward yea Jeamland is a bit hackneyed but Colour is just superb, who wouldn't want to live there? and those early passages certainly haven't been written for visual effect - but maybe it is at your weirdness limit. I think we all have one somewhere.

Jan 23, 2008, 7:02pm Top

reading fox:

I think my "weirdness limit" was Samuel Delaney's DHALGREN. That one buried the needle in "red" 20 years ago and I haven't had the nerve to look at it since.

However, I am fully willing to admit that Delaney is a smarter writer than I am a reader (and I don't hold that against him)...

Jan 23, 2008, 10:54pm Top

There's also Primer, Impostor, and Minority Report if you haven't seen those, Cliff.

They are nowhere near the shite that the 'Sunwhatever' movie et. al. have been.

Jan 24, 2008, 2:27am Top

Cliff, Dhalgren is one of my favourite novels. It's one of those books that each time you reread it, you realise something different about it.

reading_fox - I don't think sf is out of ideas. I just think their treatment has changed.

Jan 24, 2008, 7:21am Top

>46 bluetyson: - "Primer" must be one of the worst made movies I have seen; not uninteresting, just hampered by using planks of wood with faces painted on them as actors, a cinematographer who can't focus properly, and so on.
"Impostor" works better as a short film, which it originally was. Initially, it was going to be 1/3 of a PKD anthology but the producers scrapped that idea, and decided to expand "Impostor" instead - this forced expansion shows. If you get the dvd you can watch the original short.

The original article makes no sense to me though - blaming Hollywood for making bland sf. Why wouldn't they make bland sf? They make bland horror films, thrillers, romcoms, etc. Hollywood is the land of the bland - they are selling a product and if the people keep buying it they will keep selling it. I don't see articles criticising McDonalds and suchlike for still selling the same burger after years. The rash of poor genre films have less to do with a famine of ideas than a glut of cheap CGI - where once studios were put off sf films by the cost of special effects they can now run them off for little expense - and, crucially, they know that sf audience is not that demanding: the film makes money, the studio makes another film just like it.

Edited: Jan 24, 2008, 10:01am Top


I've seen "Primer" and found the concept interesting but, maybe it was my state of mind at the time, it just didn't grab me. I'm willing to look at it again--sometimes I'll watch a movie to unwind after a long day of writing/editing and I'm just too vegged out to really grasp what's going on. That could have been the case with "Primer".

"Impostor" I haven't seen and because I live in the arse of the universe it's unlikely that I ever will unless I can nab a cheap copy on Amazon, etc. It's been on my list for awhile since I try to see every PKD-influenced or inspired film. Even "Screamers", God help me. Poor Phil has not been well-served by films.

Didn't like "Minority Report" at all, I'm afraid--Tom Cruise partially to blame but mostly Spielberg, whom I loathe as a film-maker.

Haven't seen "Sunshine" yet and that may have something to do with a scathing review Peter Watts gave it on his rifters.com site. To quote Peter (and beware, there are spoilers):

"Oh, and I saw “Sunshine”, which I’d really been looking forward to since I hold “Shallow Grave” and “Trainspotting” in high esteem. My God, what a silly, vacuous, inconsistent, scientifically absurd, and derivative movie.

I am honestly mystified at the number of good reviews it has received. The Internet itself is not big enough to hold a complete list of the narrative inconsistencies. Suffice to say that when you’re shown a ship containing twice the airspace of the Skydome, any claim that four people are in imminent danger of asphyxiation is bound to be met with some skepticism.

And when one of the crew discovers that a homicidal, batshit-crazy Freddy Krueger knock-off has stowed away in the Observation lounge, and doesn’t inform anyone else on board before rushing to confront him — and who, when finding himself blinded by bright sunlight in said lounge, chooses to remain blinded during Freddy’s minutes-long crazy-man rant about Sun Gods and Human Sacrifice instead of oh, I don’t know, telling the ship’s AI to dial down the brightness like every other crew member has done onscreen up to this point, just so he can see clearly when Freddy stops ranting and comes at him with a knife — well, let’s just say that you end up wishing that imminent asphyxiation of the whole cast was not so far-fetched."


Now how the Hell can I see it after that?



Are you saying I should give DHALGREN another look, now that I'm older and wiser and have cut my teeth on Wm. Burroughs, Pynchon, etc.? Of course, if you're wrong and I still hate it, I shall tie a sheepshank in your uvula.


I'll agree the original article on SF film I linked to isn't great but it set up this notion of contrasting film (and TV, if you like) and SF literature.

SF audiences not demanding? Oh, yes, I'd definitely go along with that. I posted Peter's review on a site in response to a rave review of "Sunshine" and the response was an aggrieved "Well, maybe so, but it was still a great film". Sigh. And when I pointed out to one of the Trekkers that the guy writing the next "Star Trek" film was the genius who puked up the "Transformers" screenplay, his response was, basically: Dude, I grew up on "Transformers" and the movie was awesome.

When are these assholes going to grow up PERIOD?

Jan 24, 2008, 10:13am Top

Yes, Sunshine is a rubbish film. It's sort of the Paris Hilton of sf movies - looks good, but no brains at all.

I also find Spielberg's films hard to stomach - he never allows you to think for yourself when watching one of his movies. He tells you how to react in every scene.

Probably the only film adaptation that captures PKD's weirdness is A Scanner Darkly. Unfortunately, it stars Keanu Reeves...

Cliff - yes, give Dhalgren another bash. Some of the stuff in it about writing - especially that "spoken" by the character Ernest Newboy - is complete and utter tosh. And the book's atitudes are dated. But it's never less than interesting.

Jan 24, 2008, 10:29am Top


I really, REALLY liked "Scanner Darkly"--and, similarly, I DETEST Keanu Reeves; as far as acting goes, he's a sucking black hole on-screen. It really was a wonderful adaptation of my favorite PKD book. I also liked Linklater's "Waking Life"--there are Dick references in that one too.

Have you seen "Man Facing Southeast"--it was supposed to be PKD inspired. I haven't watched it in years but recall it with some fondness. Think I have it somewhere in the basement, must dig it up for another look.

I haunt a used bookstore in Saskatoon so I shall look for DHALGREN. But you'll owe me four bucks Canadian (about 1/2 a Euro) if I end up using the thick bugger for kindling. Which may happen anyway if my wood supply in the garage keeps going down like it has.

Good yapping with you this morning...

Jan 24, 2008, 10:38am Top

>49 CliffBurns: - I think Peter Watts may have sold me on "Sunshine" - anyone who claims to hold such superficial films as "Shallow Grave" and "Trainspotting" in high esteem has undermined his own credibility. ;-D
Boyle is an archetypal modern film-maker, who realises that the trick is to keep everything moving fast so that the audience doesn't start thinking what is wrong with the scenario.
As far as I'm concerned, mindless entertainment is fine ( I watched a horror film called "The Hazing" last night and it was enjoyable cheesy fun); I have a bigger problem with film and tv that gets a reputation for being smart without deserving it - i.e., "The Matrix" and "Battlestar Galactica" (admittedly the latter does have some interesting points but they are juxtaposed with moments of jaw-dropping stupidity).
My favourite movie interview recently was with Eli Roth, who was claiming that his "Hostel" movies were actually a critique of rampant capitalism. I'm just waiting for the producers of the "Saw" movies claiming they are a critique of hardware stores.

Jan 24, 2008, 10:46am Top

I read a scathing review from THE NEW YORK POST on "Cloverfield" and quoted some of the dialogue the critic singled out on a site where everyone was excitedly comparing notes on how great it was...and got nailed by a number of folks who thought I was nit-picking.

Typical lines (and move over Robert Towne):

"What the hell is that thing?"
"What the hell?"

But the creme de la creme was when one character sees someone bleeding from both eyes and runs over to inquire: "Are you all right?"

Man, it doesn't get any better than that.

Jan 24, 2008, 11:15am Top


Isn't it supposed to be naturalistic? I'm pretty sure that "What the hell" would be what a lot of people would come out with if confronted by a monster. The "Are you all right?" question seems equally likely to be uttered by someone to a seriously injured person.

Jan 24, 2008, 11:19am Top

Yes, well, but... if all dialogue was truly naturalistic, it'd make for some dull films:

Er, hello.
Oh, yes, um, hi.
How are you? How's everything?
I'm, er, okay, er, I think.
Good.. Good... Did you see the game last night?
Some of it. I was, er. out for a bit and so I didn't see the first half - well, I got back home just after the second half started so I didn't really see all of that but I suppose I um saw enough of it.

... and so on...

Edited: Jan 24, 2008, 11:55am Top


I'm a dialogue guy. I like sharp, witty, intelligent discourse. People running from a giant rampaging louse and howling probably ain't the sort of film for me. But I still think you can craft conversations that comment on the action while giving insights into people's characters so that you actually give a shit if said giant, rampaging louse kills or maims them.

I'm a terrible movie snob (as well as literary snob as well as hockey snob as well as...you get the picture). I'm the twit who's howling with laughter while the rest of the audience is sobbing at what they believe to be an emotionally wrenching scene. Think of Ignatius O'Reilly in CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES (only I'm thinner, sane and don't wear big floppy hats). I stand outside a theatre as people stream past and re-enact scenes to the merriment of my wife and friends while everyone else around me believes they have just seen the "best movie of the year". When someone extols the virtues of execrable efforts like "Beowulf", I'm the arse who stands there smirking, piping up: "Have you read the Seamus Heaney translation? It's brilliant". This to people who have to buy digital watches in order to tell the time.

I HATE popcorn movies, popcorn directors and popcorn writers. Which is why I avoid the ""New Release" section of video stores and the last movie I watched was Abel Gance's 1927 epic "Napoleon".

What a fun guy I am...

Jan 24, 2008, 12:05pm Top


Call yourself a snob - if you were a real snob you should have asked them if they had read Beowulf in the original Anglo-Saxon.

To be honest I am not a movie person either. I only go out to the cinema once every few years. That is usually enough to keep me away for a while. I went with a friend to see I Am Legend (and what a travesty that was) and saw the trailers for Cloverfield and a few other films. All of them seemed depressingly bad.

Jan 24, 2008, 12:24pm Top

Andy: that's a great line about reading "Beowulf" in original Anglo-Saxon. You're right, I'm that worst sort: a wannabe snob.

I'm with you re: new releases and I doubt I'll see "I am Legend" even on DVD. I just feel after I've seen some piece of shite that I've wasted 105 minutes of my life for NOTHING. And the men in my family tend to conk off pretty young. I don't have the time to throw away on popcorn crap.

What's that old song? "...wish I was eighteen again..."

Edited: Jan 24, 2008, 4:23pm Top

>36 CliffBurns:

"Remember the scene in '2001' when the Orion spacecraft is docking with the slowly rotating space station to the tune of the 'Blue Danube Waltz'?"

Coming a bit late to the discussion, but this comment struck a chord with me. Yes, a scene beautiful for its slowness, but also for Kubrick's choice to show details like the shuttle matching its rate-of-roll to the station's speed of rotation and *not* explain it to the audience. He just assumes that the audience will either accept it or--glory be!--understand it without an explanation.

Moments like that--getting the science right but then taking it for granted--are few and far between in filmed science fiction. Oddly, they sometimes crop up in the strangest places. To wit:

* The space battle in "Star Trek II," where Captain Kirk orders "Z minus ten thousand meters!" (Possibly the only shout-out to 3D Cartesian coordinate systems in the history of SF film).

* The derelict "Discovery," in orbit around Io and covered in sulfur dust, in "2010" (remember that the picture was made only 3-4 years after sulfur volcanoes were *discovered* on Io by Voyager 2).

* The ball-bearing sized pebble that nearly cripples the ship in "Mission To Mars" (such a nice change from the house-sized meteors that used to menace space travelers in the 1950s . . . *somebody* finally remembered that F=ma)

Moments like that aren't quite a Chesley Bonestell planetscape (*sigh*), but in their own way they do still give me that same sense-of-wonder shiver.

Edited: Jan 24, 2008, 5:46pm Top


Those are good scenes to point out--although "Mission to Mars" (to my mind) has little to recommend it EXCEPT that scene with the micro-meteorite.

Mars is the next big step for manned missions--it deserves to have proper treatment, a gorgeous film about what it will take to get there, the dangers along the way, the power and majesty of the landing, that one, small step...

Instead we get silliness like "Red Planet".

Star Trek II was my personal favorite--that one and VI, the two that Nicholas Meyer was most closely associated with. Why Paramount didn't turn the franchise over to him and not that arse JJ Abrams is a mystery to me. Meyer is a good writer (he adapted Philip Roth's HUMAN STAIN, fer Chrissake) plus he understands the mythology of Trek, the whole "Hornblower in space" mentality that Roddenberry originally envisioned.

Have you priced out Chesley Bonestell art books lately--just out of curiosity I had a peek on Amazon and my eyes did the whole segmented thing, bulging alarmingly. Guess I'll have to settle for a calendar one of these days.

Thanks for contributing to the discussion, the more the merrier...

Jan 24, 2008, 9:24pm Top

When I compared the Model T and Corvette I wasn't trying to imply they were the same, or even close. Yes, they are both cars, they are different, but they are the same in the BASIC fundamentals.

Every fiction book I have read has some of the characteristics I described above - murder, greed...

The point I was trying to make was that the challenge for authors is to come up with new ways to tell the story in a different way. Their skill determines whether you end up with a 'T' or a 'vette.

May 4, 2011, 9:18pm Top

Part of the problem is that Science has, in some ways, transcended the average person's ability to comprehend, so to write a story about flying around the universe will quickly be shut down by anyone who knows better, while at the same time there are scientific breakthroughs everyday that many writers don't know about that are more interesting than their fiction. From a business point of view, publishers and producers are in the business of making money and can usually only do that with a proven story structure and a built in audience. So there will be lots more Star Wars fan fiction, even though many of those books are terrible. Ebooks are the best chance for all genres, creating more diversity and allowing writers with ideas not previously considered marketable to have a shot.

May 5, 2011, 3:08pm Top

I blame Star Wars!

May 5, 2011, 3:52pm Top

Some authors partner with Scientists to help them get some of the Science right. e.g. John Ringo and (Doc) Travis Taylor.

Self Published E-books are the new best chance to drown everyone in a swamp of badly edited (if at all), badly written, mary sue focused self indulgent writing.

But then I've said that before :-) :-) :-)

May 5, 2011, 6:08pm Top

Nick Harkaway has a blog post that relates to the topic of this thread. It is about the link some people have made between Asimov's Foundation series and Ozama Bin Ladin's philosophy, but it leads to the following conclusion:

"Since mainstream literature is apparently defined by not looking forward – literary fiction and its fellows in the UK seem to be determined to avoid discussions of hard and soft technology, to the point of becoming a fiction of the recent-yet-curiously-extended-past, as if we’d never developed the cellphone or cracked the human genome – SF is the only place where possible futures are discussed."

Basically, if SF has run out of ideas, then so has every other form of fiction.

May 6, 2011, 3:46am Top

All that guff about bin Laden and Asimov is based on a misunderstanding of a word. Qa'eda means "foundation", "groundwork", etc., but is also commonly used in military parlance as "base": qa'eda bahriya, "navy base"; qa'eda jawwiya, "air base"; qa'eda harbiya, "base of operations". My reading of the Asimov title has always been that it's a pun as "foundation" can both mean "an endowed institution" and "the act of establishing" (a new empire, in this case). Neither meaning really attaches to bin Laden organisation.

May 6, 2011, 11:53am Top

66> It's also a fairly accidental name. From wikipedia:

Bin Laden explained the origin of the term in a videotaped interview with Al Jazeera journalist Tayseer Alouni in October 2001:
The name 'al-Qaeda' was established a long time ago by mere chance. The late Abu Ebeida El-Banashiri established the training camps for our mujahedeen against Russia's terrorism. We used to call the training camp al-Qaeda. The name stayed.

May 6, 2011, 11:54am Top

I'd assumed that the translation of al-Qa'eda as "base" was as in "base of the pillar", the pillar in this case being any one of the Pillars of Islam. Which led me to make the connection between Osama bin Laden and sf one that involved Frank Herbert's "Dune", in that Paul Atreides' seitch name was 'Usul', which Herbert said meant "base of the pillar".

(If this be true, it kills forever my assumption that the Fremen are supposedly Arabs - or that Arabic had mutated a lot in the umpteen thousand years between our time and the time the book is set in.)

May 6, 2011, 12:47pm Top

It can also mean "foot" or "pedestal" or "socle".

May 6, 2011, 1:08pm Top

And probably more. From the bin Laden quote, it's pretty obvious that no matter the myriad meanings, the one that applies is "base" as in "training camp".

Of course, he could be wrong. I'm reminded of when some bands tell what the origin of the name of the band was decades later. Sometimes the explanations vary wildly.

May 6, 2011, 4:52pm Top

I get the feeling that in the immediate future it will be defined as "insane murderers" regardless of Webster.

May 6, 2011, 6:07pm Top

Sounds like one of those multi-purpose words. Look up 'Satz' in an English-German dictionary - I believe the record is 28 different meanings. I understand it's used as one of those all-purpose words that you use when you can't think of any other.

If al-Qa'eda is a similar word, would it have had the impact - or the attraction for the dangerously dedicated - if it really had meant "thingy", "doo-dah" or "wotsit"?

May 6, 2011, 6:42pm Top

> 72

I don't think it was the name of the group that supplied its members with their motivation.

May 9, 2011, 1:45pm Top

Both film and books suffer from the need to be a commercial success. This leads to more remakes, copying, and sticking-to-subgenre than fully original work. There is more commercial risk in selling original stuff.

The corollary is that the bulk of ground-breaking work is going to be produced by independents or self-publishers. Don't look to Sony Pictures or even Baen Books to be a wellspring of the avante garde.

That doesn't mean we're all out of the good suff. It is foolish to look at a best seller list or top box office movie and then proclaim we're in a dry spell. Go underground or sniff out your own truffles.

May 27, 2011, 8:40am Top

There's still plenty of great science fiction being produced.

May 31, 2011, 7:32am Top

Publishers will only produce what they think they can sell and the trend these days is dark fantasy, especially vampires and zombies. I can fully understand this because it is a difficult business. I ended up publishing my own SF novel because I'm not motivated to write the latest hot trend.

Jun 19, 2011, 8:39am Top

This message has been flagged by multiple users and is no longer displayed (show)
Self-published authors are certainly a mixed bunch of good, bad and indifferent, but they are a massive reservoir of new ideas. Of course one has to work at finding good stuff, but when books are less expensive than often bread, and certainly than fancy cakes, most of us can afford to explore. Plus there are free books, free chapters, free reviews, and if you are very lucky still libraries. Of course hardly any new directions are totally unique because readers usually need pulling by degree. Three authors that deserve a try are firstly, myself, the better established Stuart Clark's novel Project U.L.F series, and for the epic dystopian masterpiece, try Ralph F Halse. I , Richard Bunning write true speculative fiction. Love or hate them, let me know. If you are a fantasy reader who craves a realistic kick without regaining too much contact with present life read Halse. If you like adventure, crime, character read Clark, and if you ever think beyond your short present life read Bunning. I would love to here of other self-published authors that deserve to be read.

Edited: Jun 19, 2011, 8:39pm Top

…a mixed bunch of good, bad and indifferent…

I would love to here of other self-published authors that deserve to be read.


Jun 19, 2011, 8:36pm Top

I'd head over to Hobnob with the Authors Richard. Plenty of self publish over there. I already suggested Ralph Halses family member who came on here promoting his book to head there.

And I disagree, there is very little in the way of new ideas coming out of self publish. What few there are are largely drowned in a sea of poorly edited material. And of course the author is never the best person to deliver a objective review of their own work.

Try giving away some free copies through the LT giveaway programme then you might get some objective reviews that people can look at an decide whether the work has any merit.

Jun 20, 2011, 3:01am Top

cosmicdolphin criticism of me, Richard Bunning is fine, but I can assure him I'm not related to RFH.
As for giving away free copies, yes, a good idea, but as yet I still prefer to live with the stupid illusion that hard work deserves a reward. Believe me, writing and self-publishing is very hard work. Self-publicity is even harder. Poor editing is a massive problem, and unfortunately it isn't restricted to we "rag-tag do-it-yourselfers". I am happy to face any amount of kicking for promoting myself, but please don't attack me for promoting other peoples work- isn't that at heart what any book club of any sort about? The problem with the hobnob with authors thing is that it is exactly that. I would rather hobnob with readers, even those who find giving oneself a shout so distasteful.

Jun 20, 2011, 6:47am Top

>80 RichardBunning: - Cosmicdolphin is simply pointing out the way things work in LT. Promoting books is acceptable but promoting books you have a hand in (as author/friend/publisher) is generally not viewed as acceptable behaviour in a general thread. Rather than connecting with readers, it has a tendency to get their backs up - this was why Hobnob with Authors was created.

>79 cosmicdolphin: - couldn't agree more about your opinion on self-publishing. As a reader I am already drowning in all in all books published by professionals, I neither have the time nor inclination to search the dross for the one good book in SP land.

Jun 20, 2011, 6:53am Top

Richard you aren't understanding the nature of the 'Hobnob with the authors' group it's to allow readers to hobnob with 'you' the writer (if they choose to)

And thus we avoid author self promotion through the other groups., which as I understand it is against the LT terms of service.

People will simply flag your message until it's invisible if they feel like they're the target of self promotion.

Jun 20, 2011, 8:16am Top

I will try it, but I won't lose any sleep over LT's terms of service. I think each group should be free to run themselves as they wish. I respect that, and I won't use any other handles to hide behind and push my own agenda as some do. Your group has rules about self-promotion, no problem. I can't help thinking that hobnobbing might be a lot easier if people know who one is first. Catch 22. New" ideas" can shut up.

Jun 20, 2011, 8:27am Top

I yearn for the days of good old planet stories. No interest in military SF, cyber SF. Haven't read strict SF in years.

I don't mind recycled plots (that covers all fiction). Characters pull me in to the story.


Jun 20, 2011, 9:11am Top


You may think what you like, but not taking notice of a site's TOS is basically just asking for trouble.

It is also rather rude. People take part in these groups on the understanding of what the rules are. Trying to get around that by saying I will break the rules first and then only go away when people shout at me to go away isn't being respectful to the group.

BTW I really doubt that your novel has a 'principle character'. Having such a howler on your website promoting your books is hardly likely to entice me into reading more.

Jun 20, 2011, 10:17am Top

#83 by RichardBunning> I will try it, but I won't lose any sleep over LT's terms of service.

Nope, just your account. Oh, and your reputation amongst people here, thus actually making your foray into LT a net negative in terms of self-promotion.

Jun 20, 2011, 10:27am Top

True andyl, # 85
My weak defence is that I hadn't found out what the rules are. Yes I did just join and immediately start talking. I was so delighted to find a site that was easier to navigate than some others that I guess the freedom of action just went to my head.
Thanks for pointing up my error. I will sort it out if I can find my way back there. That is a very good and constructive reason for not reading my material. I am put off by things like that as well. Thank you very much for looking by the way.
It was the slight against another author I gave a shout for, not the complaint about me, that made me react. Perhaps everyone can give me the dubious distinction of being the last to be rude, so that everyone can get on with enjoying good books, bad and indifferent books and sharing their views.

Jun 20, 2011, 10:52am Top

#87 by RichardBunning> I'm glad to see you willing to improve yourself, as that goes a long way. Another personal tip that I'm giving in an honest way and not as a sarcastic shot at you - stop referring to yourself in third person. First off, your full name is right above your post. Second, it just smacks of hucksterism. I don't know if you're doing it to try to pump up search engine hits or something, but it really just has the opposite effect on the non-robots among us.

Good luck!

Jun 20, 2011, 11:23am Top

Weighing in about self-publishing and promoting. You get respect if you give respect. Lord knows I have made some innocent missteps along the way here and on other sites. On LT, Hobnob with Authors is an ideal place for people to chit chat with writers of all stripes. It's up to you to get people interested in your work in a way that values community, if you are part of a community. Getting an LT Author badge so people know you are an author is also a good move. Member Giveaway is good karma: good energy out = good energy back. Just my two cents. Perhaps a formal Self-Publish Group would be good so self-published authors can brain storm and rail against the gods (otherwise known as blowing off steam). I wonder what the sigil would be? (Sorry. Too much Game of Thrones).

Back to SF, our topic: I think formal publishing by big houses, as opposed to self-publishing, does tend to generate sameness and monster series syndrome. Publishing is after all a business, and consistency rules for sales. I would love to read SF stories that have a beginning, middle, and definitive end, all in one book, with no need for sequels. The bloating of SF by publishers was one reason I stopped reading it. Quite frankly, it got boring.


Jun 20, 2011, 11:48am Top

#88 I think I understand about the using the correct name thing. It works both ways though, yes it is a self shout in a way, of course. But it also means that critics have a clear view. If I (sorry I'm very old fashioned, one comes more naturally when I wish to imply that I might not be expressing a unique view, but I know it is something that gets more modern peoples backs up): If I expect to ever be taken seriously I think I need to communicate openly.
It probably sounds very naive but I hadn't thought about the huckster thing. I really think I have got something worth selling, even though I have already being caught out for shoddy use of language- the principle, principal error I mean. Doing well aren't I, self-promoting, useless at English, bad style of English, a huckster, a rule breaker, rude, et al. and still no one has read a page as far as I can tell. I certainly don't believe I am addressing robots unless all of a sudden sci-fi is just fiction. I know it is 100% not the case, but brightcopy would actually be a very good name for a robot. If you don't write, perhaps you should if you can come up with a few names like that. Or is it a reference, which in my ignorance I have missed. Thanks for the good luck- I seem to need it.
All the best & thanks for the good feedback.

Jun 20, 2011, 12:10pm Top

>1 CliffBurns: William Gibson has observed that SF fans are resentful of authors who seek to do something different with the field.

This is perhaps the most idiotic thing ever said about science fiction.

After reading the deplorable Neuromancer I always suspected Gibson was an imbecile. Thank you Mr. Gibson for resolving my lingering doubts.

Jun 20, 2011, 12:27pm Top

Haven't you just sort of proved his point, though?

Jun 20, 2011, 12:29pm Top

#90 by RichardBunning> brightcopy would actually be a very good name for a robot.
Or is it a reference, which in my ignorance I have missed.

It's a book term, actually. But really, don't feel bad for not knowing it as I didn't, either. When creating a username here I went through so many other book terms I did know only to find that they were all used. So I had to reach a bit and read a list of terms in which I found this one. A little self-aggrandizing, I must admit. :D

While you've gotten off to a rocky start, I think you've handled it quite well. One thing that may help - you're not the first author to have this sort of landing at LT. The community is very forgiving, however, so the only ones that continue to be shunned are the arrogant ones. Those tick everyone off with their "that's nice and all, but I don't care because my main goal is to sell sell sell, so I'll do whatever I damn well please. You are all beneath me, anyway." From what I read, you're not in that group. But sometimes we get understandably prickly and are suspicious ever time another author comes on they wind up getting a little extra annoyance than might possibly be justified based solely on their actions.

Welcome to LT!

Jun 20, 2011, 1:48pm Top

I just skimmed through this topic and have a suggestion; what if we have a "SF
authors available in 'Hobnob with Authors'"
topic here in SF Fans.

Any SF authors who were going to make themselves available in the Hobnob area could
post under that topic to alert us of the fact.  If that would violate LT
terms or make anyone else uncomfortable I can live without it. I rarely sift
through the Hobnob area though it sounds interesting.

Jun 20, 2011, 1:53pm Top

> 94

That sounds like a good idea to me. It seems like it would keep the hobnobbing suitably contained, while exposing it to a more specific readership.

Jun 20, 2011, 2:56pm Top

>92 iansales: Ah yes, the ol' "If you don't like his stuff it's because you can't handle his originality!"

(Pats iansales on the head.) There, there, Ian. There, there.

Jun 20, 2011, 3:06pm Top

Er no - as in: he tried to do something different and you appear to resent that. Or was there another reason you called him an "imbecile"?

Edited: Jun 20, 2011, 4:23pm Top

DugsBooks: Good idea about the subcategory that could lead folks to Hobnob :) I wonder how much Hobnob with Authors is actually on the radar of people in general . Alas for me, my genre is a bit more eclectic (although SF/Fantasy/Paranormal, etc. often get lumped in together, neh).


Jun 20, 2011, 4:28pm Top

#97 by iansales> Er no - as in: he tried to do something different and you appear to resent that.

You got all that from him not liking the book? Books can be different and be bad. They can be different and be good. They can be the not different and be bad or good. Can't you just dislike a book because you dislike it?

Edited: Jun 20, 2011, 4:59pm Top

Thank you brightcopy.
Nothing to add.

Jun 20, 2011, 5:13pm Top

#97 But he didn't say "I don't like this book". He said he suspected Gibson was an imbecile after he'd read the book. If he'd just said he didn't like the book, fine - everyone has different tastes. But to declare the author an imbecile because he didn't like the book is, well, the reaction of an imbecile. And since he also took offense at Gibson's comment on sf fans not liking authors who try new ideas - and, let's face it, Neuromancer was something new when it was first published...

Edited: Jun 20, 2011, 5:34pm Top

#101 by iansales> So what you're honestly proposing here, please let me see if I can get this straight, is that if I read Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead and declare she is an imbecile, that makes me an imbecile?

This is a very puzzling rule you've proposed here, ian.

ETA: Actually, as another thought experiment you can replace "Ayn Rand" with "Connie Willis" and "The Fountainhead" with "Blackout". I know you've had choice words for that one yourself.

Edited: Jun 20, 2011, 5:30pm Top

>101 iansales:
I suspected the author to be an imbecile. To infer from this fact that I suspected him to be an imbecile because (1) he was too original, and/or (2) I didn't like the book, are the inferences of an imbecile. And this after brightcopy explained in transcendentally lucid terms what your mistake was.

Jun 20, 2011, 5:45pm Top

Carnophile wrote:
This is perhaps the most idiotic thing ever said about science fiction.

After reading the deplorable Neuromancer I always suspected Gibson was an imbecile. Thank you Mr. Gibson for resolving my lingering doubts.

Carnophile clearly states Neuromancer is deplorable and then states that after reading it he suspected Gibson was an imbecile. He then states that the posted comment confirms that Gibson is an imbecile. I disagree with most of what iansales writes and our tastes are quite different, but I agree with him on this.

Jun 20, 2011, 6:20pm Top

#104 by LucasTrask> But ian actually said "he tried to do something different and you appear to resent that". There is literally zero evidence that what Carnophile disliked about the book was that it was different. Or that he "resented" it. How does one even get there from the original statement?

Going back to my earlier statements, it really does smack of what you'd be told by some dedicated Rand-o-phile if you dared criticize The Fountainhead. It would be turned around that because you didn't like a book, the problem is you, the reader, because the book is clearly objectively great!

Jun 20, 2011, 7:17pm Top

>105 brightcopy: Again, thank you, brightcopy.

Why are iansales and LucasTrask telling me what I really meant? This is just bizarre.

Jun 21, 2011, 2:24am Top

I could ask, why are you trying to weasel out of what you said?

#102 I might say a book is stupid, but never the author. And while I've heard - and have seen documented - that the research in Blackout is piss-poor, that doesn't mean I'd immediately assume Connie Willis is an idiot. As for Rand... The Fountainhead is risible, yes. And her Objectivism is a particularly stupid philosophy. But I don't believe I've ever questioned Rand's intelligence.

#103 1) Neuromancer was different. It arguably kicked off cyberpunk - it was certainly most visible of the very early cyberpunk novels. 2) You didn't like it.

It's no great logical leap to infer that 2) is a possible consequence of 1). Especially since I asked back in #97 if there was another reason why you suspected Gibson was an imbecile. But you've yet to answer that.

Jun 21, 2011, 5:33am Top

William Gibson has observed that SF fans are resentful of authors who seek to do something different with the field. Is this really the most idiotic statement about SF. The fact that SF readers swallow sequel after sequel after sequel seems to suggest that Gibson may have something of a point there.

As to Gibson being an imbecile - he may well be one but that doesn't stop him being a significantly better writer than the majority of SF's current major names. The fact that Connie Willis has won 10 Hugos and 7 Nebulas is more demanding and says more about the low standard accepted by fans and other SF writers than Gibson's statement.

Edited: Jun 21, 2011, 10:28am Top

I for one assumed Carnosaur was being facetious.
calling Gibson an imbecile certainly indicated resentment to me.

I thought he was channeling Propter. in one of his "Do Right-Wingers have to pass a 'stupid test'?" threads on Pro And Con.
Where Propters simplistic and outrageous attacks on Sarah Palin become so egregious that every Democrat in sight leaps to her defense.

Jun 21, 2011, 10:27am Top

I agree with Ian and Jargoneer, If William Gibson is an idiot, no what was the word imbecile. there is no evidence of his writing. He uses all the right words in the right order. Stylistical I can easily see people not liking him, but the grammatical evidence reveals he capable of writing intelligently. And my one experience of hearing him speak at a Con, revealed some one capable of talking intelligently as well.

There is no doubt that the cyberpunk movement that sprang up in his wake was and is seen as the major SF innovation of the time. Though I must say that at the time I personally saw neuromancer more as the rebirth of New Wave after the desert of post Star Wars space opera.

So seeing Gibson, demonstrably capable of thought,
described as an imbecile indicates to me an emotional rather than rational comment.

What emotion, well I do not hear of Gibson performing enormities. Other than his prose. So what emotion can I assume other than resentment of that prose, of that innovation.

Personally, stylistically, Connie Willis is much more my cup of tea. oh her research is terrible, and at novel length she can meander aimlessly pages after page, but her dialogue, her ability to capture how people speak makes up for a lot.

Jun 21, 2011, 10:58am Top

I'm fairly certain that I get what Gibson meant. To add to it, SF fans in general like to think of themselves as being (small 'l') liberal and willing to entertain stunning new concepts and alternative ways of living, being and thinking; experience has shown me that that just isn't always the case when it comes to the way fans behave both in real life and fandom. So I can quite believe it when it comes to preferences in fiction. jargoneer has it pretty well right.

Edited: Jun 22, 2011, 11:48am Top

>107 iansales: I could ask, why are you trying to weasel out of what you said?

If you can cite a post in which I said I resented Gibson or that I disliked Neuromancer because it’s too original, do so.

But of course you can’t. My advice: When you’re in a hole...stop digging.

As for Rand... The Fountainhead is risible, yes. And her Objectivism is a particularly stupid philosophy.

Obviously you resent her. Probably because her work is too original.

You might deny these things, but I’ll just accuse you of “trying to weasel out of what you said.”

Yawn. This is too easy.

Jun 22, 2011, 11:50am Top

1) Neuromancer was different. It arguably kicked off cyberpunk - it was certainly most visible of the very early cyberpunk novels. 2) You didn't like it.
It's no great logical leap to infer that 2) is a possible consequence of 1).

I was going to say that of course it’s a huge logical leap, but then I noticed the word “possible” that was so amusingly included in that sentence. Talk about weasling! That “possible” is my favorite word of this thread so far. It’s so... functional.

Especially since I asked back in #97 if there was another reason why you suspected Gibson was an imbecile. But you've yet to answer that.

So if I don’t answer your question you’re entitled to come up with your own speculations and then cling to them even after I deny them? Again, just bizarre.

Also, why should I answer your question? You’ll just ignore what I say and accuse me of “trying to weasel out” of what I said.

Indeed, I suspect you’re just trying to change the subject from your unsupported assertions about me. After all, if you really cared about the answer to your question, you could read my review of Neuromancer here on LT. The review is very short and doesn’t go into why I dislike the book at length. I must have been tired that day, or maybe I just didn’t think the book was worth the time. In any case, what’s crucial is what you won’t find. You’ll find nothing about resentment or the book being too original.

In fact, I mention two ways in which the book was not original!

Not that the lack of evidence will budge you from your increasingly surreal statements about me, I’m sure.

Jun 22, 2011, 11:55am Top

>108 Jargoneer:
The fact that “SF readers swallow sequel after sequel” doesn’t mean that they don’t swallow new stuff too. What, it’s either/or? And even if they don’t like new stuff, that hardly indicates that they “resent” it. That remark by Gibson really is imbecilic.

In context, it is also funny that many people think Neuromancer was very innovative, since it was also very popular with SF readers (more than 6.5 million copies sold). Paraphrasing #92, Doesn’t that prove my point?

Jun 22, 2011, 12:00pm Top

>109 SimonW11:
calling Gibson an imbecile certainly indicated resentment to me.

It indicated nothing but that I suspected he was an imbecile.

>110 SimonW11: So what emotion can I assume other than resentment of that prose, of that innovation.
So, regarding my suspicion that Gibson was an imbecile...
1) it must have been purely emotional
2) the emotion in question must have been resentment
3) the resentment must have been caused by excessive originality.

Again, just bizarre.

Especially since, in the same post, you wrote, Though I must say that at the time I personally saw neuromancer more as the rebirth of New Wave... So you yourself do not in fact think it was all that original. But you also think I “resent” it because it was too original.

Again, too easy.

Seriously, are you guys re-reading your posts before you hit the Submit button?

Jun 22, 2011, 12:24pm Top

You are clearly your own best audience. Carry on.

Edited: Jun 22, 2011, 12:56pm Top

>" So you yourself do not in fact think it was all that original."

I did not say that.
You really mean your original comment was not flippant.


Jun 22, 2011, 2:42pm Top

Wow. Some people sure do get worked up about things on the internet. I'll refrain from any speculation about that though.

Jun 22, 2011, 5:34pm Top

" So you yourself do not in fact think it was all that original."

I did not say that.

What you said and what I quoted are there for anyone to read, assuming anyone still cares, unless you edit it.

Jun 22, 2011, 5:42pm Top

I don't know if my opinion is a comment on the state of SF or the state of the SF that I am reading.

Different strokes for different folks and all that, but space operas and hard SF and military SF never did it for me. I like the old-school stuff - more the Dick/Bradbury end than the Asimov/Heinlein end.

I find it hard to find stuff like that, but maybe I am looking in the wrong places.

Jun 23, 2011, 2:38am Top

119> Why would I want to edit it?

Edited: Jun 23, 2011, 3:34pm Top

120> "Old school" seems an odd choice of phrase. I rebel at labelling it literary but I think you consider style important could you name a few other authors you value.

Jun 23, 2011, 11:06am Top

122> I was deliberately avoiding labeling it "literary" for a number of reasons.

"Old-school" isn't the best either. I'm open to suggestions. "Near-future, idea-driven science fiction"? That doesn't quite work either.

Edited: Jun 23, 2011, 11:52am Top

#123 DavidGaughran

I would suggest (based on your "Near-future, idea-driven science fiction" description, however imperfect you think it may be) the latest works of Ken MacLeod (Night Sessions, The Restoration Game and Execution Channel) and Ian McDonald's Dervish House.

In these books the ideas include science and politics. They are very much, near-future.

Jun 23, 2011, 11:21am Top

Using Dick and Bradbury as locator points makes me wonder whether it's SF that might be aptly described as "psychological."

Edited: Jun 25, 2011, 3:03pm Top

To me, Sci-fi got sideswiped by fantasy. It is very hard to find a true science fiction writer like Heinlein, Asimov, A.C.Clarke or the like. For a decade or so the writing was dominated by dragons, goblins and elves. Also a lot of what would have passed for science fiction 2-3 decades ago is now considered just action adventure now...I am speaking of scenarios such as global plague, WWIII, natural catastrophe, etc.

Since the early 70's there has been less and less emphasis world wide on space travel. Governments seem to be unwilling or unable to commit the huge funds required and with the co-operation between the USSR and the USA in the past 20 years there is less ideological driving force to be #1. This may change if the Chinese continue developing their space program to the point that challenge a moon landing.

Science fiction writing in the past has reflected the social issues of the times. It seems to me that those issues have gotten muddied with the popularity of fantasy. I don't think Sci-fi writers have run out of ideas. It is just difficult for hard science fiction to rise above the fantasy tide.

Jun 23, 2011, 5:06pm Top

Perhaps you might be interested in Rocket Science, then. At the moment it's nothing as the submission window has yet to open. But nine months from now?

Jun 23, 2011, 5:44pm Top


Thank you for the tips - very much appreciated.


I was going to use that label, but something held me back. Can't exactly say what.

Jun 23, 2011, 6:31pm Top

>126 Lynxear:
Try Charles Stross, e.g., Singularity Sky.

Jun 23, 2011, 8:25pm Top

>126 Lynxear: Have you seen all the mammoth Space Operas coming out of Britain lately? (i.e., last 10 years)

Here are a few authors you should take a look at:

Peter F Hamilton
Iain Banks or Iain M Banks (same person slightly different genres)
Alastair Reynolds
Richard K Morgan

I'm talking doorstop-sized books with planet-busting, quantum space, memory inserts, interstellar wars, wormholes...

Those are just the "popular" authors. I'm sure you can find more good ones by asking around.

Edited: Jun 23, 2011, 10:47pm Top

#130 by drmamm> Gotta disagree that Richard Morgan's books are either "mammoth" or "space opera". In fact, I've read all his non-fantasy novels and they're both completely planet bound and involve no aliens. If anything, I'd say some are closer to mil-sf but even that's quite a stretch. They also tend to be in the 400-500 page range, so hardly doorstops.

Of course, I'd never argue with the actual recommendation to read him. :D

Jun 24, 2011, 12:41am Top

I guess your recommendations along with Carnophile's mention of Singularity Sky by Charles Stross should be looked at...always looking for new authors...I have strayed away from Sci-fi over the years to historical fiction lately so have not remained current. I did look at Ben Bova and Piers Anthony for a while but was not really impressed....so I gave up looking :)

Edited: Jun 24, 2011, 11:39am Top

" William Gibson has observed that SF fans are resentful of authors who seek to do something different with the field."

Why is this a surprise to any one. Lois Armstrong sang songs about the evils of be bop and its flatted fifths. a whole host of people were resentffull of the pre-raphaelites. which is perhaps an example of a new movement that might at first be seen as a return to old forms.
no one thinks that because you like ska you have to like dub. and only this week I refered to Jackson Pollock in terms totally unsuitable for a family newspaper.
why then should anyone expect sf fans to be any different?

Stross? Halting state would be my recommendation.

Jun 24, 2011, 5:11am Top


I would imagine that the authors mentioned in #130 or Stephen Baxter or the Humanity's Fire series by Michael Cobley would work for you.

Charlie Stross only has a few novels which fit your needs - some of the others you might feel are too fantasy based. Iain Banks (without the M) generally writes non-SF books.

All of those authors are British.

Jun 24, 2011, 5:44am Top

There's also Gary Gibson, another Scottish author. Or Ken MacLeod.

Jun 24, 2011, 8:33am Top

126: Agree!!


Jun 24, 2011, 10:09am Top

#126 and 136

Science fiction writing in the past has reflected the social issues of the times. It seems to me that those issues have gotten muddied with the popularity of fantasy. I don't think Sci-fi writers have run out of ideas. It is just difficult for hard science fiction to rise above the fantasy tide.

I agree that there is a preponderance of fantasy on the bookshelves, but I would say there are still good ideas based Sci-Fi authors who are addressing current issues. I recommend you look at the books I lised in 124.

Since the early 70's there has been less and less emphasis world wide on space travel. Governments seem to be unwilling or unable to commit the huge funds required and with the co-operation between the USSR and the USA in the past 20 years there is less ideological driving force to be #1.

I believe that the drivers for massive space budgets are military security, financial benefit and national pride. These are probably ranked in decending order of influence. Once the US had reached the Moon the national pride had been satisfied, the spin-off technological and contract work satisfied the economic parameters, and the technological advances gave the USA a head start in any space based military scenario. The demise of the USSR reduced the military urgency. As you say, China's space programme may reset the priorities.

Jun 24, 2011, 11:03am Top

I will use this as an ad for my great idea...Chucky vs. Predator...I truly believe it could work...Please advise.

Jun 24, 2011, 11:15am Top


Jun 24, 2011, 11:41am Top

sure it hasnt been done?

Jun 25, 2011, 3:30pm Top

It is interesting with the contribution of Russian and American space science. I would hate to see the weaponization of the Moon. I don't really see the point to it though as the USA seems to have the ability to level a country with missiles at will right now. China and USSR probably have the same capability, thankfully untested to date. I think it would be great if the world came to an agreement similar to what they did in Antarctica.

Russia I think has the edge in space health issues. They have flown cosmonauts around the earth for longer periods of time than USA counterparts. I remember in the 90's when a cosmonaut was scheduled to return to earth but a module was not ready for him so I think he had 6 months added to his tour :) The USA of course has the edge in technology and manufacturing.

There is nothing wrong with Russian science but their manufacturing is decades behind. I sold scientific instruments before I retired. A Russian delegation came to Alberta to participate in a trade show and sold their samples before returning. This was supposed to be their best stuff. We got a radiation meter from them. It was built like a tank but the guts were very amateurish...circuit boards that a hobbyist here might create. Back in the late 80's I went to Germany on a training course and a Czech defector was the sales manager of the company. We were talking about instrument manufacturing in Russia and manufacturing in general. He said that everything good was siphoned off for the military with little innovation for the times. Basic manufacturing was very poor....eg. exploding TV's were a major source of apartment fires back then :)

China's program will rattle a lot of cages in the USA. Their technology is improving...if they ever came to an agreement with Taiwan, they would have a quantum leap in their program with the manufacturing expertise there...but that is unlikely to happen in our lifetime.

Yes China could give the impetus to another space race...which to me is much more beneficial to another arms race.

Jun 25, 2011, 5:27pm Top

When microwave ovens were new, a friend of mine said that if you wanted a microwave, better buy a Russian one, because their standards on microwave emissions were far stricter (because of the extensive use of microwave technology by the military) and the overns therefore safer. But apart from the fact that you'd have something you could cater for an entire tractor factory with, there was one major drawback; youl'd be safe from microwave emissions but you'd have a greater chance of being electrocuted by the mains supply....

Jun 25, 2011, 8:52pm Top

my bar code scanner has designed in taiwan manufactured in china written on it. i think economics is fast replaceing politics in driving their relationship.

Sep 21, 2011, 6:51pm Top

No way! I get new ideas all the time. I just have to pick up a copy of New Scientist or Scientific American and my mind is fired with a dozen different possibilities. That's what's so great about SciFi - there's always something new!

Sep 21, 2011, 7:43pm Top

Why would Science Fiction run out of ideas before any other genre grouping?
If anything, it has fewer limitaions. It's unlikely that our scientific community will ever 'know everything' so there is always room to dream.

Sep 22, 2011, 9:47am Top

It's not that Science Fiction has run out of ideas, it's that most of the literature being published nowadays is of lesser quality. Are there fewer excellent writers out there, or is the publishing industry not supporting them?

Sep 22, 2011, 10:17am Top

I disagree. The sf being published now is generally of a much higher quality than it was 50 or 60 years ago. Which is not to say that bad sf doesn't get published now...

Sep 22, 2011, 11:53am Top

I'd agree with Ian. There are more people writing Science Fiction today who have good writing skills than there were decades ago. In the "good old days" of Science Fiction most authors in the genre were good on the ideas, maybe not so good on the writing.

In the 50s and 60s the magazines were more successful and there was a general hunger for the ideas, hence lots of pulp fiction. Nowadays the bigger publishers are looking for higher writing quality in any genre fiction they produce, so the "ideas" writers who are not so good at writing have a tougher time getting published.

Add to that the generally tough time the publishing industry is in and you have an apparent lack of support for writers. In this day of globalisation and management by cost accountant, unless a novel is from someone with a proven track record the accountants will not see a justification in taking the risk of publishing the work, hence the big publishers don't take on too much risk.

Sep 22, 2011, 12:32pm Top

Though the early writers managed to stake their claim on a lot of uncharted territory. As such, sometimes newer stuff, no matter how well written, can lose a little of its "oomph."

Sep 22, 2011, 12:38pm Top

It's easy to forget about earlier garbage that nobody reads anymore. Also, our tastes tend to get more refined/jaded as we age, so that the new material we encounter is held to a higher standard than the earlier stuff was.

Sep 22, 2011, 12:47pm Top

Seeing the image for this group makes me really miss "planet stories". I yearn for a rockin', old fashioned space story. The evaporation of the B list writers has hurt SF the most. It is hard to view new work because the publishers don't foster new writers. There is no entry point for newer, character based ideas.


Sep 22, 2011, 12:50pm Top

#150 by paradoxosalpha> Of course, the bit about forgetting about the garbage is true of any genre (or non-genre). Seriously, how many mainstream fiction books from the 40s does anyone read anymore, compared to how many were published?

Part of this is just the amount of stuff that was garbage back then. But then there's the fact that culture informs your reading as much as language. The further back you go and try to read literature published then, it's more like they're speaking a foreign language. You just don't have the same implicit cultural assumptions, biases, touchstones, etc.

Sep 22, 2011, 12:52pm Top

Strangely, I prefer postwar British literary fiction to the stuff that's currently being published, writers such as Lawrence Durrell, John Fowles, CP Snow, Edward Upward, Graham Greene, Paul Scott... A lot of the big UK literary writers - Ian McEwan, Sebastian Faulks, etc - just don't seem as good to me.

Sep 22, 2011, 12:55pm Top

Sure there was a lot of early garbage but there were also a few brilliant authors who have stood the test of time. I still love reading Clarke's work. He actually thought of communication satellites long before anyone else took the idea seriously.

There are a ton of writers climbing onto the eBook bandwagon. Some of them are good but a surprising number don’t even bother with spellchecking, let alone engaging an editor. At a distance the bandwagon may look like a hearse but if you bring a pitchfork, you can find some good writers in the pile.

Sep 22, 2011, 1:02pm Top

#153 by iansales> I don't find that strange at all. My points weren't about how people won't like anything but current writing. After all, many of the most widely read books are fairly dusty: Dickens, Austen, Twain, Hugo, Tolstoy, etc. But that's because they have some transcendent quality that rises above their forgotten contemporaries and the culture shifts. But we too often focus on the ones that transcended and forget that there were a lot left behind.

Sep 22, 2011, 1:06pm Top

> 152

Actually, the alien-ness of an earlier time can rehabilitate old trash to a certain extent by making it exotic, for readers with the curiosity and patience to tackle it.

Sep 22, 2011, 1:08pm Top

True. But I doubt Durrell or Fowles shift as many units these days as McEwan or Faulks. And Scott, Snow and Upward are long out of print.

Sep 22, 2011, 1:29pm Top

iansales wrote:
Strangely, I prefer postwar British literary fiction to the stuff that's currently being published

And yet you consistently argue that only SF written in the past 20 years is any good.

Sep 22, 2011, 1:35pm Top

#157 by iansales> Right, but this just goes back to what I've said many times before. What we consider "good" is a matter of consensus of various people's tastes (which are rooted in many things from childhood experience, advertising, etc.). Yours just don't exactly mesh into the general consensus in this particular area. You have your own consensus of one. ;)

Sep 22, 2011, 4:56pm Top

#158 There's nothing contradictory in that. I'm surprised you'd think there is.

Sep 22, 2011, 6:36pm Top

#160 by iansales> I think it's a little contradictory in your stance on the biases embedded in SF written ~50 years ago. But then, you probably don't actually mean "postwar British literary fiction" so much as "selected postwar British literary fiction." Which just goes back to the point about how people remember the good stuff and forget the "garbage".

Sep 22, 2011, 7:57pm Top

Oh, Lordy Lordy yet another flame war. Can't you all just play nice? A nice little thread about "Is Science Fiction Out of Ideas?" has digressed into: "Is!" "Isn't!" "Is!" "Isn't!" "Is!" "Isn't!" ;-)

Reminds me of the Monty Python pet shop skit. The notable thing is that the usual offender didn't actually initiate the flame this time.

Regarding the topic "Is Science Fiction Out of Ideas?" I see it as a categorization or subset problem. Here's what I mean: Let's look at travel in SF to illustrate. Many SF stories involve getting from point A to point B. So with that broadness of category well yeah there's not much new. However, if you divide this "travel" category more finely so that one may consider (microcategories) modes of transport involving use of extra-dimensions and another involving use of multiple universes and so on, and ask the same question, then I'd say there's still the occasional new idea and even the occasional new microcategory

Edited: Sep 22, 2011, 8:42pm Top

#162 by randalhoctor> I think you're jumping the gun a bit. Felt like we were all having a civil conversation until your comment. ;)

Sep 23, 2011, 12:32am Top

163 brightcopy: Yeah. You're right. It was just a spirited intellectual conversation. The important thing is that I got to use an obscure Python reference. My bad. :-)

Edited: Sep 23, 2011, 1:41am Top

If there's ever a case of the ends justifying the means, that would bei it.

Oddly enough, one of the first things I thought of was the Argument sketch.

Sep 23, 2011, 4:06am Top

I thought #158 was a little snide, but I wouldn't have called this a flame war. Yet. :-)

Well, yes, there are those embedded sensibilities... And yes, it's only some authors from the postwar period I read (though I'm happy to try others). But even so, it's the prose style of those writers that I really like. And sf writers just can't compare. Besides, I often find those postwar mainstream writers have a lighter hand on the sensibilities of the time than many contemporary sf novels do. If that makes sense.

Sep 25, 2011, 11:22am Top

i did not get the point of 158. If someone starts a sentence with strangely, why point out that the statement seems strange?

Sep 25, 2011, 11:29pm Top

Meta fight!

Sep 26, 2011, 10:40am Top

I resent the obnoxious manner in which certain posters have basically agreed with me.

Sep 26, 2011, 7:56pm Top

lol. :-)

Sep 27, 2011, 10:53am Top

> 169: can I borrow that? SO useful!

Sep 27, 2011, 10:57am Top

Hey, if the shoe fits, it must be time to kick somebody!

Sep 27, 2011, 5:59pm Top

I used to have a T-shirt with a pirate/skull 'n crossed bones with the following caption/notice: "The beatings will continue until moral improves."

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