CONTRARY BRIN: Science fiction – Reaching for the future

As the World Science Fiction Convention is about to stage and rage in Chicago, let’s pause to glance at the genre of wonder, the literature that deals with the one ‘eternal verity’… change.

First … a look at how far science fiction has come in achieving respect at its high end. From The New Yorker: “Can Science Fiction Wake Us Up to Our Climate Reality?” Kim Stanley Robinson’s novels envision the dire problems of the future—but also their solutions,” as in his latest release – The Ministry for the Future.

Harlan Ellison distilled the essential question. “Our duty is to make a world that’s even just barely good enough that our kids do better. And theirs and theirs. Till super generations come who look back at us as monsters. Monsters who somehow rose above both their natures and their times….

“…even if barely enough.”  Or as Roman Kznaric put it, more succinctly in his non-fiction book: The Good Ancestor: A Radical Prescription for Long-Term Thinking, our duty and task is… to be Good Ancestors.

Those of you reading my Out of Time series, about teens from varied eras yanked into a future utopia-in-peril, in order to save it with their ‘grit,’ know I borrowed the term from that movie, of course. But so did these neuroscience researchers: “Uncovering links between grit and cognitive function“. Unless one of them is a fan who borrowed it from me!  

== Good Quick Reads ==

A series of quick-read hard-SF novellas by Laurence E. Dahners is worth a look. Lively  fun is the “Stasis” series where a young physicist makes a way to freeze time. Book 1: A Pause in Space Time

Sarina Dahlan’s novel RESET offers a pretty unique take on how we might flush away the grudges that so often poison our lives.

Speaking of time… The “Out of Time” (or “Yanked!”) series: Only teens can teleport through time and space! Dollops of fun, adventure & optimism for young adults. Five Out of Time novels offer free first chapters… and five more are in the pipeline!

== YouTubes and Lists beyond the beyond ==

Tune in! Isaac Arthur has among the best sci-future podcasts – Science & Futurism – that explores in amazing detail the implications and ramifications of every permutation of the ‘alien’ you can think of… while poking as zones where we can’t! 

This episode cogently discusses what might happen if we head out there into the galaxy and find one or more less technologically advanced alien races. 

Are we behooved to act according to a Trekkian Prime Directive not to interfere? Can that even be enforced on all individuals who might disagree?  All of his riffs are detailed, logical and interesting… though this one features my books at 27 minutes in, offering big discounts for purchasing audio versions from Audible!

Just in case you never knew about this side of me… Eight outstanding David Brin books sci-fi fans need to read,” from The Portalist.

From Mental Floss: “Twelve novels that won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards,” with a mention of Startide Rising..

And from The Washington Post: Let’s talk about the beasts of Sci Fi and Horror: a look at fictional animals, from Clifford Simak’s City to Stephen King’s Cujo.

== SF & Hollywood ==

Caltech physicist Spiros Michalakis and Hollywood writer/producer Ed Solomon (co-creator of Bill & Ted) speak with Caltech science writer (and sci-fi fan) Whitney Clavin in this video about how they collaborate to make science shine in film 

My original Salon article denouncing Star Wars was not my most hate mail-producing piece! It did lead later to a book: Star Wars on Trial. I was the ‘prosecutor’ and one of Lucas’s novelizers the defense attorney. We called witnesses, cross-examined… huge fun! 

My later, upgraded case is one of the chapters in my recently released collection of essays on SF movies – Vivid Tomorrows: Science Fiction and Hollywood.

And this article preceded the later proof that Yoda is (by sheer death count) decisively the most-evil character in the history of all human stories and mythologies, combined. So there.

See the trailer for the Tom Swift spin-off.  And Neil Gaiman discusses the trailer for The Sandman series, based on his Sandman graphic novels. The series has been released on Netflix.

== Dark visions ==

As the Ukrainian literary magazine Chytomo recently covered in a disturbing article, “Since 2009, Russia has been actively publishing books on war between Russia and Ukraine in the fantasy genre, as well as historical and nonfiction literature about the collapse of the Ukraine project and mocking the independence of the non-existent Ukrainian people and artificial Ukrainian language.”

This article discusses a rather scary sub-genre of sci-fi, based upon an earlier wave of “Spetznaz fantasies” featuring Russian super soldiers shooting down especially Americans like mown grass. To be clear, our own nutter right has relished similar masturbatory fiction-fetishes, all the way from the marginally mainstream Red Dawn to the outright treasonous/fascist Turner Diaries.  And it is a common trope in war-inciting propaganda going back all the way to the Iliad and Roman epics vilifying Carthage. Today, as we speak, there is a major genre of “wolf warrior” tales and movies promoted by a certain Rising Power in the east.

But we are now witnessing the kind of calamity that can happen in the real world, when such agitprop seizes the imaginations of resentful (often incel) males.

== And more… ==

Do you miss old-fashioned, “classic” sci fi? Startling Stories is aiming for a revival of the pulp magazine (of the same name) which ran from 1939 to 1955. The title kinda says it all!

With Forkpoints, Nebula Award winner Sheila Finch (Reading the Bones) delivers an impressive, career-spanning collection!  Stories like the wistful “The Old Man and C,” which imagines a world where Albert Einstein followed his talent for violin instead of physics. Fans of Finch’s Xenolinguist stories will enjoy encountering the author at her lyrical best in “Sequoia Dreams,” about alien visitors who have a profound ecological message to convey, and “Czerny at Midnight,” in which a marine biologist’s autistic son communicates with an octopus through music. 

In her new anthology, The Memory Librarian and Other Stories of Dirty Computer, Janelle Monáe presents a collection (inspired by her album Dirty Computer) of vivid dystopian stories of the near future, of humanity and society adapting to changing technology.

Finally… Chicon, the 80th World Science Fiction Convention will be held from September 1 to 5 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, with Author Guests of Honor (and our dear friends) Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due. (Have fun!) And see their new graphic novel collaboration, The Keeper.

Awards will be announced for this year’s Hugo Awards for best in SF&F (nominations listed here).

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