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Has Sci-Fi Run Out of Steam?

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the what-about-steampunk dept.

Sci-Fi 479

Barence writes "Science fiction has long inspired real-world technology, but are the authors of sci-fi stories finally running out of steam? PC Pro has traced the history of sci-fi's influence on real-world technology, from Jules Verne to Snow Crash, but suggests that writers have run out of ideas when it comes to inspiring tomorrow's products. 'Since Snow Crash, no novel has had quite the same impact on the computing world, and you might argue that sci-fi and hi-tech are drifting further apart,' PC Pro claims. Author Charles Stross tells the magazine that he began writing a sci-fi novel in 2005 and 'made some predictions, thinking that in ten years they'd either be laughable or they'd have come true. The weird bit? Most of them came true already, by 2009.'"

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Sci-fi not predicting far enough? (3, Interesting)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186250)

Time to look to bulk fantasy for invention inspiration. Indistinguishable from magic and all that rot.

No need, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30186496)

it's been done to death.

Re:No need, (3, Insightful)

ground.zero.612 (1563557) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186704)

Has science run out of steam?

Re:Sci-fi not predicting far enough? (4, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186498)

Like the TV show Heroes? It's fun to watch but certainly not realistic. For example: How can Sylar pick-up a person and throw him against a wall? Newton's Law dictates that Sylar should be pushed backward with an equal force (recoil). Also where is the energy coming from? Sylar must eat 50,000 calories a day* to maintain that level of "toss people against walls" energy output.

I'd rather stick with SCIENCE fiction, with emphasis on the science and making it not violate known universal laws/theories.

*
* Trivia: Homo neanderthalis ate 10,000 calories a day to maintain his huge bulky body. Then Homo sapiens arrived and effectively starved neanderthal man out of food. That's how you control Sylar. Deprive him of food, and he'll not have enough energy to do his tricks.

Re:Sci-fi not predicting far enough? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30186546)

your a fucking idiot

Re:Sci-fi not predicting far enough? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30186574)

lol

Re:Sci-fi not predicting far enough? (-1, Offtopic)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186778)

>>>your a fucking idiot

Wow. Such amazing reasoning skills. Such pure logic. Such persuasive eloquence. Bravo. +1 informative. (BTW it's spelled "you're" not your.)

Re:Sci-fi not predicting far enough? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30186882)

What about his a?

Re:Sci-fi not predicting far enough? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30186592)

what the hell is wrong with you?

Re:Sci-fi not predicting far enough? (5, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186676)

Personally, I like SciFi that gives me a good reason for what's happening, with reasons that can be understood. That we will come up with an alloy that is more durable than anything we can produce today is likely. It is also quite imaginable that we will some day be able to tap into new power sources, like cold fusion or, given enough time, pure matter-energy transformation. We might discover the antagonist to gravity and create antigravity. We will be able to colonize other planets (though I would much prefer an explanation other than "because it's there", human tends to be lazy).

But I do want more than a bit of technobabble. That's why I prefer Bab5 to Star Trek. In the latter, there's nothing an inverted polarized tachyon beam, beamed through subspace into a cobalt-balonium matrix cannot accomplish. I can come up with my own deus ex machinas, thank you.

Technobabble backlash (1)

Brad Mace (624801) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186838)

I agree, I think there's been a backlash against technobabble which is steering scifi away from Star Trek tech-porn towards a more BSG style focused more on people than cool gadgets. I certainly enjoy Star Trek, but they've saturated the gee-whiz-look-at-this-cool-gadget market, and people are ready for something new. Now that we've been exploring space for a few decades, and everyone has cool gadgets, they want more depth in the stories. It's not so much that scifi is running out of steam, it's just evolving as all genres do.

Cold fusion is by definition no energy source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30186962)

If cold fusion works it's either unusable(to few energy produced) or not so cold after all (aka hot fusion).

Re:Sci-fi not predicting far enough? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30186716)

Or, y'know, that little thing called "Being able to tap in to 'casimir force' to be used as useful energy"
Or maybe he has somehow tapped in to some field that permeates all around the universe.
Or countless other things.

It is called Science Fiction for a reason.
And not to mention the fact that it could very well be possible.
Don't even begin to think the human race knows that much about the universe, we are as clueless as lemmings even today despite having been in to space and other planets. (directly or indirectly)

Re:Sci-fi not predicting far enough? (1)

Krahar (1655029) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186740)

All the powers disappeared during the solar eclipse in one episode, suggesting that the power is coming from the sun, though clearly not in the form of visible light since the powers also work in-doors. There is no physical contradiction in Sylar's telekinesis, since the law of action-reaction merely requires an opposite force being exerted *somewhere*, it is not required that Sylar's body be the place for that reaction to occur. E.g. his power could work by pushing against a large volume of air, buildings nearby or deep into the ground. This is exactly the same principle of how someone in a crane can move heavy things without his body being crushed - his body just controls the movement, while the real action happens somewhere outside the crane driver's body.

The actual unrealistic part of Heroes is that there just isn't any mechanism for the human body to acquire such powers without some kind of outside intervention, but that is clearly part of the setting and the kind of thing you have to accept to be able to enjoy most super hero stories.

As for the people responding to you saying "what the hell is wrong with you", I would say that anyone watching something like Heroes and NOT having thoughts like "where is the power coming from?" pop into their mind... they should ask for a refund on any education they may have (not) participated in.

Re:Sci-fi not predicting far enough? (3, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186920)

Oh yeah.

The solar eclipse is yet another example of how Heroes is BS, not science fiction. The solar eclipse lasted what? All day? Total eclipses only last approximately 5 minutes.

Re:Sci-fi not predicting far enough? (1)

WCguru42 (1268530) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186750)

My misgivings about Heroes aside (come on, either going in the past affects the future or it doesn't, you can't have it both ways), the last episode with Peter becoming exhausted from healing people feeds into your idea of energy consumed. As far as everything else, the show has thrown out physics from the very beginning, but if it's ruining your enjoyment of the show just assume that Sylar has the ability to make that recoil energy occur in the deep far off regions of space on tiny dust particles.

Re:Sci-fi not predicting far enough? (2, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186956)

No I enjoy Heroes. But I would never, ever call it science fiction. It's pure fantasy

Re:Sci-fi not predicting far enough? (2, Insightful)

dwye (1127395) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186792)

> Like the TV show Heroes? It's fun to watch

Are you watching the same series that I stopped watching after season 2?

> but certainly not realistic.

As opposed to transporters or tractor beams? Anyway, anything that depends on mutant powers doing more than letting someone metabolize something new (like cellulose) or synthesize something (like vitamin C), I would call that Fantasy, not SF (unless a heck of a lot of explanation goes along with it, as in Niven's The Magic Goes Away series).

Re:Sci-fi not predicting far enough? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30186600)

Or to the beginning, with Frankenstein and The Time Machine. SF has never been about inventing new products.

are you kidding? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30186256)

What a ridiculous question. Steampunk is all the rage these days!

Childhood's End (5, Interesting)

Da_Reapa (1683318) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186262)

Our time line seems similar to that of Arthur C. Clarke's "Childhood's End"

Re:Childhood's End (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30186640)

The sort of complacency you seem to be referring to has the redeeming value of being self-correcting: a nation of people can be lazy and self-serving for only so long.

Re:Childhood's End (1)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186784)

Too depressing.

I'd like to think we're going to become corpsickles, and become cured at sometime in the future, then zip around the galactic core, and come back to find machines that can make you young again. Thank you, Larry Niven.

Or perhaps we'll enforce Azimov's laws of robotics, finally. Already we have Spacers-- they live in gated communities and must have anxiety disorder.

Or maybe we'll have lots of nudity and sex and strange teleknesis like Heinlein suggested.

My point is that it takes imaginative writers, and with the pace of technology change we have (with SciFi as an inspiration), it takes some Hollywood visionaries to fund SciFi. Right now, it's expensive to do because of the enormous out-do-each-other budgets that funded movies and TV shows in the early 2000's. That and the fact that the book publishers prefer funding cheap Star Trek books rather than really original fiction.

Jennifer Government works for me (3, Interesting)

vvaduva (859950) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186296)

I see sci-moving into non-technical direction, with stuff like Max Barry's work (which came to my mind right away) where contemporary social issues that still have some sort of sci-fi aspect to them are being brought into our hands thanks to both the Internet and paperback books.

Ultimately the truth is that today's world is not the world where Snow Crash was created, so the expectations are after all quite different, are they not?

Re:Jennifer Government works for me (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186712)

Personally, I think the focus of SciFi is shifting. Away from technology, towards social problems. Usually reflecting social problems we have, or we might have with certain technology. I don't think that's a bad shift, after all, technology never purely existed for its own sake. Any major invention, any leap in technology, had a tremendous impact on society and social structures. Exploring those can be a lot more interesting than stories that focus on technology. Mostly because it's boring, technology will eventually solve all technical problems we have. It's the social problems it creates that are interesting to imagine.

Re:Jennifer Government works for me (2, Insightful)

the_womble (580291) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186914)

Only some SF has ever been about technology. A lot of the brilliant writers have always had a focus on social issue: Ursula Le Guin, for example. The same is true for most non SF writers who write some SF (Kingsley Amis, Dorris Lessing, CS Lewis - although the latter two are only just SF, and in Lewis case in only one book) or who write a lot of both (Iain Banks).

The point of SF has never been primarily prediction. Its a vehicle a lot of writers have used to say whatever they want.

Re:Jennifer Government works for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30186788)

> I see sci-moving into non-technical direction

I, for one, welcome this trend. Sci-fi used to be too scientific and detached from day-to-day reality.
Much better all those crime-scene-whatever series -- all 200, from early in the day to dawn.

Not so much sci-fi but sci-fi publishers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30186304)

I don't think it's so much that Sci-Fi is running out of steam, I'm more thinking that publishers and mainstream media are becoming far more restrictive on what will actually get to the presses.

Re:Not so much sci-fi but sci-fi publishers... (1)

asm2750 (1124425) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186538)

If publishers won't publish a story what is stopping an author from using booksurge or lulu? I'm surprised these two outlets haven't taken off yet for print and e-book media.

Cliche'd to death (5, Insightful)

Eudial (590661) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186306)

The problem is the sci-fi cliches. At some point, there was enough sci-fi for certain elements to become staple.

At that point, writing new sci-fi was a matter of rearranging these cliches into something that appeared to be novel. Unfortunately, you can only do this for so long, before the cliches become exhausted.

Re:Cliche'd to death (5, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186542)

You just described the Syfy Channel. +1 insightful.

I remember when watching Star Trek or Buck Rogers meant exploring new ideas, new cultures, or new technologies. Not anymore. Now modern scifi is mostly about creating a Futuristic Action flick.

Re:Cliche'd to death (2, Insightful)

Eudial (590661) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186948)

The most laughable example of conceptual plagiarism is the space-ships Stargate SG-1. Almost every single technology on those ships has an equivalent in Star Trek TNG.

Though, the real problem is bigger than the clicheification. New science fiction needs new basic science. In the first half of the 20th century, we had a ton of new scientific advances just becoming available in computing, electronics, etc. The latter half of the century was spent mostly refining and implementing theories and techniques that already existed.

The scientific landscape today doesn't really look all that different from the scientific landscape 50 years ago. Until there is some sort of paradigm shift in basic science, there really isn't a whole lot new sci-fi to be written.

PC Pro just needs to read more Sci-Fi (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30186310)

They mentioned Vernor Vinge, but only referenced his earlier work. One of his later stories, Rainbow's End, predicts a ubiquitous Augmented Reality, which we're only starting to see gimmick implementations of now.

We just don't know it yet... (5, Interesting)

Fanglord (447376) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186316)

To use the Neal Stephenson example, what about "The Diamond Age"? It predicts a very different world in the future, based on the widespread adoption of nanotech. I think it's one of those situations where we can't see the forest for the trees...yet.

Re:We just don't know it yet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30186514)

The Diamond Age is actually set in the same universe as Snow Crash, only several decades on. One the characters even mentions being a thrasher in her youth.

Re:We just don't know it yet... (2, Insightful)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186610)

Living in a country where all school children have an XO, all having access to wikipedia, i'd say that root of that history is already made real, or at least, close enough.

Re:We just don't know it yet... (3, Interesting)

samkass (174571) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186664)

Indeed, nanotech often plays prominently in modern sci-fi. Everything from self-assembling structures to epidemiology. In addition, there are many themes that investigate the nature of consciousness and sentience and how that relates to artificial structures (ie. downloading oneself into an artificial construct) and how one might use it to avoid death. In addition, there are various explorations of the intersection of quantum and relativistic phenomenon both on the small scale (Egan et al) and on the large scale (black holes and interstellar travel). Even near-future novels such as Firestar haven't come true yet, since space exploration slowed so dramatically in the last 20 years.

In short, if you're not seeing any new future tech in SF, you're not reading the same stuff I am.

Out of steam? (5, Funny)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186332)

Yeah, that's why everybody's switching to steampunk. Plenty of steam.

Re:Out of steam? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30186370)

Yeah... Alastair Reynolds has a steampunk novel coming out December 1st.

Re:Out of steam? (1)

fabioalcor (1663783) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186486)

I think they ran out of antimatter.

Reality closer to SciFi, SciFi != Fantasy (5, Insightful)

Marble68 (746305) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186336)

I think not.

IMHO, what was once considered SciFi (Tech related) has moved more mainstream and become, in some cases, traditional fiction.

As well, I believe that SciFi authors continue to present not only technically challenging new idea, but moral questions around the use of technology. An era of tech enlightenment forthcoming?

Lastly, I'd offer up that fewer SciFi authors are being published because SciFi is being muddled with Fantasy. I don't know why they're doing it, perhaps that hard SciFi traditionally had a predominately male readership; while fantasy has broader appeal?

I believe we see less innovative SciFi books not because they're not being written, but because they're not being published.

There's less competition in the book world, or at least it seems that way from where I sit. Amazon, B&N, Walmart... I sometimes find hard SciFi at my local supermarket.

When Snow Crash was published, it was a different market.

Re:Reality closer to SciFi, SciFi != Fantasy (1)

Nekomusume (956306) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186454)

They've pretty much always been shelved together, and right now fantasy sells much better than SF.

Re:Reality closer to SciFi, SciFi != Fantasy (1)

Dr. Evil (3501) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186722)

I'm not sure that people are talking about the "Fantasy" bookshelves, but the fact that plots of SciFi toss out realistic concepts of technology, instead just using science to replace magic in fantasy plots. Like Star Trek... where most of the stories were fantasy plots and the implications of technology were mostly glossed over.

I think the unrealistic science is really what makes the difference between the two genres. Fantasy, you don't question that the dragons breathe fire. In Sci-fi, you should question the implications of artificial gravity and how the ships in Star Trek have it all. Ditto for universal translators, massive humanoid predominance, force fields, human command of bridges, predominantly manned exploration, predominantly manned warships, etc.

There are lots of exceptions where Star Trek had some sci-fi plots, like the morality of Data deciding not to be dismantled, or ... I'm sure there's more... they're not very common.

Re:Reality closer to SciFi, SciFi != Fantasy (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30186950)

Reminds me of a discussion I had with a startrek zombie about the ramifications of widespread inertial dampening technology.

The point of inertial dampening is that you exert an energy field to make some random bit of matter have a different acceleration curve than the one it's mass usually implies it should have. (Specifically, it makes this acceleration curve much higher, so that less energy is needed to accelerate it, and conversely, less energy is transferred when it stops suddenly.)

What happens when you focus such a device on.. oh... Say THE SUN?

Guess what! The Gravity VS Fusion energy equilibrium of the star, which determines it's radius, RADICALLY CHANGES, because the particles inside the sun can accelerate faster!

That's right, the bread and butter staple of "Makes you not turn into jelly on the wall" would also make a damn fine doomsday device!

Likewise, artificial gravity generators being widely used without some means of "insulating" the artificial gravity wells would make starships that employ them "Very attractive" to cosmic dust and gas, and would promptly grow a shroud of atmosphere, and accumulate dirt on the hull.

Moreover, the pointmass needed to simulate 1 "earth gravity", with REAL gravity, would be insane! The well you would generate would have deleterious effects on natural gravity in a planetary system. The artificial gravity could tug small moons and asteroids out of orbit, or subtly change the orbital periods of larger, heavily visited bodies over time. ...

Needless to say, the conversation with said zombie did not go over well. :D

Re:Reality closer to SciFi, SciFi != Fantasy (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186594)

>>>what was once considered SciFi (Tech related) has moved more mainstream and become, in some cases, traditional fiction.

Ahhh... like the CBS network:

- CSI
- NCIS
- CIA

Re:Reality closer to SciFi, SciFi != Fantasy (5, Interesting)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186758)

Lastly, I'd offer up that fewer SciFi authors are being published because SciFi is being muddled with Fantasy. I don't know why they're doing it, perhaps that hard SciFi traditionally had a predominately male readership; while fantasy has broader appeal?

I read somewhere, many years ago, that sci-fi is popular in good times, when people in general are looking forward to the future, and fantasy is popular in bad times when people are afraid of the future.

Considering that "fearing the future" has become the norm for most of even the "enlightened" societies, I'd expect that sci-fi would be sinking into obsurity for at least the next generation.

Unfair (1)

symes (835608) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186340)

It is a bit disingenuous to say SciFi has run out of steam because it isn't predicting what will happen in ten years time. And thankfully there's plenty of great SciFi that, I am pleased to say, has not predicted what will happen in ten years time. Admittedly, the genre could use a bit of a refresh but I'm sure even Shakespeare had his more reflective periods.

Re:Unfair (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30186416)

Interesting point.

I bet, that in _every_ creative focus, someone comes along every x years to proclaim the death of the media. Whether it's video games, science fiction, movies, music, etc... Someone always comes along and says:

a. things are not the way that they used to be
b. the way that things used to be is the only way things can be
c. it's all been done before and,
d. therefore, the thing I hold dear is officially dead.

The cool thing about art is this: It doesn't care. It can't care. It's not a living being. It just exists.

I just ignore the heralds of the entertainment apocalypse.

Re:Unfair (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30186492)

I bet, that in _every_ creative focus, someone comes along every x years to proclaim the death of the media.

I predict that in a week from now, there will be a Slashdot article predicting the death of PC gaming. :-)

Re:Unfair (2, Insightful)

WCguru42 (1268530) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186800)

I bet, that in _every_ creative focus, someone comes along every x years to proclaim the death of the media.

I predict that in a week from now, there will be a Slashdot article predicting the death of PC gaming. :-)

And we'll all be around to mod that bad boy Dupe.

Re:Unfair (1)

Lakitu (136170) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186690)

Netcraft confirms it: sci-fi is dying.

Re:Unfair (5, Insightful)

Xiaran (836924) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186816)

It's not just disingenuous it's just just plain wrong. SF has never been about predicting the future. SF is an extremely broad genre but if I had to put it into a sound bite I would say it is about positing a "what if" and writing a story about it(this leave out a bunch of SF subcategories I know)... what if advanced aliens showed up tomorrow. What if we all had computers in our brains. What if we could travel quickly across the galaxy. What if there was an evil dystopic government that monitored our every move. They are all clichés in SF... but the stories written around them are about how human beings react to the changes. SF in a literacy genre that is an obvious reaction to the rapid changes in technology in the last several hundred years. And sometimes there are green slave girls involved.

Sci-fi still fi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30186380)

Show me a flying car and I'll be a bit more inclined to buy this jargon

One word. (0, Redundant)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186400)

Kinda.

influence, or prediction? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30186402)

Science fiction has long inspired real-world technology

I'm not sure about that. I think technology is advancing regardless of science fiction. We would still have space rockets and cell phones without Jules Verne and Star Trek.

Hey! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30186408)

I thought it was spelled SyFy from now on?

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REAL Change (2, Interesting)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186442)

That's because in ten years we will be moving away from technology and into the realm of latent psychic abilities.

If I'm wrong, no one will remember; but, if I'm right, I'm a frickin' genius!

For all the technologies that SciFi imagined and helped create, tehre are thousands more that just didn't happen. So of the thousands upon thousands of SciFi stories being written every year, i think you will be able to find some that accurately predicted the rise in tech. They just may not be the mainstream, big name ones. That is perhaps the difference.

syfy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30186450)

if the cable channel has to rename itself, then ya it's over.

I think this is a false premise (1)

rudy_wayne (414635) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186460)

"the history of sci-fi's influence on real-world technology, from Jules Verne to Snow Crash"

Sci-Fi influencing real world technology? Do you really think we went to the moon or invented the computer because someone wrote a fictional story about it a hundred years earlier? Not hardly.

Re:I think this is a false premise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30186654)

And no one invented a good way to prevent your redundant post, science fiction or real. Oh wait you could just read [slashdot.org] the comments before you post.

Re:I think this is a false premise (4, Informative)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186668)

Yes. Robert Goddard, the father of rocketry, said he was inspired by Jules Verne and other early scientifiction stories.

Re:I think this is a false premise (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186804)

Sometimes a popular sci-fi story makes ground on certain concept to help it being approved by the people that fund projects. Would satellites or so popular if ACClarke didnt wrote about them a lot of years ago? Submarines could had went from small test to the use we are giving them now without Nautilus? What about future space elevators?

Anyway, a good part of science fiction is more about us than about technology, how we will behave or think in a different environment, or take another point of view to our current one. That it could be possible by our current knowledge is a plus, a way to not just throw away all we know because anything could happens as is just fantasy.

90% of everything... (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186462)

90% of everything is crap. It's easy to look back and see the 10% of sci-fi that inspired real-world technology, it's a lot harder to look at the writing today and see how it is affecting things.

Plenty mainstream TV shows (2, Informative)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186472)

Numb3rs, CSIs, all are a lot more of sci-fi than typical TV shows. I noticed Bones, especially, have sci-fi style humor.

Re:Plenty mainstream TV shows (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186766)

CSI has a lot of MovieOS flashy gadgets, I give you that (though I'd break the programmer's fingers for wasting so much computing time on eye candy, every time they look up a fingerprint the system first flashes through a thousand wrong ones, why should they get displayed...), but SciFi?

Re:Plenty mainstream TV shows (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186806)

Hm... does SciFi have to be about futuristic/bogus science?

Re:Plenty mainstream TV shows (1)

WCguru42 (1268530) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186824)

Don't forget 24 with it's magical triangulation, databases of everybody and all those other useful technological advances (that most of the audience believes are 100% real).

For me, SciFi died (1)

Megaweapon (25185) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186478)

they day they dropped MST3K. Bastards...

It's not fortune-telling. (4, Insightful)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186482)

The purpose of SF isn't fortune-telling. As with any commercial, genre fiction, its main purpose is to entertain, and it may also have some secondary purposes like social commentary, examination of philosophical issues, etc.

The huge change in SF since I first started reading it in the 70's is that these days, movie/TV SF is a gigantic, popular commercial enterprise, utterly dwarfing written SF. Also, a lot of the commercial activity in written SF these days revolves around stuff like Star Trek and Star Wars novels, novels written in the Dune universe, etc.; there didn't used to be such a clear division between highbrow and lowbrow SF. Among teenagers, there is much less of a focus nowadays on non-series written SF. If you look at the young adult section in a book store, you'll see very little real SF; you'll mainly see fantasy. I think part of what's going on is that girls seem to buy a lot more books than boys, and they seem (on the average) more interested in fantasy (e.g., the Twilight books) than in core SF.

Another change in the last couple of decades is that distribution channels have changed. You don't see SF magazines and paperbacks on wire-rack shelves in the drugstore any more. As in all of publishing, there has been a tendency for books to go out of print more quickly, so that it's even harder than before for novelists to make a living by writing. You'd be surprised how few of the SF authors whose books you see on the shelves at Barnes and Noble pay the rent by writing. The magazines are also much less influential than they used to be.

Re:It's not fortune-telling. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186684)

The purpose of SF isn't fortune-telling. As with any commercial, genre fiction, its main purpose is to entertain, and it may also have some secondary purposes like social commentary, examination of philosophical issues, etc.

Indeed. And SF's 'ability' to predict the future is based on cherry picking from among (tens of? hundreds of?) thousands of 'predictions' to find the ones that came true - while ignoring those that didn't.

Re:It's not fortune-telling. (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186718)

>>>The purpose of SF isn't fortune-telling.

Ph.D. Isaac Asimov would disagree with you. He viewed science fiction as a source of ideas that could be developed for the real world.

Not enough predictions, try John Scalzi (2, Informative)

Tangential (266113) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186484)

Try reading John Scalzi's "Old Man's War" and ponder his fighting man of the future. Lots of tech futurism in that. If that's not enough, try Ian Douglas's "Inheritance Trilogy" He's got worlds of amazing new technology as well. Lots of nanobots, cloning, quantum power taps, consciousness transfers, etc.. in these books.

Sci-Fi isn't about product-ification (1)

MikeTheGreat (34142) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186510)

TFA is actually pretty interesting, as it mostly re-caps certain sci-fi ideas/novels that have been made into (or made it into) pop culture & various products. It isn't really till the last page of the article that they say that "Since Snow Crash, no novel has had quite the same impact on the computing world, and you might argue that sci-fi and hi-tech are drifting further apart"

FWIW, I think this is the way things are supposed to be - sci-fi is about taking a new, interesting, novel, science-based idea & exploring it; it's not about trying to predict what next year's phone will look like or what computer technology will be driving the market 5 years from now.

Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge (1)

platykurtic (1210910) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186530)

If you're looking for a near-future cool technology book this is my recommendation. It's augmented reality, which is only now beginning to exists in any semi-useful form, taken to the limits. The author is a computer science professor, so most of his technology is written with an idea of what's possible the whole story is very cool. It's definitely a world I could envision coming to be in a few decades

...and talking of predictions (spoiler) (1)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186798)

...concerns about apparently philanthropic plans by big business to put the world's libraries online turning out to be a plot to control access to the world's knowledge?

Ain't gonna happen!

Oh, wait...

At least Google seems to have mastered the art of non-destructive scanning (but best not to give them ideas!)

Is that the goal of sci-fi writers? (1)

knifeyspooney (623953) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186540)

Science fiction may inspire inventors. The technology it depicts, whether or not the author intended it as prediction, may ultimately be invented in the reader's lifetime. One gets a profound feeling when it happens that way!

But good science fiction imagines the effects of advanced technology on the human condition. The inventions it depicts should be theoretically feasible, and the year in which it is set should be appropriate to the level of scientific advancement that would be needed. But verisimilitude is only a tool for telling a good story about people, which is the true metric of any fiction, science- or otherwise.

If the advancements depicted in a sci-fi work never take place, should that disqualify it from greatness? Is Star Trek TNG only any good if the advancements it portrays occur in real life, along the same timeline?

And if a work inspires no one to invent, then so what? What of dystopic sci-fi? Heaven forbid a great science-fiction novel like 1984 inspired anyone to develop the technology it portrays! (Although, in that case, the author was definitely making technological predictions, which happened to come true.)

Peter Watts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30186570)

and the rifter trilogy.

Stories. Really GOOD stories (1)

lkcl (517947) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186576)

the most important thing about sci-fi is not the technology itself, but the stories that use sci-fi blended into the background. the mistake of "Glorifying" technology is more often made by hollywood film directors than it is by sci-fi writers.

so, yes: sci-fi is often predictive of the near future (stephenson, gibson), and comes up with "the goods" but to be honest that's quite a specific genre of sci-fi, leaving out a whole range of books that are absolutely mind-blowing (asimov, reynolds and hamilton to name just three).

Beyond Imagination (1)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186604)

Science is going beyond the ability to imagine. Already we have areas of science so specialized that scientists can not communicate to each other as to the details of their expertise. It becomes difficult for those gifted with writing skills to catch on to the image and potential of these areas and bring them into popular formats such as sci-fi.

Snow Crash? (1)

Bieeanda (961632) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186662)

I think the author of that article's thinking of Neuromancer. The metaverse is nothing more than a reskinned cyberspace, care of William Gibson's old typewriter.

On another note, if you're looking to science fiction as a predictive medium, look deeper than the shiny chrome and blinkenlichten. Technology is a sideline in good sci-fi: it's the cultural commentary that makes the work visionary. Or did people seriously think that Fahrenheit 451 was supposed to presage the development of six-legged robot dogs?

Dr. Who (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186672)

It's been going since 1963, and I'm still entertained. You don't have to be a nerd, it's not overly sentimental, and I can enjoy with my gal.

No (4, Insightful)

wembley fraggle (78346) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186678)

No, it hasn't.

Science fiction isn't about "telling the future", it's about making commentary about the Human Condition, putting together entertaining yarns, looking at what-if scenarios in society. Do you think PKD really believed any of the futuristic technology he talked about (read Ubik for a nice example) was really possible? Who knows - it's just a necessary condition to set up the scenario in which we can see interesting ideas play ouy.

Any quick read of the New Masters of SF (china mieville, ian macdonald, iain m banks, ken mcleod, dan simmons) will show you that the genre is alive, kicking, and more literary than ever before.

Re:No (1)

Hybrid-brain (1478551) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186908)

It's also about politics as well, and how we perceive them as well. Take a look at the new V series. It's set after 9/11 when we've become suspicious of everything different, where we value security, and those that aren't with us, must be destroyed. This new series once again explores the unknown, (and yes it sucks majorly right now because they need a writing staff that's more qualified to do justice,) but at the same time it explores how our ideologies are. Think about this as well, charismatic and "peaceful" beings who want to share with us their tech and heal us. It's also about religion. The old series didn't have a priest who was questioning everything that the V said. That's what makes this series so good, is that it has more depth to it then the original series. Plus the role of Anna, she has a hidden agenda, and while I am a democrat, I can see huge allusions to Obama and his presidential reign. The old series was directed more towards the whole Cold War era, in a time where we didn't know where we were going or what we were doing. In this new series, we have 9/11 and terrorists and sleeper cells.

Re:No (1)

zwei2stein (782480) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186986)

Well, what you mentioned are more of fantasy authors (or, 'new weird'), not really SF there.

You could, however, mention John Scalzi. True new blood, Old Man's War for example shows it.

I agree! (1)

PlantPerson (781437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186680)

Sci-fi has indeed run out of steam! Luckily, science fiction is still quite healthy.

Yep. All the good ideas are used up. Go home. (1)

CFD339 (795926) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186706)

Yep. All the good ideas are used up. Go home.

Damn, I wish I could use mod points on TFA instead of just comments.

I would also add social issues (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186810)

contribute to the decline. SF (often) comes from a techno-utopian world view of unlimited resources and unlimited growth. Present conditions seem to contradict that, and there is a greater awareness of the downside of industrialism. As a consequence, SF of a techno-utopian variety has less credibility.

And before a bunch of techno-utopians get their knickers in a bunch, I'm pointing out DEGREES of things, not some idiotic blinkered 1/0 true/false Bullcrap. Perceptions, whether true or false, are perceptions, and if people are seeing things like flat oil production since 2005, it doesn't take Einstein to figure out we're in deep doo doo.

RS

Gimme a minute (1)

Zixaphir (845917) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186818)

Got four books in the backburner, looking for a publisher. If you keep telling them Sci-Fi is dead, you think they're gonna wanna publish my damn books?

All good sci-fi is... (1)

mikeage (119105) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186828)

lots of fi, minimal sci, except where necessary.

Good sci-fi, like all good literature, is about people, not technology.

Why does sci-fi need to predict a technology? (1)

sabernet (751826) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186832)

Tell me what, exactly, does Foundation realistically predict? It was a retelling of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire in space with funny maths, glowey nuclear bits and, most importantly, damn good writing.

It was entertaining without being preachy or predictive. Not all sci-fi need tell us what we should develop. In my opinion, that's what's causing so much of the crap sci-fi bulk shit I see in bookstores now: They focus too much on showing us this "cool idea for a toy" the author had instead of trying to tell an engaging story.

Do I need to know how the pocket raygun works? No. Will I be entertained just the same if the author states its use like this:

"Blinded by the flash, [protagonist] waits for his eyes to readjust. 'Dammit....' was the only thing he could think to utter while his mind was tackling the sheer whiteness his eyes continued to show him as well as the hot and cold sensations that followed the initial nova. At last, he could make out a hazy image of his nemesis, still wielding the phasegun and still directing its barrel at what had previously been a quite sturdy wall, the edges of of new hole glowing red hot while frost accumulated on the tip of the pistol."

Presumably.

Re:Why does sci-fi need to predict a technology? (1)

sabernet (751826) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186876)

Well, typos notwithstanding...

Re:Why does sci-fi need to predict a technology? (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186980)

The concept of psycohistory maybe? predicting with large groups of people will probably do? Is more plausible now than when was written? That concept existed before, and in that extent?

Anyway, replaying history in future terms gives another meaning to the phrase "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"

No (1)

noir_lord (1682200) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186842)

No. Iain M Banks and Neal Asher among others are writing good thought provoking and enjoyable books.

Yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30186888)

But my cock will never run out of cum.

Today's sci-fi is not sci-fi (1)

Sleepy (4551) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186892)

Sci-fi was attacked from all sides by mega-movie plexes, formulamatic (committee) design headed by investors, and the cult of Scientology.

In short, sci-fi is NOT made for geeks anymore.. it's made for mainstream teenagers and stupid parents who couldn't tell you the difference between "fusion" and "fission".
They're the only ones who don't object to Will Smith being in what should be sci-fi classics, dumbed down to the Super-Size McDonald's drive through crowd.

Good sci-fi (movies anyway) tapered off in the late 80's.

If we're talking sci-fi games, Fallout (even the remake) have stayed true to their roots.

Books? I haven't come across any modern sci-fi I liked. I'm a stranger in a strange land...

Fuel (1)

dandart (1274360) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186894)

Your sci-fi still runs on steam? Mine runs on antimatter!

The Future has Arrived, why bother inventing one? (2, Insightful)

cutecub (136606) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186926)

To an author, I think the attraction of Science Fiction is that it allows them to put a veneer of plausibility on settings which would otherwise be too fantastic to be credible. This allows them the freedom to explore ideas or situations which couldn't possibly occur if set in "the real world."

But the current world has become sufficiently complex and interesting that writers such as William Gibson and Margaret Attwood no longer need to set their stories in some near-future dystopia - our current dystopia is sufficient to tell the stories they want to tell.

Gibson's last few books have been set in, effectively, the present day. There's no need for him to go to 2030 or beyond to explore the idea of immersive, ubiquitous computing and communication: we all have smart-phones in 2009. Everyone I see on the streets of San Francisco is walking around in a trance, like they're jacked into Cyberspace.

There's no need for Margaret Attwood to set The Handmaiden's Tail in 2195, there's plenty of opportunity to explore theocracy and coercive reproduction in the crazy, polluted and Balkanized world of the present day.

I think that Science Fiction writers who rely on the old cliches of Warp-drive and alien worlds simply aren't trying hard enough.

21st Century Earth IS an alien world... all you have to do is pay attention.

-Sean

Bogged down with realism. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30186938)

When I read 50's and 60's sci fi it seems a lot more experimental and weird than most of today's.
The concepts were so far from being possible that the writers don't seem to bother so much with explanations, or tying the plot to a scientific theory.

I think the problem today is that science is so capable, that writers have to spend half their time making explanations or excuses to fit in with what is 'possible'. So you end up with pages of roughly scientific explanations which are still mumbo jumbo in the end anyway.

Sci fi writers should forget about realism so much, as that just bogs down the plot, looks dated very quickly, and in the end is almost always impossible fantasy anyway. I've got in the habit of skipping most of the explanations with recent sci fi.

With the older sci fi if someone said there was a gaseous intelligence shaped like a sphere you just accepted it. Adding pages of explanation about quantum circuitry and dio-foamic nano modules does not improve the book or the concepts one whit.

The problem is we can see the future (1)

realmolo (574068) | more than 4 years ago | (#30186942)

First of all, the idea that science-fiction is about predicting advances in technology is retarded.

Secondly, at this stage in human's technological development, we kind of know what the next step is, and that step is artificial intelligence. And the step after that is unknowable. Vernor Vinge has lots to say about this.

 

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