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Spider Robinson And The State Of Science Fiction

simoniker posted about 11 years ago | from the many-legs-and-many-opinions dept.

Sci-Fi 854

pcb writes "There is a rather decent rant in today's Globe & Mail from Spider Robinson (of the Callahan series fame) regarding the dismal state of science fiction, in which he laments that the future is not what it used to be. While attending Torcon 3, the 61st World SF Convention, he notes that SF readers today seem to prefer the Tolkienesque fantasies of some forgotten past, rather than the forward-looking works of science and space travel that used to dominate the genre. Are SF stories from authors like Heinlein, Clarke or Asimov irrelevant today, as people look into the past to dream rather than the future? Robinson asks: 'Why are our imaginations retreating from science and space, and into fantasy?'"

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Reality vs. Fantasy (5, Insightful)

RobertB-DC (622190) | about 11 years ago | (#6900680)

Robinson asks: 'Why are our imaginations retreating from science and space, and into fantasy?'

I was hoping that the article would bring up the obvious answer, but it didn't quite reach it. The essence of fiction is that it is not real, and "science fiction" is supposed to take the idea a step further -- beyond real, if you like. To the unreachable, beyond what we consider possible.

But in this century, what is beyond possible? Exploring the planets? Been there, done that, got pictures. Exploring other star systems? Totally possible, but the centuries-long timescale makes it simply boring. Time travel? Everybody knows that you'll just end up meeting the Borg before you should, or something.

In other words, perhaps science fiction is suffering from too much science!

On the other hand, fantasy worlds like Tolkien's are completely unreachable, unimaginable in reality. Even given billions of dollars, NASA could not create a race of half-orcs in a deep trench (strategically located below a large dam).

Science is possible... fantasy is impossible. Perhaps that's the problem.

Re:Reality vs. Fantasy (1)

gibbled (215234) | about 11 years ago | (#6900736)

And Spider always wears a cool hat at Vcon!

Research vs not researching (2, Insightful)

Mycroft_514 (701676) | about 11 years ago | (#6900778)

>I was hoping that the article would bring up the obvious answer, but it didn't quite reach it. The essence of fiction is that it is not real, and "science fiction" is supposed to take the idea a step further -- beyond real, if you like. To the unreachable, beyond what we consider possible.

Actually, today's author doesn't want to bother to research what science already understands as background for the story. By going with fantasy (swords and sorcery) they avoid all that work, and still get paid the same.

And you get to write the same plot over and over again. "Rescue the Prince(ss) from the GREAT EVIL".

Science Fiction Self Defeating (4, Interesting)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | about 11 years ago | (#6900781)

I think you hid the nail on the head. How many Sci-Fi stories end up concluding with the low-tech savages beat out the high-tech conquerors? How often is a supercomputer or a golemesque form of life the primary plot device for a story? How often are SF novel filled with popsicle stick characters that are flat compared to the technology the author is describing.

It's a reflection of taste that we are moving from the tech driven SF genre into the character driven fantasy world. At least in fantasy, they aren't trying to explain HOW the magic works. They simply use it to get around a peculiar problem, or to leverage the abilities of the protagonist against an otherwise overwhelming foe.

Damn it. I'm starting to sound like Campbell.

Re:Reality vs. Fantasy (5, Insightful)

rikrebel (132912) | about 11 years ago | (#6900790)


I take a different opinion.

Space travel as discussed in science fiction has become something that we no longer hope for in our lifetimes. This was not the case 50 years ago, we thought we would be traveling the stars! Now we know better.

Perhaps this is people reaction to that. Perhaps if people are to be relegated to remote dreams they like the more romantic notions of elves and wizards.

2c.

Re:Reality vs. Fantasy (2, Interesting)

letxa2000 (215841) | about 11 years ago | (#6900847)

Science is possible... fantasy is impossible. Perhaps that's the problem.

That's obviously it. Science fiction used to be fantasy, an esape from reality. Now much science fiction is, arguably, just looking 25, 50, or 100 years ahead of our technological capabilities. It's not that much of an escape from reality... it almost forces you to think where reality is going.

That said, for the most part I've always hated fantasy. Popular stuff like LOTR, Harry Potter. It just rubs me the wrong way. More Harry Potter than LOTR, but they both just sort of bother me. I need *some* link to reality to really get into a story--completely suspending my brain for a movie like LOTR or Harry Potter just doesn't work.

But based on ticket sales I can see I'm in the minoriry.

Re:Reality vs. Fantasy (4, Interesting)

cK-Gunslinger (443452) | about 11 years ago | (#6900849)

I think you hit it exactly. The "future" has become mundane. People in the 50s dreamed of robots in our everyday lives. And now we have them, just not *exactly* how they envisioned them. Same with space travel and exploration.

I believe that we will put a human on Mars and colonize the moon/planets. Not in my lifetime, probably, but eventually. Why imagine it? On the other hand, I doubt if any human will roam the countryside with his elf companion, talking to trees and hunting dragons and wizards. Ever.

On a different topic, I must admit that I *love* SK's Dark Tower series (check the nick.) It's got an interesting blend of old, modern, and future. There's something intriguing about chasing a wizard with your heroin-addicted friend, while fighting nuclear-powered giant robots with your sandlewood six-shooters. (And that description is sure to scare any non-readers away for good, yet get a chuckle from some fans. =)

Re:Reality vs. Fantasy (1)

Alan Partridge (516639) | about 11 years ago | (#6900863)

"Robinson asks: 'Why are our imaginations retreating from science and space, and into fantasy?'"

His might be, mine sure as hell isn't. You don't HAVE TO read new books if they're written by idiots, do you?

Re:Reality vs. Fantasy (3, Insightful)

smallpaul (65919) | about 11 years ago | (#6900864)

I was going to posit the exact opposite. If you look at most Science Fiction from the 50s or 60s, you see that people believed that technology would improve much more quickly than it did. Interstellar travel was just a few years away. All someone had to do was invent the proton drive or the warp core or whatever. But we are not really much closer to inventing those things than they were in the 50s or 60s. And we've had time for the implications of the theory of relativety to sink in. Unless we find these potentially impossible devices we'll NEVER be able to zip around the universe the way Captain Kirk did. And even boring old slower-than-light space travel is much harder than we expected. At the same time...we've had big problems with robotics and AI. We seemed to be making such great progress in the Alice and Lisp days but how much closer are we to something that could pass the Turing test? And then we invented cyberspace and it turned out to be just another advertisement-infested chat line (and not very spatial at all). And after decades of listening carefully for ET, some are starting to believe that either he isn't out there or he is as stuck on some isolated piece of rock as we are. Maybe he's a million years ahead of us in technology but hasn't found a practical way to visit other planets in a reasonable portio of his lifespan.

I think people are discouraged from dreaming about futures that seem to never arrive when we expect them to.

Re:Reality vs. Fantasy (2, Interesting)

Damn_Canuck (702128) | about 11 years ago | (#6900868)

"...perhaps science fiction is suffering from too much science!"
This is a very good possibility, but it is not always the case. A point disproving this: "The Neanderthal Parallax" trilogy written by Robert J. Sawyer. The whole point is that science works everywhere,not just in our world.

The main plotline is in two very different worlds, with different scientific technologies and begs the question: would our science be science fiction to these people?

First, we have "our" reality, which takes place in "our" present, more or less, not the distant future. It takes place in a University-run science lab. The other reality is in a parallel Earth, where neanderthals remained dominant and did not evolve into homo sapiens, but managed to gain the ability to reason and grow scientifically. A gateway opens between the worlds, and a neanderthal is thrust into our world.

Yes, it is based on scientific theory and principles, but the idea is interesting. I think this series proves that science fiction does not always have to suffer from too much science. I think that many sci-fi authors just need to not use all the techno-gadgetry a la Star Trek as the main basis of their stories, and instead deal with the human/alien aspect of the characters in telling a story. (Oh, in case anyone was wondering, the 3 books are Hominids and Humans, both out in paperback, and Hybrids, which is now out in hardcover.)

STINKY STINKY!!! (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6900681)

If you think that's bad, you should see the state of science-fiction fans! PEEEEEE-U!

Re:STINKY STINKY!!! (1)

srmalloy (263556) | about 11 years ago | (#6900851)

If you think that's bad, you should see the state of science-fiction fans! PEEEEEE-U!

Unfortunately, 'fench' (a portmanteau word merging 'fen', the fannish plural of 'fan', and 'stench') has been with us for decades; it's not a recent change.

"Ahh, the heady air of a con." "Euuw. What's that stench?" "Smells like... gamers."
-- Frank Cho, "Liberty Meadows [comics.com] "

Why? (4, Insightful)

elmegil (12001) | about 11 years ago | (#6900682)

Maybe because despite repeated claims to be ending a series, authors continue to go back to mine tired ideas when nothing else is making them money?

I Blame Television (1)

ghoul (157158) | about 11 years ago | (#6900907)

I think the problem is the authors are more concerned abt creating series which thay can then sell to make a show ;than abt telling a story. e.g Asimovs Foundation series started out as a series of short stories each one powerfull in itself. Only later did it become one series.

On the other hand authors like David Webber [davidweber.net] try from the start to make each story a universe in which they(or their assistants) can keep writing endless series (serii?). (On the positive side Weber does write abt the Future though all his futures have the US as the victor ;))

This problem is common to both novels written with an aim at the television market as well as those serialized on websites like Webscriptions [webscriptions.net]

fp! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6900687)

suck it

Technophobia (5, Interesting)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | about 11 years ago | (#6900696)

The thing to remember back in Heinlien and Asimov's time was that the sky was the limit. In the following decades we have seen the problems of pure technological solutions: Pollution, social unrest, empty lives filled with useless junk.

Tolkien had very anti-technology undertones. He constantly refered to the dark clouds of Mordor, the decimation of the forests in Eisengard. That strikes a note with the post-hippie kids of the 70's and 80's.

Re:Technophobia (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6900752)

Let me also point out that the "golden age" of Sci-FI was pulp. Pulp=crap. There is very little of what Bear, Robinson, and co think of as "great sci-fi" that is actually readable.

Re:Technophobia (1)

sTalking_Goat (670565) | about 11 years ago | (#6900905)

pulp = equals the type of paper these magazines/books were printed on in the 50's if I remember correctly.

How you equate pulp to crap is beyond me...

Re:Technophobia (1)

sterno (16320) | about 11 years ago | (#6900836)

In science fiction there have consistently been consideration of the negative consequences of technology. Arguably we've been better prepared for what we have seen in the way of negative consequences because of science fiction. Personally I find much of science fiction interesting because it shows a future and how it has an effect on people, both good and bad.

Mostly I think this is a cyclical thing. Culturally we were deeply into a science-fiction rut, and now we are moving into a fantasy rut. The LOTR movies played no small part in this, but also you can see the trend in MMORPG's which are mostly fantasy genres.

Jack Vance! (4, Informative)

Eric_Cartman_South_P (594330) | about 11 years ago | (#6900700)

Do yourself a favor and read the Demon Princes books (5 in all) and the Planet of Adventure series (4 books in all).

UNBELIEVABLE! Anyone who has read Vance's works, please feel free to tell me your favs as I look forward to reading many more, as I've just finished the last of the aforementioned books. I'll give you a million SVU and a bag of Purples for your efforts! :)

Re:Jack Vance! (1)

panda (10044) | about 11 years ago | (#6900827)

I've enjoyed most everything I've read by Vance. For a more crebral kick try his Languages of Pao.

Re:Jack Vance! (1)

Anonymous Cow herd (2036) | about 11 years ago | (#6900841)

Ooh ooh! Dying Earth series are a great read, if you like Vance, as are the Ecce and Old Earth set. I find though, that where Vance really shines is in his short stories.

Re:Jack Vance! (1)

Gr33nNight (679837) | about 11 years ago | (#6900853)

UNBELIEVABLE!

Geez, reading that reminds me of the movie The Princess Bride where one of the characters would always go 'INCONVIEVABLE!' when anything happened that he didnt like.

Just very amusing.

Vance! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6900866)

Do yourself a favor and read his entire collection [vanceintegral.com] not just the non-OOP ones.

ok fine so right now I only have half of his total works, the second half will not ship until next year.

Vance writes forward-looking SF (but please do not ever call him a SF writer, he hates that!) as well as beautiful detailed fantasy, not to mention some mysteries and verse on the side.

Re:Jack Vance! (1)

SQL Error (16383) | about 11 years ago | (#6900891)

Jack Vance, eh?

The Dying Earth (fantasy, pretty much) is a favourite of mine. But I don't think there's any bad Vance. There's a lot of out-of-print Vance, but no bad Vance.

Vernor Vinge (3, Insightful)

wa1hco (37574) | about 11 years ago | (#6900702)

A Fire Upon The Deep
A Deepness in the Sky

That's all that needs saying.

Re:Vernor Vinge (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 11 years ago | (#6900786)

No, there's something else that needs saying. Those books are very nearly, but not quite, completely unlike readable fiction.

I'm sure there are great, majestic, sweeping ideas in there, but the undefined jargon and lack of anything like sympathetic characters relegates these books to an audience of people that want to read between the lines and see content that isn't actually on the page.

It's all about the chicks (2, Funny)

ulbador (541826) | about 11 years ago | (#6900703)

There are only so many ways you can fly around in a starship going back and forward in time and mating with green aliens. Technology is no where near as fun as magic and elf chicks

Re:It's all about the chicks (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6900805)

No, no, no. You don't mate with the green ones. They're not ripe yet.

'Why are our imaginations retreating ? (3, Insightful)

civilengineer (669209) | about 11 years ago | (#6900707)

'Why are our imaginations retreating from science and space, and into fantasy?'

Did you watch "the matrix"?

STATE OF THE WORLD (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6900708)

Infested with sand niggers. What a disgrace.

Re:STATE OF THE WORLD (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6900798)

w3rd.

We see it all the time. (3, Interesting)

grub (11606) | about 11 years ago | (#6900715)


Compared to the earlier-mid parts of the 20th century, we see science all around us. Medical breakthroughs, technological innovations, etc.

We used to have to wait decades for great discoveries. Now they theorize and prove within short years. Fantasy brings people into a world that can't exist. Sci-Fi stories may one day be true and aren't as escapist.

Why? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6900718)

Liv Tyler.

Next question?

i think i have a good idea (1)

VAXGeek (3443) | about 11 years ago | (#6900719)

Maybe it is because Liv Tyler is a lot hotter than whoever plays Dave Bowman.

Re:i think i have a good idea (1)

s20451 (410424) | about 11 years ago | (#6900912)

I'll take Jeri Ryan (seven of nine) or Jolene Blalock (that Vulcan hottie on Enterprise) any day over Liv Tyler.

LOTR and HP did it! (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6900720)

Robinson asks: 'Why are our imaginations retreating from science and space, and into fantasy?'

Well, I guess that's because of the big hype around the Lord Of The Rings and Harry Potter. Before LOTR I never saw a fantasy movie, however, after seeing LOTR, I'm looking forward to see the next episode. The same goes for Harry Potter.

Bush Fucked Up The World -- People Escape to Fant. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6900733)

Why are our imaginations retreating from science and space, and into fantasy?

Because Bush completely fucked up the world and has rendered the geopolitical order more unstable than at any time in history. People know intrinsically they are fucked, due to Bush's policies, and so are retreating into fantasy land to have a feeling of solace.

Re:Bush Fucked Up The World -- People Escape to Fa (-1, Offtopic)

reformhead (17180) | about 11 years ago | (#6900767)

I see. It was BUSH that flew the planes into the WTC and the Pentagon. BUSH blew up embassies in Africa and the USS Cole in Yemen. BUSH tried the WTC in 1993.

Tool.

YOU REALLY ARE A COMPLETE FUCKING MORON!! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6900787)

I don't know what else to add.

Often wondered this... (1, Interesting)

Kedisar (705040) | about 11 years ago | (#6900734)

I actually like sci-fi alot better when it, at least, slightly adheres to the laws of science. Stupid stuff like made-up elements and lasers that don't obey the laws of light do grate on my nerves.
Recently watched the Cowboy Bebop movie, and I was actually surprised that it was almost 100% possible. I won't spoil the plot... but I finally was glad that I wasn't watching some dumb thing about "norpisum coated armored skeletons with GDH3829K-#7 laser blaster rifles that look like flamethrowers!"
And if this is all irrelevant, it's because I didn't RTFA.
Spellchecked with OOo!

Re:Often wondered this... (0)

Kedisar (705040) | about 11 years ago | (#6900893)

God damnit... stupid italics tags. =>_o= Meh. Watch the pretty carma burrrrrn in a puff of blue smoke.

My favorites (2, Interesting)

nnnneedles (216864) | about 11 years ago | (#6900741)

I love sci-fi fantasy, where you have a completely different universe with some sci-fi and some fantasy aspects (i.e. magic).

Dune fits into this, as does Star Wars..

There are other great books as well, although I can't really remember their names.

Any tips?

Re:My favorites (2, Informative)

slashBastard (256796) | about 11 years ago | (#6900844)

Lot's of those books by Ian M Banks are very good new sci-fi. The whole universe he creates is new and well worth a read....'Consider Phlebas', 'Player of Games' and 'Look to Windward' to name but three.

Re:My favorites (1)

Anonymous Cow herd (2036) | about 11 years ago | (#6900886)

I noticed you didn't mention "Excession" :-P

Re:My favorites (1)

starfurynz (676822) | about 11 years ago | (#6900885)

Dune Dnue: Messiah God Emporer of Dune Heretics of Dune Chapterhouse: Dune None of the prequels

PAY ATTENTION TO MEEEEEE!!!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6900745)

YOU FUCKERZ! I hate every last one of you butt smoking bukkake slurping mother fucking faggortz. You are simply out of your league when you try to aspire to being as 31337 as I am. If anyone mods this down, you will forever be a pussy who won't get any action for individuals of your desired sexual preference. So why don't you just shut the fuck up and die? Don't you fucking dare to mod me down!!!

Now onto the serious but admitedly off topic stuff:

Why is it that when someone posts something like I just did above, the immediate knee-jerk reaction of moderators is to mod it down instead of responding to it? Sure, it's off-topic, but it does warrant some kind of response. After all the whole idea of "please don't feed the trolls" is just ludicrous! Sometimes, by responding to well crafted trolls like the one above, it's possible to get some very interesting reactions out of people and find out a little bit more about ourselves as a community. The Slashdot community is slowly having the life extinguished from it by moderators who do their best to "sanitize" Slashdot into some kind of boring web publication instead of what it really excels at: being a web community.

The thing that has irked me the most since I've been a Slashdot reader (since 1997) is that Slashdot has become less humorous and obscure. What I mean by obscure is the brand of humor, not the notoriety of Slashdot. This is a sad thing since one of the most attractive features of Slashdot used to be that it was a community of people who were just "slightly off" from the rest of society. The people who have become members as of late, are not that brand of person and definitely should not dictate the way that Slashdot is run. In fact, I would aruge that the original "slightly off" members should be the ones who dictate how the new members interact with the site. After all, this is OUR site. Not the AOHell, MSN, Microsoftian "computer know it all" masses that have been polluting the culture since the rise of the dotbombs. Face it, if you can't deal with a CLI and you got your first computer post-1980, then you don't belong on Slashdot.

Now... the challenge:

Who will respond to this valliant post that dares to question the current status quo of Slashdot which, frankly, sucks? I want intelligent responses. Not just stupid "fuck off" or "I AM SHITTING CORN IN YOUR FORESKIN" types of responses. No Goatse responses either. (Although we must all hail the power of the Giver and the Receiver).

Re:PAY ATTENTION TO MEEEEEE!!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6900812)

I can imagine a Beowulf cluster of your posts. Does that help?

have to look for it (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6900753)

yeah, stephenson's gone to historical fiction and simmons is retreading greek mythology :D greg egan's putting out good work tho!

Re:have to look for it (4, Insightful)

denubis (105145) | about 11 years ago | (#6900857)

Ah. Why does science-fiction have to happen in the future? I have no doubt that the Baroque cycle will be sci-fi esque, just like cryptonomicon. The best example of this, however, is Drake's Belisarius series. Set in Rome, it's a really fun look at what the Romans would have been like if they were accelerated technologically. (And AFAIK, at least the first two books are available from the Baen free library, which is just wonderful.)

Sci-fi, as others have stated, is a state of mind. Stephenson's Diamond age is a good example of this. Yes, it has nanotech, but the main focus of the book is on the culutral implications of technology -- which is why it is just a great read, if you want military sci-fi, Ringo's works are quite fun, as well as Weber's. ::Shrug:: A genre is how you define it. If you ask a healthy and diverse sampling of people to pigeonhole a sum of books, I can almost guarentee that each persons' definition of a genre will differ to a greater or lesser degree with other people's.

Aruging semantics makes for such fun.

absolutely no proof, but maybe bad TV (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6900756)

there's been so many bad sci-fi shows on TV that maybe the audience in general feels sci-fi has little to offer. If you look at the latest crop of Sci-fi shows on TV, most of them suck. There was one good show on Showtime called Odyssey 5, but showtime cancelled the show. It might be a chicken and the egg problem, but there does seem to be a pattern.

Re:absolutely no proof, but maybe bad TV (1)

Junks Jerzey (54586) | about 11 years ago | (#6900894)

there's been so many bad sci-fi shows on TV that maybe the audience in general feels sci-fi has little to offer. If you look at the latest crop of Sci-fi shows on TV, most of them suck. There was one good show on Showtime called Odyssey 5, but showtime cancelled the show. It might be a chicken and the egg problem, but there does seem to be a pattern.

Then it wouldn't be a new problem, though (if indeed there is a problem at all). Bad SF TV shows go back to the early 1960s.

He's wrong (5, Interesting)

Argyle (25623) | about 11 years ago | (#6900760)

The traditional Sci-Fi of rocket ships, blaster guns, and aliens may be on decline, but there many new sci-fi (not fantasy) books coming out all the time.

The focus of much of the Sci-Fi these days is on the relationship of the technology to society and the long term effects of the technology on the path of humanity.

Take a look at Vernor Vinge, John Varley, John Wright, Cory Doctorow, John Barnes, Bruce Sterling, Ken MacLeod, and Dan Simmons if you are interested in some recent sci-fi. No elves or magic swords there.

Just because it's not 60s style, libertarian - free love stuff of the past doesn't mean it's not sci-fi.

Re:He's wrong (4, Insightful)

Indomitus (578) | about 11 years ago | (#6900881)

I think the point is that those authors you list aren't selling very many books, which is a good estimate of the popularity of their writing (yes I know Cory's book is freely downloadable). What's selling is Star Trek and fantasy. Even the big 'space opera' books that are selling well now are arguably more influenced by Fantasy than science fiction. The Big Trends in sci-fi just aren't looking forward the way they used to. And of the ones that are looking forward, most of them are horribly bound up in jargin and technobabble and lose touch with what made science fiction good in the first place, a sense of humanity.

Dream of a better day... (2, Insightful)

Duncan3 (10537) | about 11 years ago | (#6900761)

Well that's not hard to figure out, people want to dream of better happier times.

To a greater degree, that is a fantasy past when times were simple and there was wonder in the universe.

Today the future is gloomy, assuming you will even have a job in the future, and space is empty and far away - no you can't go faster then light, so no space for you!. Noone has to wonder about anything at all, the answers to life the universe and everything are a google search away.

The easter bunny, santa clause, and the american dream are all R.I.P.

Re:Dream of a better day... (4, Interesting)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | about 11 years ago | (#6900856)

Part of it is about economic cycles.

We're in a recession. During recessionary periods, nostalgic fantasy dominates the cultural landscape. It was true in the 70's, it was true in the early 90's, and it's true now. During boom cycles, "the future is now" optimism (or "the world is changing too fast" pessimism) has a lot more energy.

Also, the sense of public investment in the future is weaker. The age of space travel as a public-sector funded universal aspiration has been eclipsed by the corporate "if it ain't profitable within 3 years, it's not worth doing" attitude of the present day. There's a growing sense that even if The Future comes, most of us won't be able to afford it.

Re:Dream of a better day... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6900925)

A lot of good sci-fi was written during the depression and WWII.

Three words: Lois McMaster Bujold (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6900770)

she publishes her Sci-fi at Baen.. books available eltectronically through http://www.webscription.net/ with no DRM!

a sample available at.. http://www.baen.com/library/1011250002/1011250002. htm

it's a short story without the space battle-cruisers.. but the rest of her stuff has 'em.. and so much more.

--iamnotayam

Re:Three words: Lois McMaster Bujold (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6900898)

Fucking lame and unrealistic. That is not going to happen. I only read the first couple of paragraphs, but in the future people will not speak with British accents, not even the Brits, and they will not call each other "Lord." So fag off and go audition for a place in one of those "lighting bolt! lighting bolt!" films.

As an sf buyer... (1)

borg389 (649912) | about 11 years ago | (#6900773)

I find there is a distinct lack of good science fiction. I buy both fantasy and hard SF. The last really good sf I found was John Barnes' TimeLine Wars with "Patton's Spaceship", "Washington's Dirigible", and "Caesar's Bicycle". Most of the rest seem to be largely space opera. I don't mind space opera, but I don't want to buy sf to have the sf merely the background to a soap opera. I don't care for some of these supposedly sf books where the protagonist merely travels to another planet to find out why his girlfriend/princess no longer likes him.

Re:As an sf buyer... (1)

borg389 (649912) | about 11 years ago | (#6900799)

I forgot to mention that I still buy older sf books too. The older stuff is still a great read.

morons 'future' not what we were hoping for? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6900774)

that's right, fact is much scarier than fiction, when dealing with corepirate nazis/the walking dead.

there is plenty of future left.

this works on several (more than 3) dimensions.

it's also free, & available immediately to you/all of US.

as you can maybe already see, yOUR survival/success is not the least bit dependent on the gadgets of the greed/fear based corepirate nazis, & their phonIE ?pr? ?firm? buyassed /.puppets.

consult with/trust in yOUR creator. more breathing. vote with yOUR wallet (somtimes that means not buying anything, a notion previously unmentioned buy the greed/fear/war mongers). seek others of non-aggressive/positive behaviours/intentions. stop wasting anything/being frivolous. that's the spirit.

investigate the newclear power plan. J. Public et AL has yet to become involved in open/honest 'net communications/commerce in a meaningful way. that's mostly due to the MiSinformation suppLIEd buy phonIE ?pr? ?firm?/stock markup FraUD execrable, etc...

truth is, there's no better/more affordable/effective way that we know of, for J. to reach other J.'s &/or their respective markets.

the overbullowned greed/fear based phonIE marketeers are self eliminating by their owned greed/fear/ego based evile MiSintentions. they must deny the existence of the power that is dissolving their ability to continue their self-centered evile behaviours.

as the lights continue to come up, you'll see what we mean. meanwhile, there are plenty of challenges, not the least of which is the planet/population rescue (from the corepirate nazi/walking dead contingent) initiative.

EVERYTHING is going to change, despite the lameNT of the evile wons. you can bet your .asp on that. when the lights come up, there'll be no going back, & no where to hide.

we weren't planted here to facilitate/perpetuate the excesses of a handful of Godless felons. you already know that? yOUR ONLY purpose here is to help one another. any other pretense is totally false.

pay attention (to yOUR environment, for example). that's quite affordable, & leads to insights on preserving life as it should/could/will be again. everything's ALL about yOUR motives.

take care, we're here for you.

Lord of the rings (1)

rf0 (159958) | about 11 years ago | (#6900783)

Prehaps it mightbe with the success or LOTR people are becoming more interested and with the general level of recent SCI-FI films (which IHMO is a bit below par) they are looking for something decent.

There are only so many science base scenarios you can have. Either aliens, end of the world or robots. Its a bit of a generalisation but with fanstasy you can create anything your imagination can concieve

Just my 0.02
Rus

Re:Lord of the rings (1)

interstellar_donkey (200782) | about 11 years ago | (#6900892)

I was thinking something along the same lines. Just about anything you can think of in the world of science fiction has been done, usually much better then you can. The genre has been all but exausted in terms of ideas.

Fantasy, on the other hand is still a relitivly unexplored genre. Theres simply more avanues availble to explore to the creative writer.

Re:Lord of the rings (1)

stratjakt (596332) | about 11 years ago | (#6900900)

And in sci-fi, readers start getting bitchy because the hydrogen drive system in my starship defy's physics. Thus, my book sucks and it's bad sci-fi. But noone bats an eye when Harry Potter flys around on a broomstick.

It's escapism, people want to read about a world that doesnt and will never exist. Video games, too. As a rule, I prefer magic spells and dragons to "realistic" spaceflight sims.

Spider Robinson? Science Fiction?????? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6900785)

Where does this runny-cheese fake science fiction author get off criticizing the state of science fiction? His Callahan's Crosstime Saloon Smurf stories did FAR more damage than anything he can point to today. Even his "harder" fiction is more softcore pornography than SF.

Stephen Baxter. Greg Bear. Neal Stephenson.

What a dick.

Ideas (4, Insightful)

nuggz (69912) | about 11 years ago | (#6900792)

Funny, I rarely found the science part of science fiction interesting.

I find the ideas that the author has are the intriguing people.

Heinlein in "The moon is a Harsh Mistress" exposed me to many ideas I've never thought of before. It also provides a stark contrast to Lord of the Flies and the nature of man.
The Forever war was a blast, what is this world coming to?
Enders game, interesting solutions, and some of the hows. Starship troopers had some interesting political ideas.
Lifeline was yet another interesting expression of a though, and reflection on change.

FWIW Tolkein is just as much about politics and psychology and history of the day as much as any good sci-fi story.

For me, at least... (2, Funny)

GoofyBoy (44399) | about 11 years ago | (#6900797)


They were wrong about flying cars by the year 2000. Once bitten, twice shy. :)

Why the downturn (1)

C. Alan (623148) | about 11 years ago | (#6900800)

Perhaps it has to do with the popular media recient portrayal of science not as a good thing, but as somethin that will turn on us as a species. When was the last time you turned on the alphabet soup networks, and saw science presented in a positive light?

last original (non-franchise) Sci-Fi work you read (1)

ACK!! (10229) | about 11 years ago | (#6900802)

What was it?

What was the last real original non-franchise piece of Sci-Fi you took up?

In an age of nano-technology and an interconnected networked world, I thought that people like Gibson and Stephenson were the real deal answers to men like Asimoz and Bradbury.

Was I so wrong?

space legos (2, Funny)

kisrael (134664) | about 11 years ago | (#6900804)

You know, this reminds me of why I always preferred space Legos to the other series; we KNOW that in the current day, cars and trucks and houses and what not weren't covered with little dots, same with castles and pirates and all of that; but the future...the FUTURE...those little dots might be what keeps it all together!

Actually, that kind of applies to why I liked scifi over fantasy in general.

Steampunk is an interesting crossover genre, I jsut discovere Steam Trek [steam-trek.com] , a mapping of Star Trek onto the "what if the Victorians got space travel" theme.

"The future" as a recent concept (5, Insightful)

pubjames (468013) | about 11 years ago | (#6900807)


If we go back in time say 500 years, things didn't really change all that much from one generation to the next and so there was no concept of "the future" as we have it today. Imaginary images often revolved around religous "places" such as heaven or hell.

In the golden age of science fiction writing, which for most people I think is the 50's and 60's, in the future amazing things seemed possible and there was am optimism that things like space travel, flying cars, robots etc. might actually happen for ordinary people, perhaps even within the lifetime of the young people that read the fiction.

I think we're a bit more cynical nowadays, and thus the future doesn't seem so exciting. We've learnt that things don't change as fast as we would like them to, and the actual changes are mostly quite dull.

Imagine if a 50's science fiction writer had thought of the web. A story about buying a book on Amazon from your cubicle at work (most peoples reality today) somehow doesn't seem as exciting as flying to another planet with a cheeky robot.

Ideas... (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Cow herd (2036) | about 11 years ago | (#6900809)

I went to a presentation/speaking appointment by Terry Goodkind a few weeks ago, and he mentioned something on the subject. I won't get into his whole philosophical thing here, but he thought that the reason that sci-fi had taken a rear seat to fantasy was "moral clarity". 99% of fantasy out there deals with good vs evil, on a very basic level, whereas sci-fi tends not to as much. It may make social commentary, or pose interesting problems, but very rarely in sci-fi is there an archetypal hero, and that this is something that people really crave in today's society... a person (even if they're fictional) that a reader can admire, and be inspired by.

Nitpicking and ... (1)

Otter (3800) | about 11 years ago | (#6900817)

My wife's family are Portuguese fisherfolk from Provincetown, Mass., where every summer they've held a ceremony called the Blessing of the Fleet, in which the harbour fills with boats and the archbishop blesses their labours. The 50th-ever blessing was the last. There's no fishing fleet left. For the first time in living memory, there is not a single working fishing boat in P-town . . . because there are no cod or haddock left on the Grand Banks. For all its present problems, science fiction as a profession seems to have outlasted pulling up fish from the sea.

This is nonsense. While it's true that the groundfish stocks have been decimated by awful mismanagement, there are plenty of fishing vessels running out of Cape Cod and the rest of Massachusetts. What's changed in Provincetown is that it has become entirely an enclave for wealthy gays, and the fishermen can no longer afford to live there and have been displaced to less fashionable harbors.

That aside -- I'd be more impressed if he had cited a few examples of what his imagination might produce, instead of just telling us how lame we all are. For that matter, has Spider Robinson ever done anything besides a gimmicky knockoff of the Canterbury Tales?

Got tired of waiting for the future (1)

74Carlton (129842) | about 11 years ago | (#6900818)

The future was supposed to be here a long time ago. It never showed. Space travel stalled out, cars still basicly act like the cars of 80 years ago, personal flight systems never appeared, the great suprising technology is in miniature computers and the internet... turns out these are great for massive personal and communal consensual fantasies (online games). In many cases technology actually turned out to be poisonous (PCBs, RSI, DDT, contaminated environment, blah blah). Once you understand technology the way we have grown up with it, dreaming of cooler technology is unappealing, and escapism is much more attractive.

Just a wild guess.

Aesthetics are not democratic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6900821)

Looking at 'how many people read what' is not useful for telling what is great, let alone best. Tolkien provides a world a lot of people would like to travel to, but someone like Jeff Noon (Vurt, etc.) makes you think a little more about the nature of reality.

The thing that bothers me about Robinsons critique is, like a lot of genre writers, he seems to feel that 'setting is destiny'. Science fiction is not a religion, though naive futurism makes it look like one. It's awkward to watch a writer of good-natured stuff from back in the days trying to deal with the fact it's not 1960 anymore. LOTR is popular. SFW? There's still a lot of great new hard sci-fi being written, even if it's not Heinleins macho bullshit.

My Days in the Show (0, Offtopic)

airrage (514164) | about 11 years ago | (#6900829)

My Days in the Show

"I was in the show once, best 21 days of my life. You know you don't carry your bags in the show? You hit white balls for batting practice, the stadiums are like cathedrals, and the women all have long legs and brains."

Recently, I was in the show. It wasn't a goal of mine to get to the show, it just happened, through luck or talent or both. It's not like you have a progress-bar to the show, to show how close or far you are. But one day, I showed up to read about ol' Ike, and there it was: 'you've been granted access to the show'.

Now, I'm not going to say I was Mr. Cool about it. It was a nice little surprise, so I read the link on how to act in the show and quickly went out and got stinking drunk, had sex, and woke up with an 85 year old woman. Yes, like that first grope in the back seat of Dad's Buick 88, I was spent before the bra was off. And so I sat, staring at my new wife -- with a tattoo I don't remember getting -- smoking a Kool Menthol asking, "Was it good for you too?" Naturally, my first experience in the show was a bust.

But that's the problem with the show, you know what to do technically, but you don't know the art of it. I endeavored to do a better job next time. But a better job at what? What exactly am I supposed to do? And that's what all the veterans know and all the rooks don't: the key is to influence the show.

Now I figured after such a spectacular flameout, I'd never get back to the show...

But then it happened again. And this time it was going to be different. I kept up with the flow, trying to route the conversation, looking for wicked turn-of-phrase, or a pun, or deep insight, and then I found it. Like Cap' Ahab, I said 'harpoon that som' bitch thar!' So I threw +1, and waited. And waited. And waited. And as the thundering herd came towards me I realized that the show would not turn for me, and I had a made a critical error. I was stampeded by pre-pubescent pimpled youngsters in Star Trek T-Shirts. I pulled myself from the muck to watch the thundering herd move farther and farther out of sight. I tried this again and again, to the same results. Needless to say, I ended up in the same seedy motel, waking and rolling to the same sight. I relit a used Kool and took a deep drag. My ass hurt and I had a sinking suspicion that my other buttocks said 'boat' which would have delighted the tattoo artist no end to finish his partially completed 'love'. I dared not look.

I had become the Gary Coleman of the show. I was starting to learn Spanish or French or whatever language is appropriate to disappear to the fringes of civilization. And disappear I did.

Arthur C. Clarke said all things come in threes, it's the way of the universe, ultimate karma, triple redundancy I think. And as the old man predicted, the random seed generator came up with my social, and beyond belief, it was time for a comeback to the show.

This time would be different, really. This time I would commit. The third base coach is telling me take a pitch, but I'm digging in for a big cut. That's what I didn't realize before: you have to commit. You have to go all in. You have to be willing to risk all in one swing in the show; you have to bend steel with your mind. The next Shakespeare or Dickens or Simmons is out there, and I'm going to find them, so I set the filter to -1 Uncut and Raw and step into the light...

The science is too complicated (5, Insightful)

stratjakt (596332) | about 11 years ago | (#6900830)

You can't write a space story without a friggin PhD today. It was easy 50 years ago to talk about visiting planets and alien races and genetic engineering, artificially intelligent robots, but now we have the science to actually do that stuff, or it's looming on the horizon. If you aren't up on your tech, you're novel will be picked apart and you labelled a hack.

It's much easier to write about a fantasy world that never has, or will, exist. Plus, people have always been fascinated by the concept of "magic".

Amateur Fiction (1)

Bonker (243350) | about 11 years ago | (#6900832)

Most *good* sci-fi I see any more is from amatuer or indy writers. Most of what's published in the last few years has been crap, and what's not crap is usually cautionary rather than expectant.

Compare 3001 (Clarke) to 2001 or 2010. 3001 was a boring, unexciting book. What parts were interesting were so cautionary, they weren't fun to read.

Here's a good site with a few amatuer authors. [eastoftheweb.com]

Fantasy iterated for millenia (1)

Empiric (675968) | about 11 years ago | (#6900840)

One factor I'll bring up is that fantasy has a lot of testing time in the field, so to speak.

Tolkien's works are very heavily based on Norse mythology, as an example, and the ideas there have survived in a meme sense for thousands of years. Similar to a genetic algorithm to find the best stories running since the time of early civilizations.

This is a big competitive advantage for a SF writer to overcome, and in fact, many SF stories are really mythological themes overlaid with "space" stuff as a setting.

A clear case of oldfartitis (5, Insightful)

rde (17364) | about 11 years ago | (#6900843)

"My genre has always had its ups and downs, but this is by far its worst, longest downswing. Sales are down, magazines are languishing, our stars are aging and not being replaced. And the reason is depressingly clear: Those few readers who haven't defected to Tolkienesque fantasy cling only to Star Trek, Star Wars, and other Sci Fi franchises."

There are two different points here; I'll address each separately.

1. Sales are down. BFD. Just because the slide is a bit longer than average is no reason to panic. Granted, it's a couple of years since I picked up fiction (Lois McMaster Bujold excepted), but Robinson is harping on like there hasn't been a good book in a decade. I'm not the only one who could name six or seven authors who are truly excellent and still writing. Just because sales are down doesn't mean the fiction is there; it just means people are diverting their attention elsewhere. Which brings me to point two...

There is, I suspect, no relation between the increase in media-driven novels and 'proper' ones. People who read Star Trek novels aren't interested in proper SF; I suspect the same holds true for other franchises. If there is a problem with these books, it's that they're included in SF totals, making the SF book industry look healthier than it is.

Robinson's point seems to be that there's a feedback loop between space exploration and SF; I personally have my doubts. I've not doubt whatsoever that SF does indeed foster an interest in space, but is the reverse true? I sort of doubt it.

SF isn't in decline. Quality SF as a percentage of teh total volume of merchandising masquerading as product may be, but so what? Just buy the good stuff, and leave the crap to the trekkies. Or buffyites. Or whatever.

The immediate future of REAL science is bleak (1)

billmaly (212308) | about 11 years ago | (#6900845)

Since Apollo, we've done little visionary work in exploring our solar system. Sure, probes and landers and telescopes have been launched, some quite successful, some dismal failures. But, in most cases, the human element has been missing. There has been no bold adventurer out there, blazing a trail across the cosmos for others to follow. Humankind today has come to realize that Buck Rogers in not just a generation away, and that it will be centuries, if ever, that man is able to travel to and explore other worlds at will as is the case with so much sci fi.

Like Cringley posited the other day, there is no invention, rather, just innovation. New technologies and frontiers are not being pushed today like they were in the 30's-60's, and we've allowed space exploration to stagnate under the weight of governmental bureacracy.

People are realizing that sci fi IS fantasy, and are using the pure escapism of fantasy to, well, escape into a world where right and wrong and reality and fantasy can be so much more easily defined.

The sky is falling, Spider (5, Insightful)

Unknown Kadath (685094) | about 11 years ago | (#6900846)

I really want to see the data--has this trend he's upset about been going on long enough to actually be a trend? And has he picked up anything by Kim Stanley Robinson, Iain Banks, or David Brin lately? Society has taken a different turn than the Golden Age writers predicted, and our speculative fiction is mirroring this. SF isn't dying, Spider, it's just changing form.

(Flamebait: And I don't know why he's talking about "his" genre. The Callahan books aren't SF; they're Chicken Soup for the Geek's Soul.)

-Carolyn

my $.02 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6900848)

my opinion is that authors of past SF works (stuff before 1970) often described SF and SF tasks in a manor such that anyone can understand what it does and were less interested in giving it a cool name. books like 1984 come to mind. however these days a lot of authors try to be more realistic in their writing so when they use DNA in a SF book it can be very tiring or boring for the read who may not understand DNA topics. where as fantasy relies on the only thing that everyone has. our imagination. ask a kid to draw a dragon or a bird-man and you get an individual result. fantasy entertains the mind and excites us. SF (to me anyway) sees like they are trying to educate rather then inspire

Because Space Travel is proving to be impractical (2, Interesting)

Royster (16042) | about 11 years ago | (#6900854)

The old space operas posited FTL travel. It was assumed that you could get around your own solar system, but needed some FTL to get to the next one. Well, even the assumption of easy access to local space is proving wrong. It's difficult, expensive and risky to move mass from the surface of the Earth into near orbit and prohibitively expensive to move it further than that. A Mars expedition looks more and more infeasable and the old space themes of colonizing the moon or Mars or mining the asteriods are proving to be just so much wishful thinking.

Altered Carbon is pretty good (1)

Black Jack Hyde (2374) | about 11 years ago | (#6900859)

You probably saw the review [slashdot.org] earlier this summer. It's a good read. The concept of getting "sheathed" from a, heh, well-rounded geek body to a fully tricked-out tech ninja body should catch some imaginations.

Of course, I could be completely wrong.

Jack

There is no spoon. (1)

wfberg (24378) | about 11 years ago | (#6900873)

The Matrix is not scifi? Hmm..

Not Necessarily Looking to the Past.... (1)

redptam (602168) | about 11 years ago | (#6900876)

I'm thinking of Orson Well's Time Machine where Alexander goes 800,000 years into the future. That future civilization is much more archaic than any of the other civilizations in the past within the book.

We know enough to ruin the dreams (4, Interesting)

PotatoHead (12771) | about 11 years ago | (#6900878)

Think about it a little. We have laws such as the DMCA that basically divide our current tech into little fiefdoms. Innovators are sued, hacking existing tech is quickly becoming a crime, and the existing players encourage passive use of their tech --not understanding.

Many of the ideals that make SF what it is are being marginalized today. Sort of depressing really.

Combine this with our present science and we know enough that reaching another star system will not happen in our lifetimes. Though Mars should --if it doesn't its political, not technical.

Almost smells like a plot to put all the smart ones back underground where they belong so the real business of making money today --right now, can get done...

Maybe I am just being a little too alarmist this morning. I personally enjoy SF and share the view of the author. Maybe nobody is really exploring SF because fantasy is easier or something...

BTW, what is the genre of "The Reality Disfunction" by Peter F. Hamilton? Seems to be SF, but does have some other elements. Any ideas?

Lowest Common Denominator, Cynicism, and Dystopia (5, Insightful)

nebaz (453974) | about 11 years ago | (#6900889)

There may be several reasons that "hard" science-fiction is no longer in vogue, replaced with fantasy or space opera.

1) It is not as though "hard" science-fiction has always had mass appeal. It has always had a specialized genre feeling. What passes for science fiction movies today are generally no more than shoot-em-up's in space. More like futuristic action. This is what appeals to the movie-going audience. "Hard" science fiction is too "hard" (must think...hurts brain) and is probably not profitable.

2) Fantasy pops into the human need for myth. Mythology (not necessarily incorrect or unfactual) exists traditionally in historical and religious traditions, Greek, Norse, Egyptian, Christian, etc. creation myths and such, and with the modern push to explain everything scientifically, a major piece of how people function (i.e. mythology in life) disappears, thus a longing for mythos appears, which fantasy seems to fill better than analytical science fiction.

3) The idea of a "bright, happy, future" seems to be relegated to naivety and a cynical "dystopia" seems to have set in (thus apocalyptic movies, etc), and this view seems to be pushed by many media outlets (i.e. bad news sells). We apparantly will pollute ourselves to death in 50 years, the world will be completely controlled by corporations, etc.

4) Finally, the largest bastion of future hope for science, at least in the US, NASA, has gone from getting a man on the moon in 10 years, to losing orbiters in Mars, as one magazine article put it, on the 30th anniversary of Apollo (paraphrasing) "We want NASA to be a precursor to Starfleet, but they are more like a bad post office."

These several things go to explain the loss of interest in "Golden Age" science fiction

why I believe Sci-Fi is not as popular (4, Interesting)

linuxisit (660263) | about 11 years ago | (#6900890)

Perhaps the direction technology is taking us scares
the hell out of us. The future apparently holds
fewer rights, less privacy, more commercials, etc.

Who wants to fantasize about that???? Not me!!!
Tell me how do we get off this world thats heading
down the toilet?

At least fantasy still provides hope that good can
still prevail against evil. With techonology the
question is which evil state of afairs wins over
some other evil state of afairs. Mind you the
heros may be good vs evil but the world in which
they live still sucks!

Thats my point....

I cna fantasize about being free (1)

FattMattP (86246) | about 11 years ago | (#6900896)

Because with fantasy I can pretend I'm free rather than look forward into the dismally litigated and patented technological future that stands before me.

Just a guess.

Doesn't apply to the whole world (1)

jarda (635462) | about 11 years ago | (#6900901)

The lucky thing is that this loss of interest in science fiction or space travel doesn't seem to apply to the whole world. Maybe it applies to the western culture, but where I live (Czech Republic, anyway) I wouldn't observe anything right that.

This is still quite close, so maybe in few years time this seatback will also reach us, but then there's still asia left and maybe the inspiration from them can some day sparkle the inspiration back in the west.

This Article is Bullshit (1)

m1a1 (622864) | about 11 years ago | (#6900904)

Since when has Science Fantasy had anything to do with sound science? Sci-Fi writers are notoriously shallow when it comes to true science understanding. I also hardly associate interest in Science Fiction with interest in real science. When I was a kid I loved model rockets and aviation, but I found Star-Trek patently retarded.

I think the real deal here is that the scientific understanding of the general public has grown enough to outpace that of sci-fi writers. It is hard to write good science fiction when the premise of your book is considered impossible by modern physics and all of your readers know it.

Its not true (1)

LesserSeaHamster (666435) | about 11 years ago | (#6900906)

I don't think Tolkein is better than science fiction. Gandalf is considered by everybody to be the greatest wizard in the Lord of the Rings, but he can only cast three level two spells in a day. Even a common phaser can shoot over and over and sometimes even in the dark!

Easy. The writing for fantasy has been better... (1)

Bamafan77 (565893) | about 11 years ago | (#6900917)

Though I don't have any numbers, I believe there are more fantasy authors active today and as a result of this increased competition, the top end of the fantasy genre is better than the top end of the sci-fi genre (on average). I remember growing up reading Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Shannara, Eddings, etc and I just don't remember seeing the equivalent types of books for sci-fi. Sci-fi seemed to slow down after the Assimov/Herbert eras(of course there are the Orson Scott Cards who are the exception, but they are exceptions).

BTW, I'm not holding these up as great pieces of literature, but they are fun guilty-pleasures that are many people's entry point to fantasy and also illustrate the higher proliferation of fantasy.

Rose Coloured Glasses (2, Insightful)

clickety6 (141178) | about 11 years ago | (#6900919)


If you try and look back over your old SF collection, as I've tried to, you'll find things weren't much better in the "good old" days. The characeristaion was non-existent (try and characterise a single Asimov hero- they were all as bland as STNG characters) - the writing was often childlike and way too simple, or became bogged down in its own cleverness (who has managed to read ther whole Rama series without trying to skip some pages) and the often quoted great classics of SF were often closer to fantasy than hard science - Dune being a good example. There were very few good hard-science SF books, and the problem is not taht there are fewer now, but that they are swamped by the increase in all the other types of books which, let's face it, for a non-scientist as most writers are, aer much easier to churn out!

Maybe fantasy offers more violence? (1)

Phoenix-kun (458418) | about 11 years ago | (#6900920)

Quite honestly, I think it's the higher level of violence available through fantasy. My son and I read many books at the same time, but they are mostly of the fantasy genre. I've urge sci-fi books on him but they get a pretty cold reception. As we discuss the books we do have in common, it's the fighting and butt-kicking that comes to the top of the conversations. When you get right down to it, that element is almost completely missing from SF. Just look at how Helms Deep was emphasized in the Two Towers.

Future shock? (1)

MythoBeast (54294) | about 11 years ago | (#6900923)

Another equally plausible explaination is future shock. As a software engineer who is perpetually needing to cram new technologies into my brain just to tread water, I tend to feel that I get enough of technology in the real world. Even the most technically disinclined are being forced to interact with machines on a daily basis.

Our world has become a perpetual learning curve. If I want escapism, I turn to magic, which defies comprehension and, therefore, requires no thought.

Mythological Beast

My own reason (1)

isomeme (177414) | about 11 years ago | (#6900930)

I used to be a hard-SF junkie, and still read a few authors (Banks, Varley) religiously. But my enthusiasm for the genre has waned considerably over the last few decades. I think the main reason for this is that I'm too depressed by the state of our space program (and by 'our' I mean humanity's, not any particular nation) to be able to really enjoy an old-fashioned planet hopping yarn. The simple fact that we haven't been back to the moon since the Apollo program died with a whimper is enough to sour me on thinking about space at all.
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