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199 comments

spiders are gay. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954300)

Anything that has silk squirt out its ass is gay.

Re:spiders are gay. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954387)

really?

Re:spiders are gay. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954470)


Yes, really. When not being observed, they cease spinning webs, eating flies and all of that nonsense: That's just PR.

When spiders are soley in the company of other spiders, they like to don leather, dance uninhibitedly to the pounding disco beat, drink mai-tai's and screech things like "Go, girlfriend!" to other spiders.

It's a whole other world, I'm telling you!

COMING SOON: spiderse.cx - complete with pictures (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954481)

Hmmm... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954303)

Could you throw in a few of the main points he was responding to, and maybe a summary of the response?

Because, after all, I'm not going to read the article.

SLASHDOT MYTHS VS. REALITY (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954304)

MYTH #2: "New, innovative companies won't start up overseas."

Really? What do you think these laid-off chip designers [eetimes.com] are gonna do when they get back to Chennai? Sell trinkets to tourists?

MYTH #3: "R&D jobs don't go overseas. Hell, they don't even leave the US east and west coast, for the most part."

REALITY:

MYTH #4: "If you're truly working on something high-tech, today's high-tech, you'll never have to worry about your job moving."

REALITY: Per nasscom.org, "A recent study on the biotech market by business intelligence firm, Ernst & Young, has shown that India has the potential to become a leading hub [216.239.39.104] of biotech projects. Indian companies have the capability to enter segments such as manufacturing biogenerics, contract research services, clinical trials and even areas such as bio-informatics."

MYTH #5: "Ultimately, what xenophobes need to realize is that writing shitty code doesn't make anyone "high-tech." You're no more entitled to an inflated salary than the auto workers who saw their work moved overseas - if someone with no education can do your job cheaper, you don't deserve your job."

REALITY: "Accenture in India has also been moving into front office work such as doing clinical data management for its pharma clients. Accenture's pharma team here, which consists of doctors, dentists and biologists [indiatimes.com] , analyses data from tests and helps its pharma client to gain `time-to-market' advantage. "Normally, for a BPO, back office activities are the target, but we are beginning to spot opportunities in front office activities as well," Cole said."

MYTH #1? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954319)

Uh what's myth #1?

Oh I know...

The New Economy will just continue to grow faster and faster forever, if you don't agree and try to show basic market fundamentals you "just don't get it" and are old school.

Since that myth is about as busted as the Sun revolving around the Earth I guess there's no reason to lnclude it?

TROLL EXTERMINATION ORDER #BF34d.c5Fsd (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954355)

By order of the Slashdot Troll Review Board, a Warrant has been issued, to be executed within the next 72 hours. Thank you for your cooperation.

OH YES YOU KNOW IT ALL (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954530)

HA Ha, you suck PENIS and COCK and you slurp it down, slurp it down like Abu at the corner station with a slurpee. Abu is taking your jobs, you know, you fagzors. Abu is sending his Injun (dot, not feather) children to the school and they are the new doctors and you are nothing but the COCK and BALLS sucker, you exist to give pleasure to the ball sack of your betters. How does it make you feel, to have the sperms flowing down your chin and throat like a good facial whore?

Submitters think now? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954327)

w00t

Re:Submitters think now? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954396)

d000h

Spider Robinson on SF? Huh? (5, Insightful)

topham (32406) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954329)

What makes Spider Robinson a commentator on SF, Sci-Fi or anything else other than pablum?

He doesn't write science fiction, he writes fantasy staged in the non-existant future.

And as for the 'Speculative Fiction', well, he isn't a writer of that either.

hand him back his toke and send him on his way.

he's done.

Not a troll (1)

ishmaelflood (643277) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954391)

Fair comment.

Answering myself (1)

ishmaelflood (643277) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954547)

Although, I don't really agree that in order to comment on a field you have to be a practitioner in it. I feel qualified to comment on SF, I've never written any. I just don't expect people to take my comments very seriously.

Get off his ass (5, Insightful)

Klinky (636952) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954343)

Any community is going to experience points of stagnation and critics who bitch about it. I think people need to face the facts that community as a whole loses that shiny interesting effect on them. Everything is no longer "WOW!", it's "Oh I've seen that before". This has happened with Anime. Miyazaki said the state of anime was critical and that less and less worthy series are being made. Well the same can be said for movies. The same can be said for Sci-Fi. The same could be said for alot of things. The thing is instead of bitching about it, he needs to get off is ass and go right some create some new great genre defining novel, or whatever.

Re:Get off his ass (1)

RestiffBard (110729) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954439)

hell, we've been saying the state of slashdot has been deteriorating for years.

Re:Get off his ass (4, Insightful)

Sparks23 (412116) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954487)

Not only that, but many genres suffer from dilution. When there's a dozen people writing in a genre or producing for it, it's far easier to separate the wheat from the chaff. I think today, there's more wheat, but there's also more chaff.

Today when I go to the bookstore and look at the science-fiction section, I see all these new books, half of which are by authors I've never heard of before. Brand-new, first-time writer, or someone who's just not gotten coverage, or whatever. And every book has testimonials on the cover, someone saying the author is 'The most promising new writer to enter the genre since...' or whatever. So really, the only way to know what's good is to read it yourself... and since there's so much out there these days, there's much more chaff to sort through to find the wheat.

I think it's true with anime, too -- the growing popularity over the past few years has made a number of anime pop up which, honestly, aren't all that worthy, to reference the Miyazaki quote. It's true of almost any medium of fiction and expression when the field becomes crowded; it's not necessarily that the number of worthy things has decreased, but that the number of things /overall/ has increased.

That said, it's nice to see M'Oak get some linkage. Maybe it'll spur a few more T&K fans. :)

Brilliant (5, Funny)

Autistic_Treat (704344) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954346)

I guess you have to be smart to write science fiction, but attributing lower sales to the fact that people like other sci-fi/fantasy titles better is sheer genius.

Re:Brilliant (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954472)


> I guess you have to be smart to write science fiction, but attributing lower sales to the fact that people like other sci-fi/fantasy titles better is sheer genius.

Maybe the RIAA should hire him as a consultant.

Response to THREATS to my SELF (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954351)

I warned you before. This is the last you're going to hear from me....directly. If you don't stop your campaign of stalking and harassment, then you better should keep one eye over your shoulder.

We go back a long way, you KNOW what I am CAPABLE OF.

Re:Response to THREATS to my SELF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954456)

If you post to slashdot again i'm going to send them to deal with you. If you post again I'll know and you will have to face the consequences.

Re:Response to THREATS to my SELF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954471)

If you SERIOUSLY think that THEY are any match for HIM, then feel free to BRING THEM ON.

Don't remember what happeened LAST TIME do you?

The demise of sci-fi (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954353)

I'll certainly grant that sci-fi isn't what it was when I began reading it a number of years ago. I'll grant that a lot of the gadgets described as futuristic then exist now. But this theme which says there's nothing else which can be imagined as a future invention reminds me of the patent clerk who quit around the turn of the last century because there was nothing left to invent!

Re:The demise of sci-fi (1)

fuzzix (700457) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954661)

Good point, but we haven't done everything. I guess time travel isn't that exciting...

Re:The demise of sci-fi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954956)

As one of the editors running a small SF/F magazine, I can tell you that the hardest thing for us is to get noticed. We're publishing fresh SF and F (print magazine, not web-based stuff) from known and unknown authors, we have a web page, we have a loyal bunch of subscribers but we can't seem to break out to the wider world. (We send review copies to locus mag and other trade publications too)

I'm referring to Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (www.andromedaspaceways.com)

I myself write humorous SF novels (Hal Spacejock - www.spacejock.com) and I've found many SF authors turning to fantasy trilogies to boost their sales. Publishers see the sales of fat trilogies and want more of the same.

Cheers
Simon

"Enterprise": Answer to Robinson's Question (-1, Flamebait)

reporter (666905) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954354)

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

Spider Robinson can answer his own question by flipping the channel of his television set to watch "Enterprise" on the local UPN station. This spinoff of the original "Star Trek" series is probably the worst piece of science fiction that anyone in the Slashdot community has ever seen.

... from the desk of the reporter [geocities.com]

Re:"Enterprise": Answer to Robinson's Question (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954386)

What does Enterprise [salon.com] have to do with Science Fiction? Spider Robinson is a writer. He's talking about other people's writing. TV, movies, and their various spinoffs are irrelevant.

Re:"Enterprise": Answer to Robinson's Question (1)

aardvarkjoe (156801) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954418)

Spider Robinson's article was about science fiction, not specifically about books or writing (although that was the point he focused on.) TV and movies are completely relevant; he was addressing science fiction in all its forms.

I will admit, though, that Enterprise isn't really science fiction. Some of the other Star Trek series/movies were, but Enterprise is a completely lost cause.

Re:"Enterprise": Answer to Robinson's Question (1)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954448)

I will admit, though, that Enterprise isn't really science fiction. Some of the other Star Trek series/movies were, but Enterprise is a completely lost cause.

I wouldn't say that. At the least, it's a neruotic attempt to explore the possible ramifications of time travel.

It was not really a disagreement (4, Interesting)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954375)

A rather amazing reply. In essence he says: "You're right. We don't care about the future anymore. But that is because this is the future now, and there is nothing much down the road."

Reminds me of Francis Fukuyama in a way. The important decisions of history have been made, and things will not got significantly better or worse than they are right now. Democracy and capitalism have conquered the world.

Re:It was not really a disagreement (1)

RestiffBard (110729) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954447)

democracy and capitalism, in its present form, have only really been around for the life of the United States. That's only a couple hundred+ years.

The Roman Empire was around much longer and they thought that the Roman way had conquered the world too.

The difference being (1, Offtopic)

RLiegh (247921) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954488)

In roman times, not even half of the world had been explored, and they had conquered that. In our times, the entire world has been mapped out and america has conquered it, economically if not physically (physically, in the cases of afghanistan, iraq and syria).

Re:The difference being (2, Insightful)

RestiffBard (110729) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954545)

what I'm saying is that Rome's conquest was, too them, complete, and lasted centuries longer then we've been around. When Democratic-Republic/Capitalism has been around longer then the Roman Empire or the Persian Empire or any other empire that pretty much thought they had this whole conquest thing sewn up then I'll get cocky. In the meantime some economist/poli-sci student is out there inventing the new world and preparing for the revolution.

Re:The difference being (1)

yuri benjamin (222127) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954559)

In roman times, not even half of the world had been explored...

... by europeans.

There were Aboriginees in Australia, Native Americans in America and various other non-european indigenous people scattered across the globe.

To say "not even half of the world had been explored" is very euro-centric.

How politcally correct of you (2, Interesting)

RLiegh (247921) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954633)

given your predeliction for making statements of a PC nature, I imagine you probably buy into the "benevolent savage" myth. That being the case, or even if it isn't, I think that you have to agree that the aboriginees and the indians were not creating vast empires that encompassed their world.

>>In roman times, not even half of the world had been explored...

> ... by europeans.

By anyone. Did the aboriginees know about egypt, or the chinese know about madagascar?

Re:How politcally correct of you (1)

yuri benjamin (222127) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954745)

By anyone. Did the aboriginees know about egypt,

No, but they knew about Australia. Most of the world was explored, but not all by one tribe or nation.

or the chinese know about madagascar?
Probably not, but they had universities when the anglo-saxons were still living in grass huts.

I'm not trying to be PC. I just don't like too narrow perspectives of history.

Re:How politcally correct of you (1)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954804)

Probably not, but they had universities when the anglo-saxons were still living in grass huts.

Funny thing about Chinese civilization. The quickly reached their peak, then stayed there ossified for the next 1500 years.

Re:How politcally correct of you (1)

yuri benjamin (222127) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954886)

Funny thing about Chinese civilization. The quickly reached their peak, then stayed there ossified for the next 1500 years.

I wasn't going to go there, but you're right. Some would blame communism, but the ossification (is that a word?) started long before that. I'll let others post their theories on this.

Re:How politcally correct of you (0, Redundant)

yuri benjamin (222127) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954763)

I imagine you probably buy into the "benevolent savage" myth

Quite the opposite. I believe all of us are descended from savages who have been most malevolent at some stage or another.
Sometimes I'm not even sure we've really risen above it.

Re:The difference being (1)

fuzzix (700457) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954643)

Indeed. Probably believes Columbus discovered America.

Re:The difference being (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954687)

The difference between "half of the word" and the entire world is simply the size of it. In this case it's irrelevant, the point being there was no more enemy nor competitor.

But did the US really conquered the entire world? If I'm not mistaken, Bush is trying to get help from other countries to "rebuild" Iraq... Is that how a conqueror act? Do you remember that Bush couldn't persuade Canada and Mexico to vote in favor of the war? It was not about sending troops it was about a simple vote. Do you remember what Turkey did? Seems to me the US is not as strong as you think... and now that the USSR is not a danger anymore there's a lot of country who are beginning to give the finger to the USA. And what can the USA do about it? I'm sure France is really hurt by those freedom fries...

BTW, since when did the US conquered syria?

Re:The difference being (1)

CrowScape (659629) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954781)

I don't think he meant "conquered" in quite that way. When the concept of MAD was still frighteningly real and only a political mis-step away, SciFi writers always had a means where the status quo could be swepped asside and their idealistic view become reality. References to WWIII abounded in SciFi, normally taking the role as the bop on the head humanity needed in order to start seeing it from the author's point of view, and thus they could write about their future. Now, we look around and we feel stuck, so what's the point in writing about the future if we can only see more of the same coming down the pipe?

Oh, the US did conquer Syria and it's now a happy democracy overflowing with good will twoards the US. It's just that the liberal media refuses to report it ;D

Fukuyama pro & con (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954509)

Ahh, but as Fukuyama notes, democracy+capitalism presents a self-correcting system able to incoroporate valid critiques of itself, the first and only such system that human social communities have discovered.

Of course, Fukuyama's latest book admits that the Hegelian notion of self embedded in this argument is invalid in the face of biotechnology, particularly biotechnology's promise to allow us to tamper with the human genome and, in doing so, to change the 'essential' human nature that drives the whole Hegelian historical enterprise.

Re:It was not really a disagreement (1)

krymsin01 (700838) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954477)

I just can't buy into the whole, "We're here, this is all there is" mentality that is present here. This isn't it, the end all and be all of humanity. Time is marching forward, always.

John F Kennedy said "Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future." In our times, I think that people in general have become too caught up in the present.

Insert apocryphal PTO Director quote here... (1)

DCheesi (150068) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954531)

I think he has a point, insofar as people believe this to be the case. But that doesn't make it so. It's entirely possible that some grand upheaval could yet undermine global corporate hegemony. I'll grant you that the extreme capitalist dystopia has been done to death in scifi these days, but that just means that scifi writers need to broaden their own horizons a bit.

Re:Insert apocryphal PTO Director quote here... (1)

dillon_rinker (17944) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954916)

Empires are conquered from without. Every empire that has ever fallen has done so because of an external invader. Corporatism HAS no external invaders. Chew on that.

I completely agree with Robinson... (4, Insightful)

CrayHill (703411) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954377)

...that the genre of SF (as many other artistic endeavors) is having creative difficulty. Walk into a bookstore these days, pick up an interesting-looking book, and see that it is 12th in a series of 18. Come on, if the authors cannot deal with new character development, like they did 40 years ago for virtually every novel, something is wrong!

Re:I completely agree with Robinson... (1)

Zarquon (1778) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954436)

Series Sell(TM). You can either 1) Develop the character more than you can in a single book, or 2) Sell the same stories 12 times over with the serial #s filed off. Barely.

And there's always gratuitous sex scenes.. and romances, female porn.

(There are still authors that do #1. There also are series where there are no continuing characters, only continuing setting.)

Re:I completely agree with Robinson... (1)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954638)

The Sword of Truth series is a good example. I liked "Wizard's First Rule". But damn, we're on like the seventh book of the series now. I tired of reading about how much Richard loves Kahlan! Have Jagang choke on a chicken bone and kill himself, then write something new in a completely different world.

Re:I completely agree with Robinson... (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954772)

We (wifelike unit and I) gave up after he defeated communism by working.

Re:I completely agree with Robinson... (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954462)

it's a shame though.. but on the plus side, i still got shitloads of science fiction to read(though i like to think of books in a one pile rather than categorising everything too much, as you indeed are narrow minded if all that matters to you is that the main character is a robot and not a 10th century peasant) from earlier years(of the later writers, zahn, gibson & banks are almost only writers that have provided enough solid material that i'd buy their new book just based on writers name if i saw it for sale).

some of the best scifi are short stories though.. as often that's enough to show the writers meaning, especially when the story is made just to show one spesific thing the writer invented in his/her head(you might have noticed how some of those dozen episode books are also extremely thick and consist mostly of soap opera material instead of focusing on the issue at hand).

What age do we live in? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954390)

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

Well, mainly because we live in a sci-fi age. There are very few revolutionary discoveries now - and fewer groundbreaking ideas - most are evolutionary. We are at a point where science is getting smaller and less accessible to the average reader. Consequently, this doesn't make good reading, so we're still reduced to reading about warp cores and wormholes.

What I'd like to do is read more books about the impact of technology on society and it's effects. Science fiction needs to step back and look at things from a different angle.

Re:What age do we live in? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954932)

There are very few revolutionary discoveries now [...] most are evolutionary

Science is always "evolutionary". Even computer science have roots in the XVII century.

science is getting [...] less accessible [...] Consequently, this doesn't make good reading

I'm not a specialist in sci-fi but most novel I've read (if not all) were not about science but about the implication of science. They were not about specific mathematical theory but about general ideas and inventions. Why are we stuck with warp cores and wormholes? Well probably for the same reason that romantic fiction sells more book than any other category.

What I'd like to do is read more books about the impact of technology on society and it's effects

Isn't it what science-fiction is really all about?

But...why? (5, Interesting)

Otter (3800) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954395)

Both the original and this completely beg the basic question -- in much of the 20th century people had a very vivid picture of The Future, accurate or inaccurate. Today, that sense has completely disappeared. Why?

Just saying over and over that it's so, as this response does and most of the comments here last time did don't explain WHY it's so.

Re:But...why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954407)

'cos the people are feeling betrayed and disappointed?

Re:But...why? (5, Interesting)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954444)

Here's an answer for you: because they are having enough trouble imagining the now. We work, day to day, to just keep up with the pace of change; we don't have time or energy to spare to try to push that change beyond the immediate necessity. It is not that the sense has disappeared, so much as it is already in use.

For a good exploration of this idea, I would suggest the book 'Future Shock'. A very good read.

Re:But...why? (3, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954521)

That certainly seems reasonable.

A couple of other things that occurred to me as I started thinking about it.

1) The notion of reinventing humanity has mostly died out, after the most popular schemes accomplished little and killed 100 million or so people. On the whole that's good, but visions like, "Overalls seem practical. In the future, everyone shall wear overalls! Gray overalls!" are gone with them.

2) There was a logical progression from airplanes to spaceships to space travel that made up a large part of the future vision. We followed that path to the moon, at which point the real obstacles that had been brushed off in fiction ("Mr. Sulu, warp 3!") came into play.

I'm sure there's plenty more.

Re:But...why? (3, Interesting)

John Miles (108215) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954523)

We work, day to day, to just keep up with the pace of change; we don't have time or energy to spare to try to push that change beyond the immediate necessity. It is not that the sense has disappeared, so much as it is already in use.

That's a really good point. In Asimov and Heinlein's heyday, we didn't have appliances that were smarter than their users. No VCRs blinking an endless noon; no DVD players that insult [google.com] their owners. Our cars didn't have an average of a dozen CPU chips each, and we didn't have hundred-million transistor personal computers that only a few dozen people on the planet can honestly say they understand through and through. The ubiquitous Joe Six-Pack could still assimilate the technological content of his life as late as the mid-Seventies, and he had time left over on the weekends to think about what it all meant and where it was going.

But then the Japanese figured out how to fit 10 pounds of shit in a 5-ounce box. The sales graphs at Heathkit flatlined, Radio Shack started selling toys, and some hippie named Wozniak dragged a weird-looking piece of hardware to a club meeting in a forgotten basement in Sunnyvale. We quit making stuff in the Western world, both personally and industrially speaking, around the time of the last Apollo mission. When subscriptions to Popular Electronics started to decline, how long could Asimov's Magazine of Science Fiction hold out?

Maybe this is why the few examples of really-successful modern SF have been escapist fantasies rather than celebrations of futuristic hardware and intellectual conquest. I really liked this guy's essay, and I suspect he's a lot closer to the truth than Spider Robinson is. Fantasy hasn't replaced SF; it's just less optional today.

Re:But...why? Other references (2, Insightful)

HiThere (15173) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954538)

Vernor Vinge: The Technological Singularity.

Another work is: The Spike. (I forget the author.)

Vernor Vinge also uses the basic concepts in some of his fiction. I particularlly like Across Realtime

Re:But...why? (1)

MalachiConstant (553800) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954458)

I think he does explain that. His point seems to be that all that amazing stuff that Heinlein, Clarke, and Asimov wrote about is either a reality or not worth the bother even though we could do it. We could make flying cars (someone already has), but they're not useful.

We understand, too, that everything we haven't made yet is so far in the future it's not interesting in the same way it was in the 50's. Artificial intelligence was exciting in the 50's because a robotic house maid was right around the corner. Now we know how incredibly difficult the problem is, and that it's not likely to be solved within our lifetime, so it's less exciting.

It's odd, I never really understood that science fiction got started for a reason (the industrial revolution?), and that one day it would basically end. Really, if you're living in a Star Trek world reading about starships wouldn't be any great novelty or mental exercise. I guess we're close enough to that reality now that less people are excited by sci-fi writers' imaginings.

But I'm still gonna pick up Heinlein's new book.

Re:But...why? (1)

gaijin99 (143693) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954493)

Both the original and this completely beg the basic question -- in much of the 20th century people had a very vivid picture of The Future, accurate or inaccurate. Today, that sense has completely disappeared. Why?

A critical quesiton I agree. I won't pretend to know the whole answer, but I think I know part of it. I think that Daniel Quinn (Ishmael, Story of B, My Ishmael) is partially right. Back in the 1950's we had a clear cultural vision: the world was made for man, and man was made to conquer the world. Today it is increasingly obvious that that cultural vision is broken. Much of fantasy tends to be backward looking, showing a time when the cultural vision worked. SF, by its nature forward looking, can't really keep that vision without looking dated (see many of Heinlein's books, especially "Tunnel in the Sky" for an example of this).

I think another contributing factor is that we've been in a technological plateau period for the past 50 years or so. Technological advance has been mostly the evolutionary type, that is, improving on existing technology, rather than building truly new things. During the first 50 years of the 20th centrury technological advance was revolutionary (from "heavier than air flight is impossible" to "heavier than air flight is commonplace" for example).

Since 50 years counts as "forever" for most folks, people today tend to think that the current period of evolutionary, slow, technological advance will continue "forever". This means that, as has been pointed out, most people writing SF today are not writing about new orders of technology, but about incremental advances of existing technology. Which isn't nearly as exciting...

I think that we will soon (10-15 years) be moving off the plateau and into another period of technological revolution, which will doubtless spur a new era of SF.

Re:But...why? (1)

Radlef (701534) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954520)

From the article:
"That is to say, here we all are, arriving in the Future!"
People simply believe that the future is now, so why do they need to think about the future anymore? Look at how many advances have cropped up in the past couple of decades. We have not only seen a dramatic increase purely in the number of new advances, but also appearing at a seemingly unbridled rate. To older generations, there's little else to think of (or little motivation to do so). For younger generations, things change so rapidly that there's little reason to speculate, just read the news later that evening and you'll have an answer.

Of course, there are still things to develop and research (otherwise nanotechnology would be further along), but that's not important to give the masses a vivid picture of the future. As long as most people think that science and technology are to the point where everything major has been accomplished, it can be taken for granted that the future will look alot like today. If more people understood what today's technology was capable of, then there might be a vivid picture of the future. How many people (besides slashdotters) really keep up with technology these days however?

Re:But...why? (1)

RickHunter (103108) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954614)

They still do. You just have to look in different places. Wil McCarthy, Lois McMaster Bujold, Peter Hamilton, David Weber, Timothy Zahn, Hiroyuki Morioka, Yoshiyuki Tomino, Tatsuya Hamazaki, and John Barnes all have very vivid (and different) pictures of the future. And that's just authors whose works (sci-fi novels, manga, and anime) I've enjoyed lately.

It hasn't disappeared. Its just that authors like Robinson didn't think big enough and Hollywood and TV have gotten scared of technology. They've seen what computers are doing to their business model, and how they were encouraged by all the sci-fi shows and movies of the '60s-80s. They don't want to feel responsible for the next big disruptive technology. Or authors falling victim to the "all we know now is all we'll ever know" poison.

To the sci-fi authors who're complaining: Stretch your imagination a little, guys!

Saturday Night with Michael and CmdrTaco (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954397)

It's Saturday night and CmdrTaco is home and snug in his flop. The good Commander's "wife" Michael is in the other room watching television. CmdrTaco is really wound up from a hard week of Slashdottin'. He's so, so, WOUND UP, and so, so, bottled up that he's gonna explode any minute now, so da man needs some instant relief. So he yells to Michael in the other room:
HEY BITCH!

THE TENT POLE IS UP,
THE CANVAS IS SPREAD,
TO HELL WITH THE TROLLS,
COME BACK TO BED!
Michael, too caught up watching the Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, yells back:
TAKE THE TENT POLE DOWN

PUT THE CANVAS AWAY
THE MONKEY HAD A HEMORRHAGE [goatse.cx]
NO CIRCUS TODAY.
CmdrTaco feels so, so "under pressure", so he yells back
THE TENT POLE'S STILL UP

AND THE CANVAS STILL SPREAD
SO STOP WHAT YOU'RE DOING
AND COME GIVE ME SOME HEAD
To which his "wife" Michael replied:
I'M SURE THAT YOUR
POLE'S [goatse.cx]
THE BEST IN THE LAND
BUT I'M BUSY RIGHT NOW
SO DO IT BY HAND!
Well, we all know the sordid details of what transpired....

Thieves & King Website (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954405)

So. . .

Spider Robinson is depressed about the state of Science Fiction.

He cites dropping sales and no new authors replacing the old, as well as a mass defection of readers to 'Tolkienesque' fantasy.

You can read his article/rant here.

I can understand where he's coming from. Heck, I've heard his lament on the lips of numerous other Sci-Fi writers. To be part of a fading industry isn't exactly inspiring, seeing fellow creators slip from view, watching the dizzying excitement of a once lunatic market place die down to something which actually makes sense. . . (Well, I don't know if the paperback book market could ever really be described as 'lunatic' in quite the same way comics were for a while. . . Nobody I knew ever sealed away paperbacks in vinyl bags for posterity!) In any case, I do feel for Mr. Robinson.

Moreover, though, it got me wondering. . .

And, ohhh, but this is a can of worms like none other!

I'll start off small. First of all, I should explain that I have always felt Science Fiction, from the day it first began to materialize, has had an expiry date stamped across its forehead. I'm not just reiterating the tried and true, "Sci-Fi will be pointless when when there really are people walking around in space suits and zipping back and forth between the stars."

No, no. It's much simpler than that.

See, I think stories have only two basic purposes and that everything else is just turkey trimming. Ahem. . .

"I believe that stories exist for no other reason than to explore and share ideas."

It works like this; when people become curious about a subject, there is a desire to examine and to consider that subject. When desire grows enough, somebody will inevitably sit down at a keyboard and hammer out a book about it. Ideas flow, you see, whether we want them to or not, and they must be contained! Recorded. Sifted through. Shared. --And if the subject is fascinating enough, why then a lot of somebodies will hammer out a whole lot of books!

Look at teen romance novels for instance; because there are always young women clamoring to know everything they can about love and relationships, there is a more or less permanent market for 150 page paperback novels with sappy covers about dating and first love and all that. --When young women grow up, then we see the far more prolific 'grown up' romance novels for slightly different reasons, but still driven by the desire to spin around and absorb certain sets of ideas. So long as there are heroines, (and hormones), there will be romance novels.

Not so with Science Fiction. No hormones there. (Well, actually, there were quite a lot, but that wasn't Science Fiction's reason for being.) No. Science Fiction came into existence because the millions of minds living through the first two thirds of the twentieth century were besieged with the growing awareness that technology and industry could, and very likely would achieve terrifying and spectacular wonders! --The kinds of wonders which would change the very shape of humanity itself into something new!

But crikey, if people had only the dimmest clue of what that something would be. . .

Indeed, people had only the most vague notions, but with Hydroelectric dams being built, telescopes probing ever more deeply into space, rockets being erected, new materials being developed, and all manner of new technological powers being discovered. . , people quickly began to realize that whatever the change was going to be, it was going to be Big with a capital 'B' --and that they'd better start thinking about it right smart quick!

But no fear; the trusty human mind has ways to deal with this kind of scenario. Why, the human mind when faced with sudden shocking possibilities, will Think About Them A Lot, thank you very much. --The mind will swim in new ideas and jump around with great excitement, examining the problem from every angle as though it were a new toy, a dangerous animal, a tempting delight, tasting, poking and turning it in the light, and chattering about it incessantly until at last it understands! And so the story-tellers went into overdrive, fighting to wrest this new beast into some kind of manageable shape. Trying to tame it so that when the countless hoarde finally came upon us, we would be ready. --Indeed, so that we might even be able to direct its power towards better ends while avoiding the pitfalls in the road. And all the while, this new reality swarmed into being all around us. (Though, for many a flashlight-under-the-covers 10 year-old, not nearly fast enough!)

Well, folks, I hope we all like how things are turning out, because it is rather too late to change a great deal at this point. The steam engine is now thundering along and only the most minor course corrections, (if even those), will be tolerated. That is to say, here we all are, arriving in the Future!

Bet you didn't realize that, did you? But, no, look around. Re-check the road map, (the digital one in your car with satelite positioning), make a cell-phone call to your friend who is expecting you, or hop on the internet to compare travel notes. --Spend as much time as you need to make sure. Sip on some re-mineralized bottled water, or perhaps a tetra-packed beverage, and be sure to apply some SPF-40 sunscreen while you're out there scouting around.

In the end you'll be forced to agree that This Is It. You're here. That'll be $29.95 please, (plus ten cents a minute on week days.) You can access your wealth from one of many convenient computerized dispensers located on any number of walls around the city. Try not to drink the city water unless you filter it first. You are welcome to enjoy the wide variety of tasty Genetically Modified foods which are discretely used in almost every item on every menu. Don't worry; it has all been fortified with a vast list of synthetic ingredients created by the most powerful of pharmaceutical agencies on the planet. --And do please smile for the million or so video cameras you will encounter during your stay. Yes indeed! Welcome to the Future!

And no, I'm sorry, but we didn't end up with those flying cars in every garage, nor do we get to live in splendid moon colonies. Energy isn't free, and neither is food. Of course, we could arguably have all of those things if we really wanted them; Unlike back in the heyday of Asimov, Bradbury and Clark, the technology for a utopian world is no longer the stuff of dreams. It's here. Right now. All of it. But sorry, no, it really doesn't look like the average Joe and Josephine will find themselves wearing jet-packs on distant worlds while engaged in daring ray gun battles with galactic smugglers. --But then, to be fair, when dealing with billions of possibilities, you really can't have everything; flying cars and ray guns for the people were only a couple of the countless futures envisioned by the many hundreds of story tellers. Unfortunately, so was Orwell's "1984". But I digress. . .

The point of the matter is that the open-ended future of a billion possibilities built upon the new and wonderful promise of science and industry is no longer open-ended. Heck, if you were to ask the average person on the street, I suspect you would probably receive a fairly detailed account of where all this new stuff will take us over the next few years.

As such. . .

The need for stories examining all the possibilities of science and technology isn't really there anymore either. Everybody is fairly well tuned in now. Future vision is no longer a kaleidoscope of science dreaming. Not the way it once was. Sorry, Spider. The job is just about done, and the workers are rolling up the drop cloth and heading for the van. The wild flights of speculation, the story-telling party of the century, is over.

Or perhaps I should say, the party has moved into the kitchen. (After all, there's always work of some sort which needs doing somewhere around the ramshackle house of humanity!) --People's minds are traveling over different terrain these days. And while some might look at the Orwellian vision and sink in their chairs with growing despair, I see a great deal more than just the backwards, corrputed, polluted and violent dystopia we were all warned about time and again. There are new and spectacular things afoot in the world! And all the millions of minds are seeking answers to these new kinds of problems. New possibilities!

What possibilities?

Oh, but that part is easy! Just look at popular fiction. Peer into your own headspace at the questions you find yourself asking. Or perhaps. . , the questions you are avoiding. --Remember, Science Fiction was also, for many years, a most shunned area of literature. A large number of people have a strong tendency to not want to look too closely at things which promise to change their lives in Big (with a capital 'B'), ways. How did Bilbo Baggins put it. . ?

'We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can't think what anybody sees in them,'

Ha ha!

But that doesn't ever stop the forward thinking and the eager from jumping right in, pulling up new ideas, examining them with passion. And slowly the rest of the world, as always, will warm to the expanding pool of thought even as the new reality begins to dawn all around them. Escapism? But of course! It's all about escapism! They said the same thing about Science Fiction, and they were right! However, the question nobody ever asks is, "Escaping to where?" --Think carefully, because the stories we read today are but kaleidoscope shadows of the places we'll be living in tomorrow. Our subconsciouses are generally much smarter than we are, after all. They speak to us through the stories they make us want to read.

And what stories do we find ourselves drawn to?

Why, we have Tolkien summoned up in full strength and bright, fresh armor on thousands of theater screens and millions of television monitors around the world. We have Babylon 5 and Buffy, both now on DVD making the rounds. We have The Matrix, (silly as the most recent installment was). Heck, even the latest Star Wars travesties tell a similar story; examining political upheaval and universal change. Oh, and magic. Don't forget the magic. Yes, we also have young Mr. Potter, don't we?

There are new winds stirring in the world today. . .

Surely you have felt them by now.

For those of you who might like to read about my recent adventures in leaving Toronto to move out to the East Coast. . , can go to the comment archives. (Be warned; I was feeling rather unhappy and squirrely when I wrote the installment before I left!)

Take care, all!

Mark Oakley
Sept 10, 2003
Wolfville

He mistakes science fiction (5, Insightful)

ishmaelflood (643277) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954423)

Nice response, and far more sensible than the whine that sparked it off.

However, he is describing hard science fiction, ie technology extrapolation and the use and abuse of physical laws, SF is much bigger than that. There are also all the other parts of the science fiction field- for instance PKD is still completely out there. A Scanner Darkly is a technology proof novel.

I like his point that we are living in the future. I've always extended it to "We are living in the future and it is slightly crap". My cell phone is often out of range. My whizzy looking car has a 30 year old chassis. Passenger aircraft got bigger, and less comfortable, not faster. 'We' fly to the moon. But not often. (Damn these anti-curmudgeon pills are wearing off).

I like spiders stuff but (5, Insightful)

Crashmarik (635988) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954425)

I have never considered him a science fiction writer. His work is much more on the order of screwball comedies. He usually starts off with with some urban legend type material a bunch of crazy characters, and he finishes up with see how good things are when we get along ? In the callahans stuff he generally winds up with in the future people will be alot nicer and regularly violate the laws of physics because of the fact.

Its not science fiction, its very good, I enjoy it a heck of alot and have bought just about everything he has written.

His rant about science fiction dieing was annoying the first time it had been done back in the 60's when hard scince fiction writers griped about the new wave kids.

Theres alot of great science fiction being written today more than I have ever seen before It just doesn't look like what it did 50 years ago. Theres a reaon The future isn't what it used to be. Look at the recent works out there by Greg bear, Greg egan,Ian macleod, Rosemary Kirsten, Vernor Vinge, Charles Stross, Dan Simmons, The list goes on. Its very high quality stuff and shows a greater understanding of underlying science than 90% of the golden age authors could manage.

What Mr. Spinrad misses is that there are things that just won't fly in the genre anymore. It's no longer possible to take a crap story toss in a few bug eyed aliens a spaceship and a girl in a brass bikini and expect people to read the story. Its also not enough to do a techno gimmick story anymore. As much as I loved George O Smiths stories, they don't read well anymore.

Elves and mythical pasts don't compete with science fiction. Theres always going to be a future and theres always going to be people speculating about it. How well the genre does will depend how well the authors bring the future to life.

Re:I like spiders stuff but (2)

junkgoof (607894) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954489)

Exactly. There are some great older authors (simak, Wyndham, Wells etc.) and lots of nostalgically overrated crap. Movies like "Pulp Fiction" get by just making fun of similar junk, the parodies work, the serious attempts end up like the original "Little Shop of Horrors."

A number of more recent authors, such as Gibson, Sterling, Stephenson, are as good as any of their predecessors, and in part because they take writing more seriously than science fiction ("Asimov has interesting ideas, but his writing! I wouldn't let him write junk mail!" --Douglas Adams). Quite a number of sci-fi authors, including some who still sell well (and not just the ones who write "Star Wars" adaptaions) just cannot write good English. Heinlein, Asimov, Anthony (OK, he writes kid stuff now, but he used to write "seriously", he just did it awkwardly). Not to say these authors did not produce good stories, they just did it without grace and poetry (and don't look for any in my posts, I'm a critic, not an artist).

Come to think of it there are even sci-fi authors (or were recently) who wrote well enough they could make junk mail readable. People like Douglas Adams, Donaldson (who works hard at making the subject material unpleasant), Gibson (who also has great ideas)... Compare what recent authors put out to the crap Heinlein wrote for most of his career (OK, I haven't read much of his older stuff, but there is a good reason for that), and see what you prefer.

90% of sci-fi has always been crap, just like 90% of most things (especially entertainment things) is crap. I think the top 10% today is as good as the top 10% 30 years ago. Nostalgia is just another way of revising history.

Wait, Most of Heinlein's Career? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954603)

Heinlein started writing just before the 1940's, "Time Enough for Love" was published in the early '70's. He was dead by 1988 or so, and wasn't really very prolific in his last 20 years, which is when all the stuff that is normally written off as crap was published. (I would argue that the later stuff was actually quite good, you just had to have read the older stuff to understand its context) The bulk of his writing was between 1940-1965, and so much of that, especially the short stories, was pure gold.

So what of his did you read? Try the short story collections, "The Menace from Earth," "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathon Hog," etc. Any of the future history short stories are great. The juveniles, 1945 through 1960 or so are also wonderful if you can appreciate them. Many of them are fun adventure stories, written to be serialized in Boy's Life, they're entertaining, and the science, for the time, is pretty damn good. If you only like Gibson-esque books, then its not going to appeal to you, but if you can appreciate good old fashioned futurism, then they're a blast.

Don't dismiss him on the basis of the half dozen books from the very end of his career, most written while he was actively in the process of dying of TB, and he never got to edit properly.

Re:Wait, Most of Heinlein's Career? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954892)

Dude, don't sweat it. This is the essential problem with Slashdot - some dork who can barely read or write his own native language will, when the subject of sci-fi comes up, tell you how horrible a writer Heinlein was as if it were an established fact and he were the person who established it. Never mind that he hasn't (by his own admission) read the very material he's discussing, and probably has never been laid.

These are people who think an MCSE or the ability to install Linux qualifies them to make value judgments on Heinlein's :
1) views on politics
2) views on gender equity and sexual issues
3) ability to write at all
4) worth as sci-fi author
5) relevance to today's authors

I guess they think that if it doesn't have superstrings or mention Finux, it's not sci-fi and it's poorly written.

Just ignore them, like you do the GNAA idiots and the 'BSD is dead' morons.

Re:I like spiders stuff but (1)

thynk (653762) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954736)

Its not science fiction, its very good, I enjoy it a heck of alot and have bought just about everything he has written.

A few things worry me about Spider's books, or his main characters more specific. I've yet to read one of his books where the main character wasn't either a musician, dope fiend, hippy or serious mac user (or all of the above). He's even got Tesla using what sounds like an IMac in Lady Slings the Booze.

I think he concentrates more on the emotions, feelings and people in his books than the tech. Even in DeathKiller (reprint of MindKiller and Time Pressure) that I just finished yesterday - there wasn't a LOT of science in it. Found the timing of this posting a little odd, finish a reprint book late one night and the next evening the author complains there isn't any new stuff coming out. Hmmm...

Oh well, I keep looking for books of his I don't have, just like Asmov, Heinlin and anything in the Bolo series.

Yawn (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954446)

Everything in the arts has been pronounced dead: theatre, the poem, the novel, the symphony, photography, paintings etc. You name it, at some point someone has worried about stagnation. And then embarrassed by their comments in retrospect. This is a non-story and a non-issue. In any case, it would be a mistake to uncritically equate the health of an artistic form with sales.

BSD on the other hand is a actually dead of course... a hundred thousand troll posts can't be wrong!

Wolf is right (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954465)

The future is here and most science fiction dates badly. If I recall correctly, Larry Niven's first science fiction story was obsolete just before publication because of new data abour Mercury.

But I think Wolf and Robinson ignore the the new paradigm of computers and virtual environments. Science fiction was the perfect literature for the burgeoning of science and technology in peoples' lives. However, with cyberspace, I think that a better model, a better metaphor, is magic. Think about what's the most popular virtual community: Everquest. All of the progress of the scientific worldview to make not just computers, but the Internet, and the best interaction is a magical world. It fits.

Re:Wolf is right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954709)

OMG Everquest is the best interaction?? Have you tried real life?? It got a very favorable review [gamespot.com] on gamespot. 9.6 is right up there!

5...4...3...2... (4, Funny)

dswensen (252552) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954466)

Any day now Bruce Sterling should be along to write a snarky editorial on how he predicted all this stuff years ago, and no one listened to his infinite wisdom...

The state of SciFi today is just fine (2, Insightful)

ekuns (695444) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954494)

The high price of paperbacks may, as much as anything else, discourage purchases. I still buy books faster than I can read them and I continue to discover new authors who I consider to be breaking new ground.

The character of Good SciFi changes with time, and some people do not like that. But life isn't static. I see this argument as akin to those who think that music stopped being good in the 60s (or 70s or 80s or pick your favorite era). How can anyone reasonably expect any genre to remain static and still remain interesting? Perhaps Spider is holding on to older times and doesn't want to live in the actual future! :)

OK, I probably read more fantasy than I used to, as a percentage. Perhaps some of the creative energy has moved in that direction. (Jim Butcher for example) But for recent SciFi how about Lyda Morehouse, Greg Egan, James Hogan (still publishing interesting stuff), Urulsa K LeGuin (anyone read The Telling?) and John Barnes.

There is a lot of good stuff out there. There is also a lot of drek. That's just life. Maybe the people who complain that SciFi is no longer interesting are those who are just not finding the good stuff. It's out there.

I find the genre of hard SciFi continues to improve with time.

For those who aren't holding onto older times and those who are willing to look through the stacks to find the good stuff, maybe some of those left who complain just don't like the direction and the ideas being investigated in current SciFi. I continue to be amazed at the interesting and new directions that SciFi authors take stories.

How to find the good stuff? (2, Interesting)

TMLink (177732) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954622)

I think you're right, but it does bring up the question "How do you find the good stuff?" With so much being published these days, it takes more effort to weed through it to find what's interesting to you.

Same with music. The increase in the number of bands out there seriously trying to make it, compounded by less diversity on the radio, makes it harder to find new bands that are doing stuff that you're interested in. I used to be able to use what was on the radio to not only directly find new bands, but to also jump off into new directions to find bands that might not be on the radio. Of course that kind of exploration can still be done today, it just takes more time to do so. Time that just isn't there (for me at least). More content out there to weed through, less time to do so.

So yeah, I state the problem and then don't offer up a solution. But what is the solution? Is it just finding several critics that seem to enjoy the same content that you do? Or is there another solution that just hasn't come to fruition yet?

Re:The state of SciFi today is just fine (1)

An Onerous Coward (222037) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954863)

Totally off-topic, but what is James Hogan smoking these days? I read "The Anguished Dawn," his most recent(?) book, and I'm at a loss to understand what happened. Isn't this the same guy who wrote "Code of the Lifemaker"? The opening chapter was probably the best depiction of evolution I'll probably ever read.

But now he seems to have leapt wholeheartedly into "Intelligent Design" arguments, bogus mathematical arguments against evolution, and even seems to take Immanuel Velikovsky seriously. Can anyone explain just what happened?

Re:The state of SciFi today is just fine (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954884)

The high price of paperbacks may, as much as anything else, discourage purchases.

Used to be that paperbacks were less than the minimum wage. Now they're 10%-30% higher. Is the minimum wage not keeping up or are the price of paperbacks outpacing inflation? And where can one find a good inflation-ometer, where one can plug in the current price of goods and see them reflected back through time?

There's still some decent science fiction... (2, Informative)

emtilt (618098) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954541)

it's just hard to find. I suggest reading The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect [kuro5hin.org] , but you'll have to read it online.

Re:There's still some decent science fiction... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954867)

I hate that story.

Another genre will emerge, (1)

cubyrop (647235) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954550)

one that will supplant science fiction in content, but not in perspective.

Having just returned from an utterly serious debate on whether or not humanity will be extinct within 100 years, I'm convinced that even though we may have stepped over a significant boundary as far as technology is concerned, other questions about the future will emerge.

Whereas before, the question was "what type of robots will there be", the new question will be "now what?" We have a weird, weird future ahead of us (well, those of us who aren't dying from AIDS), and imaginations will soar again, just not about stupid goddamn robots anymore.

Re:Another genre will emerge, (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954893)

"Kiss my shiny, metal ass!"

The Shape of Things to Come (1)

antsnax (706384) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954576)

It is disheartening to think that SciFi is a dying genre, because the "Future" is here. Science fiction can serve to both challenge our minds and inspire our imaginations. Case in point: Joseph F. Engelberger, founder of Unimation, Inc., and author of Robotics in Practice: Management and Application of Industrial Robots, credits the robot stories of Isaac Asimov in creating his interest in robots. It was Asimov himself who first used the term "robotics" in 1942. I agree that we have not experienced any revolutionary technology advances in the last few decades, but it would be arrogant to think the future is Now.

We're in the future? (1)

melvinElvin (707072) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954618)

What a daft comment to make. His notion that we are somehow at the end of the road in terms of sciene is complete bollocks. Yes, 20 years ago we were dreaming about going to the moon, jumpsuits, and zipping around from planet to planet. In some ways yes we can do that now. So what happens now? well we start dreaming about the next thing. We start dreaming about parallel universes or blackholes or whatever. To suggest we are somehow in the future, is as stupid as saying that tommorow is today. There will always be more technological advancements, always new things to discover and therefore always new things for sci-fi to write about. Sci-fi is about the sciene of the future, not about one particular milestone of sciene in the future.

Only one of those books... (0, Redundant)

fuzzix (700457) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954621)

Only one of those books/concepts mentioned is actually conceivable given the current global context.
Welcome to Oceania, Winston!

S-F Naysayers Projecting Own False Gloom & Doo (1)

reallocate (142797) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954649)

If -- and it's a very big and doubtful if -- science fiction is in trouble, it is due to a dearth of good writers and good writing, not to any "end of history", "the future is now" nonsense.

It is arrogantly stupid for anyone in the year 2003 to imagine that we've plumbed the depths of science and technology Not that that has anything at all to do with good writing, but some folks seem to think that because we can do a few of the things that H.G. Wells and Jules Verne wrote about a century ago, we've reached the end of our tether.

Even judging by the bogus rockets and robots yardstick, we've only managed to get to the next nearest stellar body -- the Moon, and our robots are lucky to be able to vacuum the floor. Getting to the Moon is rather like the first sailors paddling 100 yards out into the surf and coasting back in. And we're a very long way from needing Asimov's laws.

Science fiction isn't dead, but some readers' hopes and imaginations seem to be.

so they've lost their imagination? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954688)

is that what all this bitching is about?

no future (1)

howajo (707075) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954691)

How about this. No one is interested in Sci-Fi, because Sci-Fi is about people facing the future, and in the real future, a person is not important (except maybe to themselves). We are slowely but surely becoming less independant creatures and more cells of the colony. We are merging into a super-organism that really doesn't care much about us... maybe it will read sci-fi.

Well then (1)

Bullet-Dodger (630107) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954705)

Well, you heard it folks. This 'future' thing we've been striving for is here. Now there, you naughty scientists, pack all that up. You don't need to think about theses things anymore; If people really wanted to live on moon colonies, don't you think they would be by now? I'm sorry, but if you really wanted flying cars you should have spoken up before. We've achieved the future. It's too late to go changing things now.

Re:Well then (1)

antsnax (706384) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954848)

My entomology professor and mentor once said that science will be dead the day we believe that everything has been discovered. Question what you read in textbooks, and don't be afraid to disagree with the "experts" with higher degrees, he told us. His teachings inspired many of us to do just that. To name a few accomplishments of his students - discovery of new species of mayflies, restoration of subalpine habitat at Mt. Rainier, the expansion of Ecology Action, the only nonprofit recycling organization in Austin, TX. "It's like standing on the shoulders of giants, and slashing their Achilles heels". Dr. Riley Nelson

I still think it's funny... (3, Insightful)

Cody Hatch (136430) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954715)

...for Spider Robinson to be saying this. I don't really consider him a sci-fi author, and I don't much care for his books. Indeed, to the extent that there is a decline in sci-fi, I've always thought of him as a prime exhibit. His stories are so...soft. Fluffy. Fantastic (in the very litteral sense).

That being said, I don;t think there's really any crunch coming for sci-fi. What Spider is saying is that the type of sci-fi he likes (and that he writes) is disapearring. This is true! But sci-fi is the reflection of tomorrow on today, and is constantly changing. In times past, post-apocalytpic wastelands, or psi powers, or laser printers, or time machines, or Martians, or portable phones almost as small as your fist were fantasies that appealled. Sometimes the world moved on, sometimes we learnt they weren't plausible, sometimes they happened - but in any case, they're now no longer suitable for sci-fi.

There's plenty of great sci-fi being written today (Baen Books [baen.com] publishes several good authours (and should in any case be supported for pioneering a content distribution model that doesn't rely on DRM. They give away some titles [baen.com] on their website, sell others cheaply [webscription.net] , and include CDs with some hardbacks with dozens more.)

But it's not the same kind of sci-fi as was being written 20 or 30 years ago (and it would be pretty worrying if it was). For some, that puts it beyond the pale - it isn't "real" sci-fi. It's space opera, or military sci-fi, or too soft, or too hard, or whatever. For these people, intent on living in the past, I suppose the appeal of Fantasy isn't too surprising. But that's not the same thing as saying sci-fi is declining. Sci-fi is where it's always been - slightly on the edge, asking question some people would rather ignore.

Re:I still think it's funny... (1)

anagama (611277) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954967)

WOW! Check out Eric Flint's visionary statements [baen.com] re posting string free digital books. Someone should print that out and send it the RIAA.

Excerpt: There was a school of thought, which seemed to be picking up steam, that the way to handle the problem was with handcuffs and brass knucks. Enforcement! Regulation! New regulations! Tighter regulations! All out for the campaign against piracy! No quarter! Build more prisons! Harsher sentences! ... I, ah, disagreed. Rather vociferously and belligerently, in fact. And I can be a vociferous and belligerent fellow. My own opinion, summarized briefly, is as follows:

It's all about Futureshock (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954790)

People have had the future crammed down their throats for the last 50 odd years and can't handle the present, much less think about the future. I see this all the time (IT at small college) with faculty, staff, and, yes, students, not being able to use all the cool gadgets they think they need. Hell, there's still the blinking VCR thing happening.

Very few people can hold or get a handle on the change in the world and project forward. To be able to do this and write and interesting book, with well developed characters is really rare.

Why he is wrong... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6954821)

There are some interesting ideas to be had in the article, but his overall premise--that we've lost interest in exploring the future because we pretty well understand where we're going--seems wrong. I've read too many well-meaning letters to the editor explaining how a clone would be born without a soul, too many half-cocked attempts to disprove "evilution", too many faked-moon-landing conspiracies, and too much scaremongering over relatively straightforward issues like genetically modified foods, to ever be convinced that our species "gets it".

It's simple: for many people, the time when science fiction was most inspirational was back when it told us exactly what we wanted to hear. Infinite wealth, fast space cruisers, bold heroes who always got the bad guy and the girl (though not in the same way), and jet packs for the taking. But now sci-fi has gotten somewhat more realistic, and more grounded in the plausible. By doing so, it's lost at least a bit of that critical component of escapism.

If we've lost interest in sci-fi, it's not because we're finally getting comfortable with where this locomotive is headed. It's because we never had the nerve to even look out the window.

Sci Fi is in no danger (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954832)

First, i don't know what kind of lame SciFi collectors this guy hangs out with, but I have, and know people who have, plenty of paperbacks encased in plastics sleeves.

Second, there is vast difference between the death of SciFi and the decline of SciFi sales. The later is a distinct possibility, given that most people don't read real novels to begin with. The former is merely a matter of perception. It reminds me of the periodic statements by the educated ignorant that the end of science is nigh. Everything that can be discovered has been discovered. The reality is that though the technology is matured, the problems and possibilities still exists. We have moved from robots as, etymological, slaves to the questions of what makes a sentient being, or, as in the United Nation lingo, a person (see Can Animals and Machines be Persons, Leiber). We have the question of what does it mean to be human when we are no longer unique. Questions of culture, beyond the white human centric model pushed by the popular writers, are also up for grabs.

We must also acknowledge that the past is gone. As Andrei Condrescu stated on a recent editorial on NPR concerning the death of Teller and Riefenstahl, the 20th century is over. From a Science fiction point of view, we get the same from the death of Rodenberry and Heinlein, and the metaphorical deaths of Star Trek and Star Wars. The classic age of Science Fiction is gone. Complaining that the present is not like the past has to be one of the silliest thing for a SciFi fan to do.

And modern science fiction reflects this. The genre has not, like the romance novel, stagnating in a perpetual adolescents. It has grown, matured, and become complex. It is as unrecognizable as the friend that one has not seen since childhood. The very nature of that complexity limits the audience. No longer can it be completely understood by the child. No longer is a pulp medium to be passively consumed. It is literature.

Good Modern Sci-Fi Author List (2, Interesting)

anagama (611277) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954895)

I've always loved Sci-Fi and I just can't imagine it completely dying out. And I think there are some good modern authors too. Here's a short list of authors I've enjoyed who published works in the last decade:
  • Ian M. Banks [iainbanks.net] (the Culture stuff - not the fantasy stuff)
  • Kage Baker [kagebaker.com] (The Company Series is rather fun).
  • William [williamgibsonbooks.com] Gibson ... obviously.

Who else should be here?

The eternal present (1)

alizard (107678) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954906)

where everything humanity will ever see is a linear extension of what we see now.

Good until:

  1. The oil runs out (no, conservation and renewable will NOT do it, see below)
  2. The Third World discovers that they will never have the First World lifestyle they've been told they'll get if only they'll sign on to the US "democracy and economic advancement" package. The available energy is just enough to sustain countries that are already First World and maybe countries already on their way to First World status like China and maybe India. We can't get materials (you going to play half-life with a computer with no tantalum caps?) out of there without military force under constant attack, and to be able to exert that level of military force means militarizing our whole civilization. Right now, the US is stretched to its military limits occupying two countries, one of which has oil. You want to see your kids drafted to join corporate "security forces" protecting African mines?
  3. Somebody fucks up terminally on an industrial scale and the species doesn't last long enough to run out of oil. Can anybody say "gray goo"? Lots of other possibilities. The research into GM foods wasn't adequate and there are nasty long-term effects on the consumers. We go to a world full of HTGR reactors and there's a common design flaw in all of them. The problem here isn't the chance of any single disaster, it's that keeping humanity on one planet means that our luck as a species will run out sooner or later.

Then, the best case the entire world gets is a hellride as the First and fastest growing Third World economies go to war over the last few billion barrels of oil. Maybe the species stabilizes at a population where hunter-gathering will keep it going, though I'm not optimistic even about that. Modern war has nasty effects on the ecosystem.

Of course, a human race that agrees with Mark Oakley deserves such a fate. Let some other species that deserves it expand into the galaxy and long-term survival.

Mark doesn't know any better. A guy whose world is defined by his computer and a broadband connect and graphic art set in imaginary sword and sorcery worlds doesn't have to do the kind of research it takes into science, engineering, economics and a dozen other fields it takes to write decent hard SF.

We are the people who make technology. We are supposed to know better.

It's actually quite simple, and logical, too... (4, Interesting)

BadElf (448282) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954925)

Sci-fi was (and is) a method for exploring the possibilities of existing and theoretical technologies. We are a much more techno-savvy populace now. Even my Grandmother knows what a laser is (it'll fix her eyes).

Society today, however, though tech-savvy, wants -- no, *needs* -- to find some reason or purpose to life other than just "moving forward" (whether toward the stars, the moon, etc.). Whenever society reaches a critical mass of "understanding" of the "known and accepted potentialities" of technology, it reverts to the "spiritual".

This is why the fantasy stories are obliterating sci-fi. People already *know* what will most likely happen tech-wise within their lifetime. What they *don't* know is whether there is a "god", or "gods", or whatever else you can dream up in the "spiritual" realm. IMHO, the fantasy genre is more important to the average reader today than sci-fi because fantasy texts address the questions and concerns that today's readers are really interested in.

Sci-fi is very extro-spective -- focusing on what might happen based on current scientific knowledge and theory. Sci-fi generally ignores or poo-poo's the spiritual/human concerns of us carbon-based entities, instead pushing either techno-utopian agendas, or techno-hell agendas.

Fantasy, on the other hand, is very intro-spective -- focusing on the (usually) historic, spiritual planes of thought and existence. Fantasy doesn't care about the future, as long as it can describe a believable past.

In a nutshell, I think what's happening is that people know enough (and have been let down enough) by technology to not have faith in the hypothetical futures described in sci-fi. Instead, these same people want an altruistic world like Tolkein offers (all is black or white, very little grey) that has the semblance of "history" or "religion", and doesn't require buying in to a specific school of futurism.

Of course, I'm probably full of shit and don't know my own ass from a hole in the ground, but that's what I think about this.

Peace, my fellow /.'ers

it's the exploration, stupid (3, Interesting)

Ellen Ripley (221395) | more than 10 years ago | (#6954936)

I don't know that Oakley addressed Robinson's main point: "Those few readers who haven't defected to Tolkienesque fantasy cling only to Star Trek, Star Wars, and other Sci Fi franchises." Most people don't want a challenge, they want to sit back and relax. Brightly-colored fantasy like Tolkien is just more soothing than the unknown future you have to construct for yourself.

In the meantime, there's a news piece once a month on advances in carbon nanotubes to build a space elevator. On orbit for $5 a pound, coming right up, ma'am.

In the meantime, there's a considerable subset of the population that wants Mars so bad we can already taste her oxidized sands. A few billion dollars (perhaps 10% of what we've spent on the war in Iraq) and ten years and we could be there.

And no one seems to care. Where is this planet spending it's collective dollars, pounds and rubles?

"... using perfectly good rockets to kill each other, instead."
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