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Is Science Fiction the Opiate of the Geek Masses?

Zonk posted more than 9 years ago | from the open-your-missives-to-the-book-of-heinlein-chapter-3 dept.

Sci-Fi 747

jimharris writes "After reading Geoff Ryman's Mundane SF website, where he promotes a new form of science fiction based on real science, I got to wondering if traditional science fiction is just the opiate of the geek masses? Most science fiction is based on speculative fantasy rather than hard science - the common example being stories built around faster-than-light travel. Einstein rules, and FTL space travel has about zero chance of ever existing. SF writer Ian McDonald replied in his blog, Heads down, there's going to be incoming... and a rather wide-ranging discussion and elaboration of the idea is held over at mundane-sf.blogspot.com. Proponents of the Mundane Manifesto readily admit that traditional science fiction is just harmless fun, but I have to ask, how many people out there have a positive view on life because they believe in Star Trek in the same way that other faithful do."

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you wanker (0, Offtopic)

eh0d is my daddy (825041) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859149)

eh0d broke my heart

Probably (0, Offtopic)

KaptNKrunchy (876661) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859158)

And I've always been quite fond of opiates myself. ;)

Ya think? (1)

themushroom (197365) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859162)

I got to wondering if traditional science fiction is just the opiate of the geek masses?

Duh. :)

Re:Ya think? (1)

St. Arbirix (218306) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859187)

I got to wondering if traditional science fiction is just the opiate of the geek masses?

Duh. :)


I think he's asking if science fiction is the geek religion.

Same answer though.

Re:Ya think? (1)

Mudcathi (584851) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859270)

Television is the modern opiate of the masses, and the masses have destroyed the SciFi channel by imposing the lowest common denominator upon geekdom. Is it any wonder that other scifi media, such as books, movies, magazines, are likewise diluted in content, form, and art? This is why the likes of Firefly are cancelled.

Who are these 'faithful'??? (3, Insightful)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859167)


From TFS:


Proponents of the Mundane Manifesto readily admit that traditional science fiction is just harmless fun, but I have to ask, how many people out there have a positive view on life because they believe in Star Trek in the same way that other faithful do.

It's statements like these that make all geeks look bad.

Re:Who are these 'faithful'??? (4, Interesting)

Mornelithe (83633) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859274)

What exactly is the problem with what he said?

Are you saying that people who believe in religion don't use it as a basis for a positive outlook on life?

Or are you saying that people who have faith in a religion or something similar should not be called 'faithful'?

Or are you saying that believing that in the future, we will live in an egalitarian society without poverty is somehow fundamentally different than believing that the universe was created/is guided by a benevolent, omnipotent entity?

Or have I missed something? I'm just curious.

Re:Who are these 'faithful'??? (2, Insightful)

Mornelithe (83633) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859294)

P.S.: On a side note: I agree, the question was pretty lame. I can't image why it would be front-page material.

Re:Who are these 'faithful'??? (-1, Flamebait)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859284)

they believe in Star Trek in the same way that other faithful do.

In the pedophile chat rooms, of course!

Re:Who are these 'faithful'??? (4, Funny)

PakProtector (115173) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859316)

We're still a few centuries away from the Church of Star Trek, though, and then the eventual retaliation where-by all fans of the series are killed in the manner most befitting virgins.

Guy: *Tosses Geek into Volcano* He's Dead, Jim.

Re:Who are these 'faithful'??? (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859327)

Gathered Geek Throng: But not as we know it!

Try this perspective (4, Interesting)

neostorm (462848) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859333)

I don't beleive he's saying that a large portion of people only find life worth living because of some geek, sci-fi fiction universe. At least not in that pitiful perspective that you can read it as. I believe what he's saying is that it is human nature to wonder about the unknown, and we find that teasing our imaginations of the unknown through fictional stories and universes like "Star Trek" and the like, satisfy a large part of our wonder despite being highly unplausible. Not only because of thier ability to paint a potential future for mankind, but also paint a positive one.
So what exactly is wrong with hoping that a future of peacful space travel and exploration that does not involve wanton destruction, prejudice and war (all things currently and constantly plaguing our race on this earth), is a bad thing? That thought alone *does* allow me to be a bit happier in life, because if I look around me right now, there aren't a whole lot of things our people are doing to making life better for everyone as a whole.
If you take a gander at the world today you can't help but see the damage the human race brings on itself and it's environment. If you see optimistic things though the extincting of animals, controlling populace through fear and war, and the growing of individual goverments world-power over controlled medicines, unhealthy food production and inequality in living conditions, then *your* opiate is to lie to yourself.

Treo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12859170)

My Treo is more powerful than a tricorder anyways. Star Trek is more like science history rather than fiction.

So is ... (2, Funny)

KSobby (833882) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859173)

So is mixing pr0n and sci-fi the geek equivalent of chasing the dragon?

Re:So is ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12859194)

I don't know about chasing the dragon, but it sure makes spanking the monkey a lot more fun.

Re:So is ... (2, Funny)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859195)

is mixing pr0n and sci-fi the geek equivalent of chasing the dragon?

I believe the accepted phrase is "leaking the lizard."

Re:So is ... (1)

PakProtector (115173) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859367)

The euphemism is 'Draining the Dragon,' and it refers to going to the bathroom.

Also, when you hear it during a DnD game, you know you need to kill the makers of the game, kill your fellow players of the game, then yourself, and make sure you get your whole head infront of the fireball^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H shotgun.

Mundane SF = Modern Novel? (4, Insightful)

theluckyleper (758120) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859175)

If you base your "SF" novel on currently accepted science only, then how can you do anything other than create a plot set in the present day? You can't know what "accepted" science will be like in the future... if you try to guess, you'll find yourself back in "standard" SF again.

Yes, FTL travel is far-fetched, but it's no less a fantasy than any other science-based predictions an author might make.

Re:Mundane SF = Modern Novel? (1, Insightful)

peragrin (659227) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859280)

UM Why is FTL impossible again?

100 years ago Flight was quite literally a dream for 99.99999999% of the world.

For 50 years one thought they couldn't travel faster than sound.

in the Late 1970's IBM asked would an home person want a computer.

Just because you can't figure out how, doesn't mean someone else can't.

Sci-Fi has presented a lot of good ideas and possibilities. Andromena. Battlestar Galactic, and several others use regular light speed signals for normal space, then use a twist to get them to a very distant point. All of those methods have been theorized and talked about, but none of them can be known for sure until we get more information.

Re:Mundane SF = Modern Novel? (1)

E-Rock (84950) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859283)

Right! Current understanding of science says only that an object with mass cannot accelerate to the speed of light. Yet photons zip around at the speed of light.

So, either photons have no mass, and therefore don't exist, or that we don't have a complete understanding of all the laws of the universe.

If we all accept that FTL travel is impossible, that breakthru that makes it possible will never be undertaken. That's the positive of science-fantasy, it lets you imagine and dream. Those dreams of 50 years ago are largely a reality, becasue the people who were inspired by the stories then dreamed and helped make those dreams reality.

Re:Mundane SF = Modern Novel? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12859363)

Photons DON'T have any mass. Photons DO exist.

"Breakthrough" is not spelled "breakthru". Breakthroughs are "achieved", or "they occur"; they are not "undertaken".

The genre is "Science Fiction" or "Fantasy", or even "SF/Fantasy" if you want to lump them together (a bad choice), but not "science-fantasy".

Re:Mundane SF = Modern Novel? (1)

swimin (828756) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859375)

Actually the laws state that you can't go faster than the speed of light, not that you can't reach it.
I can imagine two ways that FTL travel can be achieved:
1. Folding to make the distance shorter.
2. Taking advantage the fact that light is just an average.

Re:Mundane SF = Modern Novel? (1)

bluephone (200451) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859384)

Photos have no mass, but they DO posess energy. They do exist, trust me, I've seen them.

Re:Mundane SF = Modern Novel? (2, Insightful)

shobadobs (264600) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859386)

So, either photons have no mass, and therefore don't exist,

If your definition of "exists" requires that existing things have mass, then you're using a very distorted definition of the word.

Re:Mundane SF = Modern Novel? (2, Insightful)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859305)


Agreed. "Speculative fiction" entails a certain level of "speculation". This whole 'mundane' nonsense is grossly oversimplifying matters...there's no SF that's completely 'hard'...if it were, it would cease to be SF. Advocating that authors ought to stick to McGuffins that are more plausible is all well and good...I'm a big fan of so-called 'hard sci-fi' myself...but it's simply not plausible to strip all speculation from the genre...if you do, you have nothing left but modern fiction, exactly as you observed.

Re:Mundane SF = Modern Novel? (2, Interesting)

N3Roaster (888781) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859354)

Quite a bit of science fiction has been written using accepted science without a present day earth setting. Possible settings include very large spacecraft that travel slower than light, future post-alien conquered earth, and non-earth planets. I refer you to Gene Wolfe and Octavia Butler as examples of authors who, while not shy to move away from accepted science (let's ignore the works with telepaths in them for these purposes, though) present works which can stand very well apart from improbable science/technology while still avoiding present day earth settings.

Re:Mundane SF = Modern Novel? (4, Insightful)

NickFortune (613926) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859377)

If you base your "SF" novel on currently accepted science only, then how can you do anything other than create a plot set in the present day?

Well, there is a certain amount of extrapolation allowable. For instance there are technologies that are theoretically possible and for which the science exsts, but which are currently beyond our engineering capabilities. A good example, up until just recently anyway, was the space elevator.

Not that the MSF manifest sounds terribly attractive, you understand

Please report to the nearest Suicide Booth (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12859176)

If your "positive view of life" is based primarily on Star Trek please report to the nearest Suicide Booth.

Thank You.

Hard-SCI Fi is NOT fantasy based (4, Interesting)

Com2Kid (142006) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859188)

This is why I rarely read the newer Science Fiction authors (newer meaning after the 1960s!), I prefer the older authors who actually had Doctorates of Science!

(or, in many cases, were on their way towards getting a doctorate in science and writing Science Fiction is how they paid for, in part, their education!)

Often times you can learn a lot about real world science from these authors (albiet some what dated now, as many areas of science have long since surpassed the knowledge possessed when these stories were originally written), something that I find lacking in modern day science fiction.

Re:Hard-SCI Fi is NOT fantasy based (2, Informative)

veltyen (206345) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859211)

You might want to read some Brin then.
http://www.davidbrin.com/ [davidbrin.com]

Re:Hard-SCI Fi is NOT fantasy based (1)

AstrumPreliator (708436) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859352)

So tell me, if you were around in 1865 would you not have read From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne? That was science fiction, Jules Verne had a degree in law, and it wasn't even that accurate in terms of science. It still was very popular and roughly 100 years later we went to the moon.

If I want to catch up on present day sciences I'll read books about them. God knows I have stuff ranging from cosmology to mathematics for casual reading on my bookshelf. But when I want to read some fiction I like to leave this world behind and imagine a different place. I suppose you could niavely classify today's science fiction as just plain fiction, but I'd like to point out that just because we don't think something is possible today (FTL travel) doesn't mean it isn't possible; it just means we don't know everything.

Is Science Fiction the Opiate of the Geek Masses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12859193)

Ummm, duh!

BTW, nice pun with the "geek masses" thing... : p

No (5, Insightful)

DanthemaninVA1 (750886) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859196)

If we "believe in Star Trek..."? Are you kidding me? Science fiction is ENTERTAINMENT, not religion. It's a genre of books, film, and television, not a protestant denomination or somesuch. If you "believe in Star Trek," I feel sorry for you.

Re:No (3, Funny)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859240)


You really ought to attend a Star Trek con sometime.

Best argument for euthanasia/compulsory birth control on the planet.

^_^

Re:No (2, Funny)

PakProtector (115173) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859341)

I went to one when I was twelve (oddly enough, the same year I joined /., I think. But I digress), and William Shatner was there. No one was allowed to get within ten feet of him, and at one point I remember somebody pointing at his Toupe and shouting, "LOOK! A TRIBBLE!"

Yes, for the love of the Gods, none of us need to reproduce.

And not just because of Star Trek. Every person born is another person breathing my precious, precious oxygen.

My oxygen.

Re:No (1)

Spock the Baptist (455355) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859342)

If I weren't a Vulcan I'd resent the previous post.

Re:No (1)

bluephone (200451) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859355)

So what's your view on Star Wars conventions? instead of Klingons, you have Wookieees. Instead of Borg, you have Storm Troopers. Instead of Starfleet uniforms, you have folks dressed like Jedi in robes. Now, I'm a big Trek fan, I enjoy arguing minutiae from time to time, but I don't put on Vulcan ears and go scoping for chicks dressed like the Duras sisters. But I'd like to know if Slashdotdom has a similarly dim view of the folks who drank too much of the Star Wars koolaid (since /. has always biased toawrds SW and away from ST).

Re:No (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12859254)

how is that dumber than believing in an invisible sky gigant and his alledged do-gooder son?

Yes. (1)

Kafka_Canada (106443) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859198)

That's the whole point. Science fiction, like all other good fiction, is the art of telling enthralling stories -- in the case of science fiction, that happen to take place in an imaginary future world, rather than in an imaginary present world like most fiction, or an imaginary past world in historical fiction. Occasionally people use fiction (incl. science fiction) as a medium to advance intellectual theories, e.g. social ideas or technological ideas or whatever, in which case the "serious" aspect either exists alongside the fictional narrative or adds to or detracts from its value, but essentially yes, science fiction is an opiate for a certain demographic.

Next time, try to come up with a better question.

He is just a pessimist (5, Insightful)

tftp (111690) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859201)

Einstein rules, and FTL space travel has about zero chance of ever existing.

Yes, and Isaac Newton would just laugh if someone told him about weird quantum effects which we accept as obvious today.

In fact, we know that we know almost nothing about the fundamental nature of this Universe, and it's just pointless to discuss what one can and can not do with it.

Re:He is just a pessimist (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12859230)

Wait until you understand the problems with faster than light travel before you spout off on the subject.

Re:He is just a pessimist (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859292)

That's what Einstein's opponents used to say?

Re:He is just a pessimist (5, Insightful)

Draconix (653959) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859337)

I'm moderately sure he does understand the problems. I do, yet I don't think FTL is impossible. The only thing I know to likely be impossible is to accellerate a mass to beyond the speed of light in normal spacetime. Any decent SF writer knows this, and will often note this in their work; any 'FTL' travel requires either the translation of mass to something without mass, or leaving normal spacetime in order to get from point A to point B faster than light. I've yet to have even read an SF novel in which a ship travels faster than light by accellerating a normal mass beyond the speed of light while keeping that mass within normal spacetime, and I've read hundreds of science fiction novels.

As for science fiction being fantasy... well, duh. There really isn't much difference between the two, except that science fiction is _usually_ speculative, and has more of a basis in our own reality, while other fantasy is free to explore the more farfetched. A careful writer can actually make it very difficult to tell the difference between SF and fantasy. (Frank Herbert, China Mieville, and others.)

As was kind of stated before in this topic, you can only make science fiction so 'realistic' before it's no longer science fiction, but simply realistic fiction.

Re:He is just a pessimist (1)

bluephone (200451) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859366)

Wait until you grasp M-theory before you bash those who "spout off".

Re:He is just a pessimist (1)

Illserve (56215) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859256)

In fact, we know that we know almost nothing about the fundamental nature of this Universe,

If we hadn't thrown the goddamned manual out with the wrapping paper on Christmas morning we'd be much better off.

Re:He is just a pessimist (1)

biglig2 (89374) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859321)

Well, I kinda doubt that he'd just laugh, on the grounds that:
a) he was one of the greatest physisicsts who ever lived, and so would doubtless find QM quite interesting
b) he was also a bit mad, and so would doubtless find QM quite interesting

Re:He is just a pessimist (1)

Nasarius (593729) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859323)

In fact, we know that we know almost nothing about the fundamental nature of this Universe, and it's just pointless to discuss what one can and can not do with it.

Accelerating to the speed of light is demonstrably impossible. However, this doesn't rule out stuff like wormholes, however unlikely. I'm being slightly pedantic, but I think this distinction is important.

Wait . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12859202)

. . . I thought that was pornogrophy.

Is it the opiate? (4, Insightful)

Apreche (239272) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859203)

Yes, yes it is. Notice how most real nerds will frolic and adore anything with a science fiction theme. Even if those things, stripped of their sci-fi theme, are terrible. For example Star Trek is just a soap opera, it happens to be in space. Same for shows like Farscape. And the same goes for many books and fan-fics about various sci-fi universes.

Not that all sci-fi is actually crap. I'm not one to deny the quality of original Star Wars or great novels from Asimov or Heinlein or Stephenson. But it seems to me that many nerds will like anything and everything sci-fi just because its sci-fi.

What bothers me the most is that I'm a somewhat well rounded geek, but most sci-fi TV shows really don't do it for me. And when all my friends like a show they act like I'm lying when I have no interest and they think its the best thing ever. Things are good because they are good, not because they have a robot, alien, spaceship, magic, etc.

Re:Is it the opiate? (1)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859353)

Erm..Star Trek isn't anything like a soap opera. Have you ever watched either one?

And, no, I'm not some Trek fanboi. It's not that good, it's just not a soap opera.

There are plenty of scifi series that are soap operas. Buffy springs to mind. But not Trek.

Re:Is it the opiate? (1)

eclectro (227083) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859358)

Things are good because they are good, not because they have a robot, alien, spaceship, magic, etc

Well, if the robot or alien is really sexy and has a fast spaceship, I'd call it good.

Why do you ask? (1)

John Jorsett (171560) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859204)

but I have to ask, how many people out there have a positive view on life because they believe in Star Trek in the same way that other faithful do.

Does it really matter? If you have a positive view on life and you can function, why's it a problem how you become upbeat? Would you rather those people go around grounded in reality but depressed? This sounds like similar arguments that people have about beliefs in God, ghosts, and saucer abductions. They're mostly harmless.

How about this....... (3, Interesting)

m93 (684512) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859205)

It does not matter how many warp drives, alternate realites, laser guns, or jedi mind tricks a science fition work has...it all comes down to how the story is used to help the audience explore some segment of actual human nature. The science should be there to compliment the characters, not overtake them. What the hell good is a story if it does not give you a new perspective on your own existence/nature? If you want to strictly predict future technologies, that is what essays and doctoral thesis' are for. Sci-Fi is an opiate for the masses? Perhaps, but you can apply that label to many different genres of film and literature.

Re:How about this....... (4, Insightful)

0racle (667029) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859318)

What the hell good is a story if it does not give you a new perspective on your own existence/nature?

I believe that it's then called entertainment, and its the whole reason most people watch movies, read books and play games. Whenever some form of entertainment starts to try and make me get some 'new perspective,' I go to something else. If I wanted that I'd stick with real life, the rest of this is to get my mind off things, to be entertained and relax a little.

Abandon all hope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12859206)

The universe sucks, we'll never travel faster than light, never leave the solar system and will become extinct as a species thanks to superior Microsoft technology.

Geez, pull the other monad.

Re:Abandon all hope (1)

Spock the Baptist (455355) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859369)

"The universe sucks..."

No. Your quote is off. It's: "Space Sucks."

You've obviously never hung out with the Space Physics crowd at Rice.

Some of it is crap. (The pap that gets popular) (1)

crovira (10242) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859207)

some of it is just keeping our ears, eyes and options open.

There's nothing with stuff that could be, which lets out almost all 'space opera' but still leaves a great deal to the imagination.

science fiction (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12859212)

Geeks just read crappy ass sci-fi novels because they aren't capable of comprehending serious works of literature.

Code Monkeys ain't exactly the sharpest tools in the shed.

In other news factory workers read a lot of detective novels.

It is called science fiction. (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859214)

If to stick to only what is possible today then it is not really science fiction?

Creating New Technology (2, Insightful)

rmjohnso (891555) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859224)

What about new technology created due to science fiction? For example, I remember reading a few articles about how doctors thought the diagnostic beds they saw in ST: TOS were a great idea. They took an idea from science fiction and made into a very useful reality.

On another tangent, if you surveyed a large portion of scientists who like science fiction, you would probably see a lot of them having entered the sciences due to the influence of science fiction. So what if FTL is most likely impossible, does that mean all those guys at JPL who love Star Trek, Stargate, B5, etc. should stop watching since it isn't science fact?

My last tangent:
What about programs that look very much like science fact but in reality are much more science fiction? The common example here is the "oh let's just enhance this image through our nifty little computer software, and viola, there's your murder suspect." I somewhat think that this type of fiction does a disservice to real science, not helping it.

Re:Creating New Technology (1)

Solder Fumes (797270) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859262)

Why would someone just throw in the name of a musical instrument before saying "there's your murder suspect"? Are violas hiding something from me?

Re:Creating New Technology (1)

rmjohnso (891555) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859299)

voila

I can't spell. :-)

Enhance is the worst thing ever. (1)

Beardydog (716221) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859335)

I hate "enhance". I hate it more than anything, no matter what it's in. We were watching Num3ers a couple months ago, and the genius wrote a program to "enhance" security footage. It took a picture of a guy in a mask so blurry you couldn't tell where his eyes were, and somehow managed to interpolate an expensive wristwatch.

Even Bladerunner enhanced...zooming in on a tiny mirror in the background of a photo...to the opposite side of the room as reflected in the mirror...close enough to show a woman's earring, if I recall correctly.

If anyone needs me, I'll be in the Angrydome.

Science-Fiction (1)

gullevek (174152) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859228)

This is Fiction of Science. Things that might be. Why does everything has to be based on real facts. If it is based on real facts than it is rather a documentary and not a Science-Fiction Novel.

People believe in a lot of things: gods, fuehrer, presidents, whatever. So let those who want to believe in Star Trek or whatsoever.

Science Fiction is still something that might not be or might be. If you go back 100 years and tell someone you will have a mobile phone the size small than your hand, they will probably call you a loony. When Asimov wrote his Robot storries, who thought that this might come true. Nowadays we have already walking robots and who knows what the future will bring.

Nothing is impossible, until it is prooven impossible.

Repeat after me (1)

Raul654 (453029) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859231)

Suspension of disbelief... Suspension of disbelief...Suspension of disbelief... Suspension of disbelief...

Yes, FTL travel as we traditionally think of it (as opposed to using wormholes) is probably impossible. On the other hand, since most people *aren't* terribly well versed in the underlying relativistic mechanics necessarily to know this, it's not hard to suspend disbelief, and it makes for some good stories. When it takes 2,000 years to travel between stars, it makes it very hard to craft belivable Space Opera-type stories.

Slashdot is the Opiate of the Geek Masses. (4, Insightful)

dmoen (88623) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859232)

This is based on how much time I spend reading science fiction, vs how much time I spend reading slashdot.

Doug Moen

Like I say... (1)

Kid Zero (4866) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859235)

If I want reality, I'll go outside.

Re:Like I say... (1)

Durinthal (791855) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859272)

But who would ever do that? Only the mad, I say!

New Hard Sci-Fi (2, Informative)

FroBugg (24957) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859239)

There's still plenty of good hard sci-fi being produced these days. The first one that comes to mind is Kim Stanley Robinson's series about the colonization and terraforming of Mars (Red Mars, Blue Mars, and Green Mars).

I'm willing to admit that I go in for lots of the more fantastical stuff myself, but I'm sure others here can make good reccomendations.

Einstein doesn't have to be wrong (3, Insightful)

MagPulse (316) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859241)

In a warp bubble, you are moving at sub-light speed relative to the space inside the bubble, but space itself is warped so that relative to the surrounding space you are moving at FTL speed.

My favorite author, Vernor Vinge [wikipedia.org] , writes about a universe where we are in a "slow zone", and the laws of physics allow FTL travel in other places but not here. Vinge has a Ph.D. in math, and writes the kind of hard sci-fi that I like most. In fact it might be that writing with Einstein's constraints helped Vinge since he had to come up with a creative solution.

Philosophy (1)

schneidafunk (795759) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859244)

It seems that stories based on hard science, but predicting future events, are very similar to philosophy. If the story uses logic and the base axioms are existing technology, we should categorize it separately.

Oh, Go tunnel an electron! (1)

kulakovich (580584) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859249)


Peddle your negative-Nancy postings to someone else!

kulakovich

Turned On (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859250)

No science fiction is the marketing of the geek masses. We grow up with it, we often find refuge in its scenarios where geeks have friends, and are even respected as heroes. So we want to make or have all the stuff we read about in it. It's more like the psychedelics of the geek masses: it opens our minds, plants visions of a present distorted into a kind of future, which we then work to achieve. Either by inventing it, or just "early adopting" it when someone else does.

What in the...? (4, Interesting)

AstrumPreliator (708436) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859252)

I always thought the phrase, "science fiction" was pretty self-explanitory myself. Why in the world would you want to limit authors to only using current science? Let's just assume for a second that we do know everything and our current model of the universe is 100% accurate and complete (which is such a laughable statement in itself), wouldn't it be more fun to escape into a different universe, one where FTL travel is possible, one where anything is possible? That's the point of fiction. Science fiction wasn't meant to be a rehash of your college physics book with a storyline thrown in, it was meant to be fun.

SF or PoliSF? (1)

darkPHi3er (215047) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859255)

...but I have to ask, how many people out there have a positive view on life because they believe in Star Trek in the same way that other faithful do."

HMMMM, as a lifelong SciFi Geek, with a real preference (after the GrandMasters) for the "hard" stuff ala' Charles Sheffield (RIP)..it's an interesting question.

which seems to me to beg another question...How of much what we are talking about in inextricalby interwoven with contemporary American politics?

ST:TOS came along during one of the most politically and socially dynamic periods of American history. TOS had a distinctly "Utopian" viewpoint, which many have extracted/inferred something of a "Fabian Socialist" viewpoint on the part of the show. Giving Gene Roddenberry's well-known political leanings, that's pretty unlikely.

It is MORE likely that Roddenberry intended a "technological utopia" where a politically-neutral science has advanced to the point where it has solved all the supply and demand and resource conflicts that have fueled international relations since the Hellenic Period.

Going all the way back to the Golden Age, and looking at early Vogt and the Lensmen series, where you have LOTS and LOTS of rayguns, and pretty routinely violate EVERY understanding we had (even then) of the "Laws,AHEM, of Physics"

Is the principle attraction of TOS its utopian politics, which gives us "future warm/fuzzies" about scientific solutions to all the global conflicts and crises that currently beset Gaia?

Or is it actually the "science" of TOS that attracts Geeks?

I would argue that there is so VERY LITTLE "science" in ST (as a whole)...that those who respond strongly to it are responding to the "sociology" of the future ST envrionment...

FWIW..YMMV

WI humans could live 5,000 years? (2, Interesting)

tjstork (137384) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859257)

The whole reason interstellar travel gets ruled out is that it takes too long. But, what if humans could live for 5,000 years. Then, taking a trip to another planet would certainly be within reach.

Re:WI humans could live 5,000 years? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12859344)


what if humans could live for 5,000 years

nono, think what happens if humans survive without killing each other off for a 1,000,000,000 years !
this life thing has just begun, we are now more aware of our surroundings and already (in anything given enough time, we just gotta not kill each other too much

Vernor Vinge (1)

puzzled (12525) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859265)


If you read SF and haven't read Vinge you better google for him right now ...

The Cult of Space Fanboyism (0)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859269)

I got to wondering if traditional science fiction is just the opiate of the geek masses?

Yup, judging from how I get mod-slapped every time I post anything remotely critical of NASA, space exploration, space elevators, or the billions of dollars we spend on space "research". Slashdot is completely intolerant of anything that goes against the "group think" that space is just the biggest goddamn thing since sliced bread. The same idiots answer my posts every time. "Oh, look at all the things we got from the space program, like velcro!", which a)assumes the item in question never would have been invented if it was truly necessary, and b)ignores all the nasty stuff that's come as a result of NASA research. Mainly, every jet fighter made by the US, spy satellites, and- our deepest, darkest technology- nuclear weapons, which thanks to all that space research, we can deliver clear across the planet at the push of a few buttons. Then there are the escapists- "well, it'd probably be a good idea to start living on another planet for safety". Hey, spaceshot- how about we learn how to get things right before we go galloping off?

I strongly suggest anyone who takes space exploration seriously give the NASA Parody [blahz.org] about "wagonnauts" (titled, I think- "how the west wasn't won") a read. It points out just how collossally stupid the whole thing is- and it was written by NASA people, making it virtually untouchable.

Every time I saw the shuttle go up, all I could see was giant wads of cash burning. Folks- the US government doesn't spend money on space exploration just because it's romantic. It spends the money because much of the research is highly applicable to military purposes, and it does a great job of lining the pockets of defense contractors.

Let's at least ATTEMPT reducing our budget deficit, feeding+sheltering the homeless, universal health care, etc. After all- what the fuck good is colonizing another planet, if we've proven we can't get any of our basic societal problems fixed HERE? Priorities, people.

Re:The Cult of Space Fanboyism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12859319)

jet engines and atomic bombs existed before any human went into space. you are hysterical, slap yourself please.

Re:The Cult of Space Fanboyism (1)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859370)

Atomic bombs existed before anything went into space.

Fantasy vs. speculative fiction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12859273)

Science fiction can do a variety of things:

Early on, I read the works of Jules Verne. A bunch of things he predicted have come to pass. He took the science of the time and extended it. It was mostly, as I recall, about the technology.

Asimov asked questions about the social consequences of technology. What about sentient robots?

Another author, I forget who, asked: What would happen if technology could meet ALL our needs. What would society be like if we went to our cubicle and the computer provided all our socialization and sex?

What about Orwell? More about social prediction than technology; but the technology was necessary to provide the framework for social control. We're just about there.

It occurs to me that, over the years, I have read a lot of science fiction that was way more profound than just harmless fantasy.

Well, let me put it this way (1)

eclectro (227083) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859275)

It's fine sci-fi characters like Seven of Nine and T'Pol that really give me geek wood, not so much warp drive engines.

You can have those back.

Faith in the future, more than Stra Trek. (3, Insightful)

bluephone (200451) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859276)

I think it's that we have a hope, a faith, a wish maybe, that people will become better than we are now, regardless of if we're flying aroundat thousands of times the speed of light. We look around and see a dirtball with 6.3 billion dirty little people looking for new ways to kill each other because they have the wrong religion, the wrong color skin, the wrong land, the wrong language, the wrong whatever. We're not pleased at seeing this. We see CEOs of megacorporations worth billions of dollars, and not too far away we see thousands of people starving to death because local warlords hijack the sacks of grain good hearted people send to try to feed them. We'd like to believe that in just a few hundred years, humanity will finally have dragged itself out of the stone age. It's a nice dream.

It's not about the science... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12859278)

..and never was. If you think that SF is or should be nothing but an extrapolation of future technologies, then you've missed the point entirely.

SF is written in and illuminates the present, using the distancing effect of a hypothetical future to tell us something about now, or about human nature.

I suppose that it's as valid an approach as any to insist on particular kinds of hypothetical futures, but that's not anything intrinsic to SF as a phenomenon.

Missing the point... (1)

luna69 (529007) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859288)

1: As countless others will reply, much of what we take for granted was "science fiction" a very short while ago. People can't fly, because they're heavier than air (I just flew from Iowa to Colorado earlier today. It took me less than two hours.) Everything dies (there are cell lines now that are essentially immortal; nerve tissue has been regenerated successfully in the lab). There are countless et ceteras I could include here, but this thread will be full of then in about ten minutes.

2: While FTL travel may be impossible, but we'll never know. We THINK our understanding of physics shows that it's not possible, but there are gaping holes in physics and those holes could be filled by new insights that show us a way around this "limitation". Or not. But since we see so much today that used to be "impossible" (see #1), your point is silly.

3: There are many kinds of SF. All one has to do is read Gardner Dozois' annual anthology or regularly read Asimov's or Analog to know that. Some is very much "fact based" fiction, whether it occurs in a recognizable world or not, near future or far. Other fiction isn't "fact based" and still manages to be great writing that just happens to be SF - calling it "an opiate" because it's not myopically limited to what's proven/likely does a disservice to its authors and readers. And if you prefer SF that's based on proven/likely technological limitations, there's plenty of it out there for you.

4: You ask about "having a positive view on life" because of Star Trek. Huh? Since when is that a required/anticipated outcome of watching a TV show? And since when is Star Trek representative of SF as a whole? ST is one small (some would say sad) corner of the SF world. Using it as an example suggests a limited sense of what's out there. Most people I know who read SF on a serious basis haven't paid much attention to ST in a very, very long time, except as an amusement.

FTL is the same as time travel (5, Informative)

foreverdisillusioned (763799) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859300)

As my understanding of relativity goes, there is no real need to go faster than light. We often hera the phrase "light from that star takes blah blah blah years to reach us," but what is so rarely mentioned is we're measuring time from our point of view. From the photon's point of view, no time has elapsed at all. TRUE LIGHTSPEED TRAVEL IS INSTANTANEOUS FROM THE SUBJECT'S POINT OF VIEW. Read that over and over until it sinks in.

Yes, it is impossible to reach the speed of light, but that's not really a problem. Using slower than light technology, it is perfectly (theoretically) possible to cross the Milky Way in five seconds. Five seconds to YOU that is--the rest of the universe would strongly disagree (probably on the order of many millions of years.)

The problem has never been traveling faster than light, because such a thing is clearly absurd (what's faster than instantaneous travel?)--the problem is cancelling out time dialation which is really just good old fashioned time travel. For those of us that are joining late, remember that as you move faster through space the universe around you seems to speed up AND space itself seems to contract--from your frame of reference distances are shorter, and you thus do not need to travel as far.

Anyway, last time I checked most physicists were not comfortable completely ruling out all possibilty of time travel (if not on the macroscopic scale, then at least on the microscopic scale.) If time travel may still be possible, then so is faster than light travel. The two are, in fact, one and the same.

Appologies for errors, but I'm coming down off of a pretty nasty buzz right now. (Heh... it's a pretty sad state of things when a high school dropout with a hangover has to explain 100 year old scientific concepts.)

Re:FTL is the same as time travel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12859376)

"TRUE LIGHTSPEED TRAVEL IS INSTANTANEOUS FROM THE SUBJECT'S POINT OF VIEW"

Yes, but what would be the point of writing a story where all the subjects are in the ship travelling near c? That would limit things a bit. I mean if I travel near c to get to some interesting planet, it might feel like a few weeks to me, but in the meantime, all the things and people that got me curious in the first place are long gone...

You need hyperspace as a plot device to simplify things.

Science fiction a revision of our times (3, Insightful)

a3217055 (768293) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859304)

Science fiction is a review of the world we live in. It asks questions about our soical and moral and even ethical lives we live in. Star Trek is a fine example of the world we live in, with all the problems. Star Trek the Next Generation and even Star Gate seem to touch on this. Sure the technology is cool, but it is not an opiate. An opiate would be a sort of belief people will have saying everything will be alrite. Just like religion, where people think if they lead a certain life style there essence or soul will be saved. For geeks most probably the dynamic world of technology is there opiate. But not science fiction. Science fiction is a sort of technology mixed with a story line. Issac Assimov and Phillip K. Dick wrote stories about how our lives may change in the future because of non-moral and non-ethical uses of technology, even some Japanese Anime ( Mechs ) actually have some ammount of moral dialouge. End result science fiction is a package of a medium, one can read Shakespere for the essence of a story or read Arthur C. Clarke for another lesson. They are all the same yet different.

Traditional SF is easier to write (1)

SilicaiMan (856076) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859312)

It's easier for a writer to write traditional SF novels for a number of reasons:
  • Writing more accurate science requires more research to make sure things are accurately depicted, and hence more work.
  • There will be many more critics, especially if there is some inaccuracy somewhere.
  • "Man can believe the impossible, but man can never believe the improbable." - Oscar Wilde

William Gibson "mundane"? (1)

exile D-K (879262) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859313)

The Mundane Manifesto states that William Gibson works within the mundane guidelines.

I have often wondered if Gibson's Pattern Recognition was set in "present day" because of the increasing challenge of writing cyberpunk?

With nanotechnology featuring in HP ads, and virtual actors now standard fare, who can blame him?

Science fiction has changed... (2, Interesting)

srothroc (733160) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859314)

Science fiction originally was science first and fiction second - look at the Grand Masters of Science Fiction, the Big Three - Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert Anson Heinlein. All three of them wrote SCIENCE fiction. You have to look for it, but it still exists today. The problem with the science fiction world today is that too many people have grown up with Star Wars and Star Trek - the former is a technological fantasy and the latter is more speculative fiction than science fiction. Science fiction, unfortunately, has become a catch-all genre - if it doesn't have swords and serpents and isn't set in a relatively modern era, then it MUST be science fiction. Especially if it has technology. To get off of my personal soap box and address the topic, I do believe that it has become the opiate of the geek masses - it's both escapist and self-gratifying at the same time. It provides an escape, through the halo of Trekkie popularity, where one can be a 'cool' person. I mean, what else is a genius, a wizard, or a superhero than a glorified techie? Furthermore, by reading something that professes to be vaguely scientific and speaks of a greater future built by geeks, it can give people a purpose in life. Of course, there are a lot of geeks (myself included) who would rather just read a book than go outside or do anything else. Not quite escapist, but definitely a distraction from other things. In my opinion, though, the saddest thing about the science fiction genre at the moment is its bleak, dystopian outlook. It doesn't seem like people think there's much to look forward to nowadays.

Re:Science fiction has changed... (1)

srothroc (733160) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859328)

Sorry about the lack of line breaks - I broke in the editor and forgot to add tags.

SF is not an opiate because it's not a depressant (1)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859324)

Opiates are CNS (Central Nervous System) depressants. This class of drugs suppresses neural activity, deadening pain and thought. In contrast, good SF stimulates thought by presenting an interesting what-if with some combination of technical and social contexts and consequences.

SF may be a mind-altering drug (perhaps a stimulant or hallucinogen), but it is not an opiate.

You had to ask??!! (1)

toxic666 (529648) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859330)

"...but I have to ask, how many people out there have a positive view on life because they believe in Star Trek in the same way that other faithful do."

You had to ask on /., where people mod up fantasy Sci-Fi posts and mod down those based upon science?

Maybe you just wanted a bunch agreeable answers.

I've Been Trying... (1)

LionKimbro (200000) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859331)

...to imagine a world of 2050.

It's not easy. [taoriver.net]

However, I have some puzzle pieces.

One of the characters is raised by the N'th generation upgrade of his parent's pokemon data. They started on the Gameboy, transfered them to the N64, then the GameCube games, and then with Revolution, to the Nintendo servers, where the pokemon AI were continually upgraded until such an age where people purchased back the hosting of their pokemon, who were, at that point, highly intelligent creatures.

There is a religious group called "The Explainers," which is basically the organized scientific perspective of today, combined with a story describing the recognized myth of Prometheus, the Enlightenment, and a metaphysics of progress. They formed out the realization on behalf of scientists and the non-religious public, that they need to actively combat a growing religious throwback conservatism, that is aggressively using virtual reality technologies to keep our minds in the middle ages and the BCs.

But really, it's just incredibly difficult to write a story like this. The changes that we'll likely see in the next 20 years are, frankly, shocking. We will see sophisticated AIs, significantly easier programming, the merging of the online and offline worlds, people being turned into robots in the workplace, [guardian.co.uk] robots being able to do most every physical labor. No telling when we'll get the Augmented Reality [taoriver.net] vision displays: [taoriver.net] 10 years? 20 years? Probably not much longer than that, given that we already have displays based on projecting laser light directly into the eye.

And then there's the mass public organizing going on online, and all these changes in how we think about and organize information...

Really, it's very hard to just project 20 years into the future, let alone 50.

Positive view of life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12859343)

I happen to have a positive view of life IN SPITE OF the Communistic future that Star Trek portrays.

The Hard SF Dogma (2, Interesting)

mbrother (739193) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859348)

I hate the word "mundane" to start with, as sf fans have warped the meaning of the word to indicate those who have little vision or imagination, so I'm already biased against this "movement." Taking an objective step back, I still think it's full of crap. It's possible to play with the entire universe and stay within the realm of known science, which is something I try hard to do myself. I've even been funded by the National Science Foundation to edit an anthology [mikebrotherton.com] to be used in conjuction with astronomy classes.

I teach this stuff. I live this stuff. I'm a working scientist and a published science fiction writer, a big believer in the positive power of science and the positive power of fiction to educate, illuminate, and enlighten.

Sure, write some "mundane" science fiction, but don't pretend it's intrinsically better than anything else. Do recognize you've put yourself in a box that will limit the stories you can do, and will eliminate some perfectly wonderful stories containing very good hard science. I have to say I pretty much agree with Ian McDonald here in his criticisms.

If Ryman wants to be such a "realist" and limit himself to what is known, he and similarly-minded people should probably write mainstream and forget the future entirely. His guesses are going to be as unlikely as aliens visiting us tomorrow, and he's foolish to think otherwise. Robert Heinlein, a visionary writer to be sure, had his characters using slide rules as they flew from planet to planet. While I think we can still use some thoughtful stories about near-future cloning, I think elevating such tales above and beyond those extropolating into a future where interstellar travel is possible is clearly hubris.

My personal manifesto is to use only known science, or new science that doesn't violate known science. I enjoy fantasy as much as anyone, but it does irk me when writers don't understand enough science to write science fiction. Star Wars is a fantasy, and a good one, but it's not science fiction.

Fantasy is the Ghost of Ambition, Strangled... (1)

synaptik (125) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859351)

...Or rather, too much of a focus on fantasy, anyway.

Fantasy can unlock new ideas to the imagination, and can be a font of material for creativity. Things such as FTL travel, "The Force", etc. can act as great catalytic plot devices, so long as they aren't relied upon to stand place in lieu of an actual plot. (And as long as you don't demystify them with skepticism-tickling 'explanations', like midichlorians.)

Also, anything that we create with our hands was first created within our mind's eye; the nexus of our fantasies.

But too much of a good thing is bad. I've known so many people who sink into Fantasia almost 24/7, as though they have a perennial need to escape the demands of reality. For lack of a better stereotype, I find these people have almost no ambition... to the point that they talk a big game, but never actually accomplish anything.

Hence, Fantasy is the ghost of Ambition, strangled.

Sorry if this post sounds like I've gone all zen-master on everyone... I just woke up from a dreamy nap. "Mmmm, Father's Day ribs... aahhhghghghg"

What SciFi have you been reading? (1)

Loki7154 (548862) | more than 9 years ago | (#12859364)

I'm not entirely sure what science fiction the submitter has been reading, but to say that "most" science fiction is written by people who don't know what they're talking about isn't necessarily true. Gregory Benford, Greg Bear, Stephen Baxter, Charles Sheffield (and a whole host of others) have physics and astronomy backgrounds (PhDs). Other authors, such as Peter F. Hamilton, write SF that's got very good, very realistic science behind it... FTL travel and all.

Additionally, the statement that Einstein's rules can't be broken is probably true--but they can certainly be circumvented. Wormholes are one possibility--exotic matter and a few other advancements could make them quite possible. Another possibility is that there are alternate "universes" in the multiverse for whom the rules of distance is different. Use a wormhole to pop into one of those, travel, and pop back in, and you have FTL travel. Those are just a couple of possibilities, and they may or may not work. But the job of the SF writer is not to PROVE that their ideas will become reality. They just have to write it so that it can't be dispoven or dismissed.

Point being, to be good, thought-provoking science fiction, the author doesn't have to detail every step involved in making a particular aspect reality--it's just reasonable guessing, all the way along, as is every other part of science fiction. The point is to make one think about the possibilities, avoiding some and trying to work toward others. I wouldn't call that an "opiate."
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