Things I Wish SF(F) Had More Of

02 Apr

So, after thinking about my last post on education, I’ve come to some conclusions. I’ve been reading less and less science fiction lately, and I haven’t been able to figure out why. But now I think I know. It’s because I’ve been seeing a lot of the same things recently. Here’s a list of recent sub-genres I’ve become disillusioned with lately, and some ideas I think could infuse them with new life:

1. Space Opera–Don’t get me wrong, I love this sub-genre, but we’ve been harping on post-humanism and alien combat quite a lot lately. How about we try something new? Like some new thoughts on STL travel, or Near-Earth Space exploration.

2. Near-future SF–Love this genre as well. (Futurismic, here’s to you!)  But we’ve been seeing a lot of the same thing, lately.  Nano-tech, cyberpunk, bio-punk.  I’d love to see some more stories on information technology pre-singularity.  VR’s been a common theme, but very few books out there seem to be addressing Augmented Reality(AR), which–for those who don’t know–is the mapping of virtual information, such as audio and video, onto the real world.  The more well-known application here is the good old “heads-up display”, or HUD, in use in targeting systems and mapping.  Stories about AR that come to mind:  Dennou Coil, Rainbows End, Eden of the East.  There’s a lot of potential in this technology, and a lot of conflict that it could create.  Virtual ads in fields, or modern digital graffiti are two.  And think of the networking and social media applications.

3.  Science fantasy:  There’s been a rise in this genre lately, which I have greatly enjoyed.  Some examples are anime’s Yoku Wakaru Gendai Mahou, which postulates a modern form of magic created with digital information instead of personal energy and ancient symbolism.  A great deal of steam-punk also falls into this category, although it’s generally not as modern as the normal idea of the genre.  Of course, I’m somewhat misrepresenting this term to describe a combination of scientific and fantastical elements.  I’m not really refering to just planetary romance or dying earth scenarios, as much as contemporary or near-future fantasy outside of the UF genre.  We might also include some space opera works in the category.  Anime provides the example of Heroic Age, while C.S. Friedman has given us the Coldfire Trilogy.

4.  Let’s also throw in alternate universe science fiction here.  Earth-like worlds with different cultural and geographical settings that nevertheless approximate our present level of technology.  I’m hard-pressed to come up with an example of this grouping that doesn’t involve alternate dimensions or the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.  I’m not talking multiverses or dimension-hoppers here.  I’m thinking of entirely independent worlds.  Which makes me want to read this sort  of story even more.  Perhaps Jeff Vandermeer’s Finch could be an example book, although that veers closer to Science Fantasy/New Weird than I’m trying to go.

5.  Oh, and let’s not forget the Chimney-punk.  This isn’t a recognized genre yet, but I’m hard at work behind the scenes, spreading awareness(lol) and writing material.  New Weird isn’t the only interstitial genre out there–at least, not for long.

Anyway, those are a few genres I’d really love to see some new material in.  Does anyone have particular areas of their own that they find interesting but under-populated?


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8 responses to “Things I Wish SF(F) Had More Of

  1. bigwords88

    April 3, 2010 at 6:03 AM

    The idea of a HUD which can be work discreetly (text floats over the eyeball via a contact lens) has already been ripped to shreds by some people, but that is probably the most exciting near-development I can think of. The issues (if I can remember them correctly) were mostly to do with criminals cracking them, and the possibility that users would be swamped with hardcore pornography. That, in and of itself, would make the technology dangerous, but the possibility that someone was looking through your eyes at PIN numbers was raised as a major stumbling block. The Guardian ran a few features on this in their technology drop-down bar on their website, and pointed to the early days of the internet as precedent. Taking this kind of scenario would refresh some stale and worthy SF novels of late.

    I’m not dismissing some brilliant books which have been published recently, but there seems to be an awful lot of “This. Is. Important.” works (and by stating that a work is important, it immediately becomes 80% less important than if it was released without commentary. Why does everyone suddenly want to see SF as Big and World-Shattering? Writers aren’t politicians. There’s enough self-conceited idiots in the world, so we’re meant to have some fun while we’re makin’ shit up. The worthiness of some books run contrary to my personal idea of SF, and by being so relentlessly grim and serious I slowly lose interest in the characters.

    You’re arguments are always interesting, and I’ll have to admit to being unable to further the list of suggestions any. Maybe Body Horror still has a few areas left unexplored, but as long as Cronenberg is still alive we will always be looking over our shoulders for his approval. It’s tough scratching out the places which need more attention, because things seem to be converging. There was a time when a book would fit neatly into one or two categories, but now that there are so many releases which blend ideas from different areas, the precise definitions are so much harder to pin on them.

    I await more suggestions. Someone else, surely, can come up with better thoughts on this than I.

  2. atsiko

    April 3, 2010 at 5:09 PM

    One of the problems I had writing this list was that several of the ideas could fit into multiple categories.

    To be honest, I’m not big on “This. Is. Important.” books myself. While I can enjoy a book that attempts a reasonable predtiction of future technology, I’m much more concerned with whether the story is good or not.

    Vernor Vinge dealt with the possibilities of spamming AR technology in Rainbows End, and I think he did a pretty god job. Computers now are just as easy to hack as an AR package would be, but the spam is still at reasonable levels.

    One of my main inspirations for this post came from the area of Space Opera. It seems like all anyone wants to write about is post-humanism and the singularity. There are writers who do that well, such as Alastair Reynolds and Peter F. Hamilton, but to be honest, it’s gotten old. It’s certainly possible to put new twists on this idea, but the idea itself has gotten pretty stale.

  3. Moses Siregar III

    April 7, 2010 at 9:02 PM

    Have you posted anywhere about Chimney-punk?

    • atsiko

      April 7, 2010 at 9:25 PM

      Well, I made it up as a joke, so… no. But if you mean a (hypothetical) description, then still no. 😦 I know I have one buried on my computer somewhere, but I’ve never posted it.

  4. Moses Siregar III

    April 7, 2010 at 10:23 PM

    Well, keep me posted. Sounds intriguing 🙂

  5. Nicole Grotepas

    July 26, 2010 at 11:40 PM

    I love chimney punk! I’m going to write a chimney punk book.

    Also, I enjoyed this post. You’re obviously super-educated on genres. Nice work.

  6. atsiko

    July 27, 2010 at 3:59 AM

    I’m not really. I read pretty widely in SF/F, though, and as someone who hopes to write it, I keep an eye on what’s old hat and what could be presented in a fresh light.

    And please do write some chimney-punk. It wouldn’t be much of a movement if I was the only one doing it.


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