Tag Archives: sci-fi

Things I Wish SF(F) Had More Of

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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Avatar and White Guilt

I saw the movie “Avatar” tonight.  I was really interested in seeing it because I read an article on io9 about how it was another “white guilt” movie, where the priviliged WASPs take the basic story of European colonialism in the 19th century and change it around so that a white guy saves the day.  Dune, Dances with Wolves, The Last Samurai, etc apparently fall into this category of “white guilt fantasy”.  And so does Avatar.

So, the burning question:  Did I think “Avatar” was a “white guilt fantasy”?

Hell if I know.  But it was certainly crap.

You have to give them credit for the awesome special effects; even if the 3D was monofocused and made my eyes bleed, it was still awesome to watch those flying lizard/dragon wanna-bes drop off of cliffs and high branches.

But the plot was cliche, the characters were stock, and the Na’vi acted like your stereotypical “Plains Indian” with blue skin and cat ears.  And a crazy tail thing that communicates with trees.  Wasn’t there a Star Wars novel with a living planet and symbiotic ecosystem?  I know I read it.

Anyway, the plot followed the general “white guy goes native” plot, including having the white guy (read: human) mary the chief’s daughter over her fiance’s head, and take the role of a mythical figure seen only “five times since the days of the first songs”.  Is there white guilt there?  Maybe.  Stereotypical fantasy fare?  Hell yeah.

In fact, this movie wasn’t science fiction but science fantasy.  Emotion wins the day, and tech is relegated to huge booms and some aliens.  It’s like Ewoks Pandora.  Kind of like NCIS LA.  Much as I love Sigourney Weaver (who plays the egg-head anthropologist to whoever’s scarred veteran merc), that’s just not enough to carry this deadweight.  Especially how brains with no neural patterns of their own can somehow support mature human minds without the neural connections that make a person who they are.  At least John Scalzi had his folks prepped.

So, in conclusion:

Watch it for the blue and boom, but not for the great story or creative science–or originality.


Posted by on December 28, 2009 in atsiko, Fantasy/Sci-fi, Reviews


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