I’d love to see more people playing what Rudy Rucker calls the “power chords” of science fiction. He describes these as “those classic SF topes that have the visceral punch of heavy musical riffs.” The list includes: Blaster guns, spaceships, time machines, aliens, telepathy, flying saucers, warped space, faster-than-light travel, immersive virtual realities, clones, robots, teleportation, alien-controlled pod people, endless shrinking, the shattering of planet Earth, intelligent goo, antigravity, generation starships, ecodisaster, pleasure-center zappers, alternate universes, nanomachines, mind viruses, higher dimensions, a cosmic computation that generates our reality and, of course, the attack of the giant ants.
I want more of that stuff. The good stuff, the fun stuff. The mind-expanding thought-experiments and heady adventure stories.
As the present more and more becomes yesterday’s science fiction, I think the genre does itself a disservice to retreat to safer, more “mundane” near-future extrapolation. There’s a place for it, certainly, and I wouldn’t dream of gainsaying any writer who wants to till those fields, but for me I think that we need to be looking farther ahead, widening our vision instead of narrowing it.
This is the Inspiration segment. The novel I’m currently working on fits very well with the list above. Well, at least the first half of the list. Then, reading on, I realize that Roberson is really actually focusing on the second half of the list:
Ian McDonald recently opined that “the aquifer of hopes and fears that SF has been drawing from so long is running dry.” He needs new dreams, as his old ones don’t enchant him any more. He’s looking for the next Big Idea. McDonald is talking specifically about making SF relevant to modern readers, in a way that “Spaaaaaaceship! Fiction” of the 20th Century doesn’t really anymore. He runs up the flag for the Multiverse, and casts a glance at the Singularity, Nanotech, the environment, and others. It didn’t escape my notice how many of those are on Rucker’s list of SF power chords.
Yeah, so… so much for: Blaster guns, spaceships, time machines, aliens, telepathy, flying saucers, warped space, faster-than-light travel, immersive virtual realities, clones, robots, and teleportation, eh? Oops. Well, I’m going to continue to write my fairly Spaaaaaaaaceshippy fiction because at some point, I need to have finished something, and I think I’ve got something that’s at least a little bit new there. Maybe it’s not a mind-expanding thought-experiment, but it’s definitely a heady adventure.