Thursday, November 23, 2006

Turkey Day Miscellanea

Lots of fun speculative fiction posts recently:

-- A few articles seem to find Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain to be a fascinating piece of cinematic work. About the film, Aronofsky is quoted as saying "... take [science fiction] from the tradition of outer space to inner space. Get away from the ray gun and go back to sci-fi that's more internal..." This is my kind of has to be personal to be enjoyable, otherwise it gets bogged down in technology. I will post your comments (good or bad, just not nasty) from anyone that's seen it...opening was yesterday and I didn't get the chance yet.

-- The future of technologies will be discussed by serious scientists on mainstream media. The broadcasts start today and continue through Sunday. This will be solid speculative information for anyone seeking realistic insights for their writing.

-- New cell capabilities tie phones to your health. When I think about future communications, I don't typically think about my health...I guess I should. I've pondered the way a future "network" will tie all communications together in my book -- just not the extended scope of such a system. Surely, healthcare will tie into a future network in many ways.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Keeping order in your fiction

This article is a sober reminder that readers are very critical of the details in your future, science or speculative fiction. The criticism makes me feel wise for tarrying over the chronology of events and for keeping a realistic head on my shoulders when writing Darwin's Orphans.

The author Judith Farrell writes "... needs some imposed order where there is none." I too need order in my a degree. One does want imagination, sure, but reason needs to be present as well. It's a fine line. Concerns of closure and too many set ups for future books abound in the case of Farrell's review of Stross' book. Perhaps if you're imagining a broad realm like Tolkein did with "The Hobbit" you can still make it a complete and cohesive story like he did. I'm sure it's tempting to wander off into other aspects of soon-to-come books, but a writer must live in the now. After all, that's where the readers will be.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

New speculative fiction ... sounds interesting

This press release for the new book Proteus Rising by Peter Dingus has got some pretty saucy lures once you get past the very techie edge up front. An early passage that sounds very scientific in nature: "Despite their efforts, the authorities soon discover the emergence of a new nonhuman species and the existence of the most powerful computer ever created. So starts a paranoid chess game between a small group of scientists, a self-aware computer and the invincible security forces of a fleet admiral in a desperate gambit to save a group of synthetically bred children from imprisonment and medical experimentation." ...

...Is then followed by a statement that reads: ""Proteus Rising" is at once chilling and sexy. Though its venue is futuristic, "Proteus Rising" has a tone that is strangely familiar." This is comforting to me, so I'm going to check it out. Not that I need sexy or chilling -- but it does put more "human" in a tale that sounds scientific in nature. So, I'm going to check this one out. I'll follow up and let you know what I think.

If you've read it, please post a comment here. - Thanks

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Fishy future fiction

Speculative fiction writers often wonder about the future of our world from a biological perspective. According to this article, the future is grim for the fishies. I mention the decline of one specific fish species in my book Darwin's Orphans (this nugget was based in current fact) and other futurists take it much further. Check out A World Without People for a very broad look at extinction.

It's a good subject for writers to keep in their fictional efforts. Alongside fiction writing, films like The Day After Tomorrow remind people to take implications of global warming more seriously. I think that literature and films have a role to play in feeding social consciousness. On this note, if you're writing some future fiction, keep the fishies in mind. They really need your help.

Monday, November 13, 2006

A view from Great Britain

In this article, a collection of speculative thoughts are featured from different writers in the U.K. Some really cool takes on various aspects of life including transportation, sex and the home are included.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Basket of speculative fiction goodies

This blog entry from Scientific American is full of speculative nuggets. With current recommendations from leading scientists today, you can provide more accurate visions of the future in fiction.

It's probably easier to write the far out stuff that goes hundreds of years into the future. Imagination, the providence of fiction writers, is unleashed in the far future. However, if you're looking to write for the near term -- which includes a future time while the writer is still likely to be alive -- accuracy in prognostications is more critical. After all, the verdict on the near future will be read soon enough. In such cases, most writers want to be close in their work.

So, if you're in the midst of writing a piece of speculative fiction, find plenty of sources like the blog linked above. Keep it linked because you'll get ideas from these sources as well. At least I do.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Speculative fiction: keeping it honest

Jamais Cascio has a set of guidelines that he thinks futurists should follow. They are broad in scope and seem to be targeted largely to those analysts that forecast where technologies are heading and the implications of their directions.

However, Cascio features fiction in his links and pays attention to speculative fiction writers as part of the futurist society. On this note, he lists a few key futurist maxims for behaving correctly:

1) ... There is a responsibility not to let the desires of a client (or audience, or collaborator) for a particular outcome blind him or her to the consequences of that goal, and will always inform the client of both the risks and rewards.

2) Responsibility to understand, as fully as possible, the range of issues and systems connected to the question under consideration, to avoid missing critical potential consequences.

3) Responsibility to acknowledge and make her or his client (audience, collaborators) cognizant of the uncertainty of forecasts, and to explain why some outcomes and consequences are more or less likely than others.

4) Responsibility to offer unbiased analysis, based on an honest appraisal of sources, with as much transparency of process as possible.

5) Responsibility to recognize the difference between short-term results and long-term processes, and to always keep an eye on the more distant possibilities.

I applied this litmus test to my own speculative fiction, Darwin's Orphans, and seem to pass the test. The story has a future world with a balanced look demonstrating risks and rewards in the outcome; kept the connected range of issues in check; uncertainty was obvious; transparency of sources and processes doesn't apply to fiction (but research sources are available); short and long term processes are differentiated with an eye to more distant possibilities. Yes, it is an honest work of speculative fiction according to these guidelines. There is a broader point here though: in publishing this blog, readers are relying on my truthfulness and accuracy of information. Otherwise, web content like this gets reduced to non-information. In cyberspace, we need to live by a similar set of rules otherwise this post and ones like it becomes worthless digital blather.

Cascio's definition of futurists is also eloquent: "Futurists perform a quirky, but necessary, task in modern society: we function as the long-range scanners for a species evolved to pay close attention to short-range horizons."

Live in the now, look to the future.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Flying Cars?

Future fiction is always more fun when the cars fly, isn't it? However, I clicked the link to the video clip on this news spot and checked out one that really does. This is a big machine...not your average-sized car that's merely capable of whisking into the sky. Yes, a flying car does exist but, for the sake of future fiction, will we be driving them in 25 years, 50 years, 100 years? It's the timeline thing that gets you in future to assess our progress and plug it into fiction?

I don't see us flying around in 2031, the climactic year in my book Darwin's Orphans. If flying cars used gas like today's -- like the one in the ABC news spot apparently does -- the fuel price alone would keep us all out of the skies. So, it'll likely be another few decades on the ground as we migrate to more earthly advancements: fuel changes (hopefully we solve the hydrogen production mystery) and computerized assistance (taking GPS to the next level and protecting us with it).

On this note, there are still many advances in future fiction for the automobile we can ponder. Taking to the skies opens up a whole can of worms: how will 3-D "roads" be charted? What can we do to marry today's air traffic control capabilities with ground traffic control techniques. This will be fun stuff to watch ... if you're around in 50 to 100 years.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Blade Runner re-released again

A classic work of cinematic future fiction, Blade Runner has been re-released again by Warner Brothers. Although the fully remastered and restored Director's Cut has been unavailable for a while, you can now get your hands on a copy...and you should. It is by far my personal favorite future vision in celluloid form.

Much better than other attempts at future fiction on film (like 1984 -- John Hurt was a good Winston but I didn't care for it overall) and extreme absurdist future takes like Brazil, Blade Runner is an exciting ride and makes some very interesting prognostications about our future weather and computer use. I'd like my voice-recognizing computer to be so smart that it could effortlessly zoom into a particular spot on a photo. Very cool sequence.

Will Johnnie Walker Black Label come in funky bottle shapes in the future? This is still iffy to me. But I would like a cool set of drinking glasses like the ones Harrison Ford drinks from -- watch for them when you check out the show. He even beats Clooney to the revival of the Caesar-like hairdo in this flick.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did if you get a copy. The Director's Cut is really great.