Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Robotic pigeons in your future fiction

Need a fresh idea for a future-based thriller? How about this one?: A cadre of secret agents employ new robotically controlled pigeons to get the edge on their nemeses. It could happen in our future...we've got little remote-controlled model airplanes doing the spying -- why not pigeons?

How you say? Check out this post. It's not far-fetched that we'll control the flight path of the homing pigeon with implants. Just a ways out into the latch on to it.

Write it up somebody. I just saw the movie "Breach" about that nasty spy Robert Hanssen. You could write a story where the pigeon is accused of being a double agent. "Is that pigeon somehow disabling our flight instructions?" the one spy will ask the other.

Intrigue indeed.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Slick take: making speculative fiction count

In this recent syndicated article, columnist Joe Neumaier has some very insightful comments regarding what really clicks with readers...

A couple of direct quotes from Neumaier:
"For a classic pop-culture form often associated with futurethink, smart science fiction has lately felt like an extinct species, as cheesy action stories...But a change is afoot. As evidenced by the critical reaction to the current "Children of Men," serious, intelligent speculative fiction can still pack a wallop (and sometimes attract audiences). Witness last fall's Denzel Washington flick "Deja Vu" and the animated "A Scanner Darkly," TV's political "Battlestar: Galactica" and, in bookstores, Cormac McCarthy's end-of-the-world novel "The Road.""

I can't tell you how many great reviews I've read about McCarthy's book. Speculative fiction works along the lines of the greats like Brave New World, Childhood's End and 1984 are still being written...motivating me and many others to keep striving for our greatest opus.

As Neumaier continues: "For writers, the genre lets you deliberately not quite hit the nail on the head. You can create a whole scenario that has resonance -- and then you watch as it takes on a life of its own." He then takes this thought further to the impact I'm personally targeting when I write: "It's the kind of 'now is then' moral warning that writers from Rod Serling to Philip K. Dick issued regularly with subtle expertise."

Personally, this is my own modus operandi: look at what's going on now and comment on it imagining the future outcome. The trick to this approach is to introduce someone more clever than the operators you see in the public forum today. Imagine if another Benjamin Franklin, Confucius, Leonardo DaVinci or Gandhi type of person appeared in our future world. We could use a good inventor, philosopher or gifted social operator right now. We've got great technologies being shelved, social progress being stymied and a muddled global mindset.

Only speculative fiction lets a person put themselves into today's shoes and wear them in the future. By writing in this vein, we can imagine solutions to today's current world problems by drawing a roadmap to overcome them. Or, in the case many great works of speculative fiction, warn about the pitfalls of inactivity -- making sure people think through the consequences of their current actions and desire to make a change.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Pratchett in the land of Oz

This article about comedic sci-fi author Terry Pratchett has some interesting quips. The Discworld Convention is going on in Melbourne and the reporter gets some comments from Pratchett -- the auteur of the renowned Discworld collection.

Most notable of his comments are:

-- How he met Arthur C. Clarke at a young age
-- Making social comments via sock puppets

It sounds like a fun event...a bit of a travel if you live in the U.S. though. Just the same, I'm glad that prolific writers can gather with their readers and coalesce over great fiction.

Fans of the series should feel free to comment here.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Clarke's speculative fiction pleases

It's a good thing to have a Washington insider write a work of speculative fiction. Richard A. Clarke's second novel, Breakpoint, is thankfully in this (my favorite) genre of books.

Check out the comments in this article about the novel. Clarke has put together a powerful combination of very sober near-future circumstances in this book. It's a nice combination of bioengineering and computer advancements (in this case, they hook up to the brain and help engineer "special" children).

Recently, Peter Dingus also pulled together these same elements in his novel Proteus Rising -- but the setting and circumstances were vastly different. This is not surprising. Advances in biotechnology are indeed humming along and we are also constantly barraged with news on the computing front. Even if some big computing announcements are for sluggish operating systems that are mimicking developments that other brands released 2 or 3 years ago.

Regardless of the fact that the story elements can sometimes be redundant, I've found that the stories themselves are typically fresh. I'm glad that Richard A. Clarke has joined the ranks of the speculative fiction writer. He's got a number of insights into our government's experiments with cutting edge technologies. So, it makes his fiction even more interesting knowing that it's grounded in recent research.

Keep up the good work Richard.