Monday, April 24, 2017

The Halls of Science Fiction



The October, 1962 cover of Galaxy Magazine found here.
All Galaxy Magazine issues can be found here or here.
(All images can be clicked-on for larger views.)

"My fiction writing took a decided turn for the morose after I first really watched "Blade Runner." Now I'm almost incapable of writing a story that isn't set in a bleak, urban near-future where it rains a lot and characters have conspicuously easy access to consciousness-altering technologies ranging from particle accelerators to funky designer drugs.

Here's an excerpt from a blessedly unpublished novel about neurology and quantum physics I wrote in 1998/1999. This particular project, while educational, ultimately failed because of Kitchen-Sink Syndrome. I was trying to graft way too many weird ideas into one story, producing more than a few scenes like the following:

...He looked up at a ceiling festooned with video cable, a kind of sloppy fish-net used to suspend the few books and videocassettes left over from the Roma he had used to know. She had reduced them to squalid ornaments. 

To what purpose? Zak thought. He felt he was traipsing through some piece of misguided conceptual art. He looked back at Roma, who slowly detached herself from the mothering animatrons and walked toward him, bare feet unscathed by the debris covering the floor. Flecks of dried blood fell from her thighs as she walked. Zak could see the illicit dance of sinew in her neck and calves. 

He forced himself to stand still. Roma walked within touching distance and spread her palm, revealing a single Pentium chip. Only on second glance did he realize it had been pressed deeply into her flesh, and even then he wanted desperately to believe it was simply trompe l'oiel, something to be wiped away with a warm, soapy cloth. 

"Look," Roma said. 

"I'm looking" 

"She leaned closer until Zak feared she would collapse into him. "Look closer." 

He did. And for the first time he saw the shimmering matrix embedded in her skin, a rambling fractal composed of strands thinner than spider silk. The strands, faint but unmistakable, branched from the Pentium chip and traced riotous patterns up her wrist, arm and shoulder. 

Roma pivoted like a runway model striking a pose, letting the light reveal the matrix in its entirety. It spanned her entire body: galaxies of triangles and squares that caught the light and threw it back at him in eye-scalding clarity..."

- Mac Tonnies from a May 17, 2004 Posthuman Blues post. The cyborg image (inset, right) by Victor Habbick can be found here. (Sorry, Victor, I found the image before I found your site. I liked your cyborg best. Think of it as free press. If you'd rather, I will most certainly remove it... only please don't send the goon squad.) And, if cyborgs are your thing, here's more.


"The literary genre of science fiction is diverse, and its exact definition remains a contested question among both scholars and devotees. This lack of consensus is reflected in debates about the genre's history, particularly over determining its exact origins. There are two broad camps of thought, one that identifies the genre's roots in early fantastical works such as the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh (earliest Sumerian text versions c. 2150–2000 BCE). A second approach argues that science fiction only became possible sometime between the 17th and early 19th centuries, following the scientific revolution and major discoveries in astronomy, physics, and mathematics.

Question of deeper origins aside, science fiction developed and boomed in the 20th century, as the deep integration of science and inventions into daily life encouraged a greater interest in literature that explores the relationship between technology, society, and the individual. Scholar Robert Scholes calls the history of science fiction 'the history of humanity's changing attitudes toward space and time ... the history of our growing understanding of the universe and the position of our species in that universe. In recent decades, the genre has diversified and become firmly established as a major influence on global culture and thought.'"

- An excerpt from Wikipedia's The History of Science Fiction. For lists of Science Fiction categorized by country of origin, go here. For a listing of Sci-fi/Fantasy artists, see this page. Inset, left is the cover from Philip Jose Farmer’s Strange Compulsion, a science fiction novel published in 1953, and found in this Huffington Post article.

***

Seven Oracles found here.

Call me crazy, but, while science and technology may have evolved in leaps in bounds in the past several centuries, science fiction has gone a lot further and faster into the unknown realms. Scientific discovery, after all, is limited by its very nature. It can only analyze existent phenomena and is focused on the here and now. Science fiction, however, is only limited by the human imagination... and from what we can gather, there are no limits to the human imagination.

Of course, science fiction authors are often science fans to some degree - Mac was - but, as for the general public, well, when it comes to topics like Mars, robots, exoplanets, spaceships and the like, they are likely to prefer the more entertaining fiction over the disillusioning facts. And, why not? NASA might still be searching for water on the Red Planet, but a host of sci-fi visionaries - up to and including Ray Bradbury - "discovered" it years and years ago. In other words, scientific data pales in comparison with the pseudo-scientific dreams which pre-date it...