Monday, August 18, 2014
Michael Solana at Wired on the dearth of utopian visions in science fiction and how it's encouraging technophobia:
"Science fiction has always built our culture powerful frameworks for thinking about the future. Computer sensors, “electronic paper,” digital newspapers, biological cloning, interactive television, robots, remote operation, and even the Walkman each appeared in fiction before they breached our physical reality."
But lately not so much - s.f. movies and s.f. novels alike have been relentlessly dysphoric about the immediate future, imaging disaster or dictatorship of one kind or another:
"Our dystopian obsession has grown up in our nightmares as a true monster, which can only be countered by something truly beautiful. Simply, we need a hero. Our fears are demons in our fiction placing our utopia at risk, but we must not run from them. We must stand up and defeat them. Artificial intelligence, longevity therapy, biotechnology, nuclear energy — it is in our power to create a brilliant world, but we must tell ourselves a story where our tools empower us to do it. To every young writer out there obsessed with genre, consider our slowly coalescing counterculture, and wonder what side of this you’re standing on. Luddites have challenged progress at every crux point in human history. The only thing new is now they’re in vogue, and all our icons are iconoclasts. So it follows here that optimism is the new subversion. It’s daring to care. The time is fit for us to dream again. "
C.f Neal Stephenson's Project Hieroglyph
"The idea is to get SF writers to contribute pieces to an anthology. These pieces would all be throwbacks, in a manner of speaking, to 1950′s-style SF, in that they would depict futures in which Big Stuff Got Done. We would avoid hackers, hyperspace, and holocausts. The ideal subject matter would be an innovation that a young, modern-day engineer could make substantial progress on during his or her career."
After the last week, or several weeks, it's hard to feel gung-ho about the way things are going, like rebooting Progress would just be just a matter of will and having the right sunny- side attitude.
Still - going beyond the specfic surfeit of dystopian-future and apocalyptic-cataclysm entertainments on the big and small screen that Solana addresses - in more general terms I for one am well past exhaustion point with all the "darkness"-vibed, paranoid-visioned, relentlessly downbeat TV of the last several years (House of Cards, Homeland, Breaking Bad, True Detective, Rectify, Top of the Lake etc). Regardless of how well-written, well-acted, well-filmed and otherwise aesthetically fully-realised/absorbing these shows are, it all adds up to a panorama of glum. (Even things that could be inspiring, like Masters of Sex, have been oddly morose this season). Can't be helpful to a sense of one' s agency or just simple ability to carry on to have these same points (powerlessness, malign and ruthless forces out of anyone's reach being in control, endless corruption, injustice and depravity etc etc ) so relentlessly banged away at... Not that one necessarily wants a bunch of heart-warming entertainments about decent, good-hearted folk struggling to do something constructive.... but "dark = deep", give it a rest, chaps....