SF, Vision, And Beyond

Space Station

Some time ago I mentioned the role of SF in having a vision, how our culture’s attitude made “visionary” SF harder, and the virtue of incrementalization. Serdar further examined how we might examine progress inappropriate.

But something kept kicking around in my head. There is some good SF out there, challenging SF, outrageous SF out there.  But I didn’t see anything that was really inspiring to me, that felt like it’d build the future.  Certainly little of it inspires me (especially as you’ve heard talking to me about my editing experience).

Then I realized that if we’re looking to SF to provide visions and growth and direction, to inspire us to more, it doesn’t matter if the SF is good (in some ways), challenging, or outrageous.

The thing is we need SF that really inspires us to do more. That means it has to have two traits.

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Science Fiction As Vision


Over at the Atlantic (and later in Mashable), Robinson Meyer made the interesting – indeed challenging statement – that the idea of making things in Science Fiction a reality was limiting. He was specifically discussing the Google X lab, which was profiled by John Gertner of Fast Company – and there they want every project to have a a component that resembled Science Fiction.

Which frankly, sounds pretty cool, but Robinson had issues with this idea:

  • SF means we tend think in whole, complete systems as opposed to the assembled work of many actors and influences.
  • We miss that some change – such as social – is incremental, and SF’s inheritance includes some limited and reactionary elements.
  • There is virtue in incrementalization.

So this got me thinking about the role of SF in envisioning and building the future. I think he has a point in that thinking about things “Science Fictionally” can be limiting. But I don’t think the problem is Science Fictional thinking per se – it’s the state of SF today and in our culture.

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Way With Worlds: Having A Vision

Viewpoint Trees Sky

[Way With Worlds appears at Seventh SanctumMuseHack, and Ongoing Worlds]

A lot of what I write about worldbuilding is at least partially technical. It’s about breaking things into areas of analysis, questions, outlines, and more so you can make your world. Good worldbuilding is about thought and techniques and keeping track of things – well, half of it is.

The other half of worldbuilding is those wild ideas, those crazy thoughts, those “what ifs.” In many cases you’re either doing good with those moments of creativity, or organizing what thoughts you do have.  Of course, not all of these moments come at the right time – sometimes you want to get organized and your brain won’t shut up, sometimes you want an idea and feel like a book-keeper.

Then where there’s those times that your worldbuilding comes together, when you grasp the big picture, when you get both the “wow” and the numbers behind it. That moment when you have A Vision and it all comes together.

Those moments you “get” your world, and those are the moments that are beautiful and powerful.

You probably know what I’m talking about and wish you could get into that state more.

The fact that I’m writing about this means I’m betting a good chunk of my readers can’t.

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