Tuesday, January 22, 2008

What is Sci Fi?

I thought that the discussion in class was interesting, though ultimately fruitless in finding a proper definition of science fiction. Sci Fi is typically the end result of "systematic" exploration of some technological change or some encounter with the other. I think an important element that we left out was the active discovery of the effects of technology, aliens etc. Whenever I read a science fiction novel, the most important part of reading the novel is the discovery of the unknown. We are suddenly thrown into some strange world with peculiar machines, odd jargon, and confusing institutions. The reader is faced with the challenge to make sense of this dizzying new reality. Unlike most other genres, where we focus on the characters or some mystery, in Sci Fi we care first about the world around us. The plot could be a murder mystery, and the characters could be complex and multifaceted, but the main preoccupation is always on the affects of change.

For example, in Richard K Morgan’s Altered Carbon, the main character is a conflicted, rough hewn, anti hero, sent to solve a confounding murder. However, what makes the novel remarkable is not the characters or the plot. It’s the fact that in the 26th century humans carry around a microchip that acts as a back up. If your body is killed the chip can be “re-sleeved” and you can live again. This is why sci fi is so great. You read the novels to figure out what the hell happened and where it’s taking you. Yeah sure it might be nice to find out if the alcoholic private eye with a cybernetic implant gets the girl, but I’m more interested in what a world of cyborgs looks like. How it functions, and what’s changed. Then and only then will I give a crap about that PI’s love-hate relationship with Bourbon and coke, a personal favorite of mine

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