Saturday 20 July 2013

Science Fiction - More than Just the Past Reflected in the Future

Last week I wrote a post about why I write horror stories. As well as reading a lot of horror (and every writer should be a voracious reader, but that is a future topic) I enjoy reading science fiction. Much like the horror genre science fiction can be a little difficult to pin down, it covers such a wide range of subjects and stories.

In some ways it can be defined by the subject matter or the setting. Stories in space or the future are almost by default classed as science fiction. I'm not going to delve into the various sub-genres of science fiction, each refining what a story must contain to be included, I don't want to restrict what it means, but instead celebrate what makes it great.

For me what makes science fiction stand out as a genre is that it tackles big questions. It examines possibilities and what they mean to us. At the heart of all the finest science fiction there is a big question:

In Peter Hamilton's The Reality Dysfunction he looks at the nature of reality itself.

In Ian M Banks's Excession (my favourite novel of all time, see here to find out why) he tackles the complex interactions between diametric philosophies combined with staggering technology differentials. Sorry, I couldn't help but get carried away with that sentence :-)

In Isaac Asimov's Foundation series he writes about the predictability of human society, yet how different and essential individuality is.

In my latest novel, Faust 2.0 I look at one of the popular subjects in science fiction - artificial intelligence, although in my own way of course. As an aside, I personally dislike the term, it seems to belittle the concept. If the machine is intelligent, then that intelligence is real, rather than artificial, still that's my personal bugbear :-)

Much of science fiction is a reflection of ourselves and in Faust 2.0 I continue that theme. The entity spontaneously emerges from countless processes running on the Internet, but it faces challenges. The first is the same we all face, that of survival. The second we face as well, but not in quite so obvious a manner, it needs to establish its own identity.

I'll let you read the book to find out more...

I've recently completed the first draft for my new novel, Sun Dragon. Unlike Faust 2.0 this is more obviously a science fiction story. Faust 2.0 included some horror elements as well as being a thriller, in Sun Dragon we journey out to Mars where the first alien life has been discovered.

That is another common theme for science fiction stories, that of alien life. Life beyond our own planet is one of the great mysteries of the universe, a puzzle we invest millions into trying to answer. One day we will know for sure, but in the meantime we can imagine. In Sun Dragon I look at a slightly different angle, I didn't want to create an intelligent alien species, but something simpler, yet far more grand and then see what effect that would have on us as a race.

So in my own small way I am tackling one of the great questions and continuing the core strength of a genre that over the years has not only provided entertainment, but food for thought as well. Long may that continue.


  1. Search this page for "science" and you will find no mention of it that is not "science fiction". I recently read Ian M. Banks' Look to Windward. There is a scene that does not make sense unless it is in low gravity like the Moon or less. But Banks never really states that. But I can't find any comments about it on the net. So we have readers and writers of sci-fi who do not care about getting science correct. But we use computers to discuss SF while ignoring science. A very ironic conundrum.

    1. That's a fair point, like Banks's scene I took it to be implicit and didn't need to explain it. I probably should have have.

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