Thursday, July 21, 2005

McDonald peels back a layer

Posted by Trent Walters at 3:54 PM
Ian McDonald strikes an interesting note in the comments section. He asks if Mundane SF is Technology-SF. This is quite an insight from one outside the group (Hal Duncan, on the other hand, mixes us with Hard SF--as a part of his running gags on genre movements--which Mundane SF can be, but we're more like circles that happen to share some overlapping domains).

This was an early insight in our group discussions and was clever of McDonald to realize. By fixing one realm of SF manipulation (science), Mundane SF is left with sociological and technological areas for tampering. But this isn't to say that some tampering with science is not allowed--so long as its quite feasible. Consider James Gunn's The Immortals wherein a virus is said to cause aging. Doctors once poo-pooed bacteria causing ulcers, so why not a common disease caused by a heretofore-unheard-of virus? (I'm cogitating this one for story purposes and, therefore, refuse to go into further details. Incidentally, at the Campbell conference, Gunn and I briefly debated Mundane SF at the bottom of this entry at s1ngularity.)

Also McDonald's insight coincides with my having just reread some Philip K. Dick. Before I frankly admitted I didn't understand the link Geoff made between Dick and Mundane SF in his approach or methodology of SF. Now I think I may. Dick didn't care much about science (or its validity--his non-Mundane aspect and this disinterest in science may have kept him from appearing in Astounding more than once). What he did care about was copious propagation of technological devices. It is through this bounty of the stuff that Dick created his sense of wonder.

(McDonald also comments on the placement of a hyphen within the term Mundane science fiction. I'd quibble that hyphenating Mundane-science would be redundant since we more or less intend Mundane to mean science.)

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Ian McDonald "The Little Goddess"

Posted by frankh at 11:58 PM
I read this from the fictionwise ebook of the June 2005 Asimov's, as promised earlier.

It almost loses for me with several cliches at work (juvenile heroine, India through Western Eyes, warmed over cyberpunk). What made me like it in the end (and I would also call is mundane sf) was that the use of "alien" jargon was so over the top compared to the norm I've experienced (for South Asian fiction for an English-speaking market) that I was in shock. Also I liked that the future USA was a minor villian in a story published in a US market. An interesting novella that I hope can find a place in the Best Of market next year.

This is another story that depends on major AI breakthroughs that I don't think are on the way. Compared to the sorts of crap that Mundane SF is railing against (and which I oppose as a reader mainly on the grounds that they are incredibly tired in 2005 coming from any but the most talented writers) this kind of speculation is still somewhat fresh.


If indeed River of Gods uses some sort of time reversal in this same future setting, and it's all based on some sort of AI singularity mumbo jumbo, well then for me that's an unfortunate waste of an interesting world.