Saturday, July 07, 2007

A world without Science Fiction

Posted by goatchurch at 3:49 AM
Having no time to read anything apart from submissions to the MundaneSF Interzone webpage, I listen to podcasts. Last week there was this broadcast from Scientific American magazine on 27 June 2007 of an interview with the author of A World Without Us.

The hypothesis of this Science Fact book was: Assume all human beings vanished off this planet in an instant, for whatever reason, what would be the changes that would be seen on the ground in the coming days, years, and decades?

The reason why this premise is scientifically relevant is that it provides a base-line control situation to compare against what we are doing. Ideally we should have a second planet orbiting the sun on the opposite side which is untouched by humans to use as a controlled experiment. This would put paid to arguments by certain fishermen I have met at a small harbour in Scotland recently who blamed the lack of fish in the North Sea on those pesky seals who steal 20 pounds of their fish a day! On alternate earth there would be a thousand times more seals, and even more fish. The discrepancy could be explained in terms of industrial fishing methods; a seal kills exactly 20 pounds of fish to fill its stomach, whereas the damage caused by bottom trawling is the equivalent of slash-and-burning of a rain forest.

Helpfully, Sci Am also has it's article on-line for this piece, and includes a rather cheezy animation of the bit about the decay of Manhattan. It's a shame not to watch it after they have gone to the expense.

There's no point in me recounting all the details here, which you can read there, or listen in the podcast. Save to say that yet again SF is falling perilously behind the Scientific writing in this day and age. If you're going to have a story that features an abandoned large city, you don't need to make it up from scratch. It's there, and it's far beyond most of the visions of such in SF which I have seen so far. Get with it already.


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