Thursday, January 24, 2008

IO9 asks what issues SF should take on

Posted by A. at 7:45 PM
Io9 continues to kick much ass. Charlie Anders posits the following:

Now that an Omega Man remake has made it big, the time is ripe for some 1970s-style "message" science fiction. We need more ripped-from-the-headlines science fictional stories that deal with the issues we're all freaking out about. But we need more than just parables about global warming and ebil corporations.

The choices are:

  • Peak oil. (which Mundanes have been writing about and talking about for some time now, and Paolo Bacigalupi has even been winning awards doing it for some time.)
  • Subprime foreclosures. (Hmm. Fair topic, but tough to do in an SF setting.)
  • Refugees from genocide. (Too bad 'Pol Pot's beautiful daughter' was fantasy.)
  • The global war on terror. (Actually, having even more heavy handed "message" stories about the Global War on Terror would be about as useful to me as having the ability to whistle out of my asshole. Lions for Lambs anyone?)
  • Super-epidemics of drug-resistant organisms.

I'm actually in the middle of writing a short on the last one. Right now refugees from genocide seems to be leading the pack with super-epidemics following close. But honestly, this really gets to the heart about what this movement is about. Everyone seems to be focused on the Mundane Manifesto's call for limitations, and not so much on its call for relevance. You remember relevance, don't you guys? It's that stuff people experimented with a few decades ago, along with other crazy shit like drugs, love-ins, and the idea of science fiction being written for an audience bigger than ever-shrinking incestuous niche.

Pick up a newspaper, and you'll find that most of the things happening on the world stage---A crumbling healthcare system, climate change, nuclear proliferation, rising fuel prices, soaring food prices, depleting metal deposits around the world, an increasing capacity for government surveillance and the curtailing of civil liberties, the weaponization of space as 'the fist of globalization' as Tom Friedman put it, a neuroscience revolution that has more potential for social and ethical upheaval than at any time since Darwin, the increasing inequality between the richest and the poorest, control over the production of human embryos and the possibility of creating artificial life----looking around it seems that most of the issues of the day are, either centrally or in part, issues of science. And all the areas of science that are actually intersecting with and impacting people's lives just happen to be the areas of science that science fiction chooses to ignoring the most these days.

So for those of you still perplexed at what this whole Mundane thing is all about, or why some of us sound so angry all the time, maybe that helps enlighten our point of view. Science fiction is determined to only write about science when it has absolutely nothing to do with what's going on all around us.

Does anyone else see anything wrong or just a little bit negligent about this?

Does anyone else think that maybe there's something that SF does better than any other literary genre, that maybe being the literature of ideas that it has tools no one else does to confront these changes that are remaking the world?

Does anyone else think that as a genre, we can be doing a hell of a lot better?

The Mundanista News Wrap-up

Posted by A. at 10:57 AM
- Early signs might be pointing to a new Eco-Patents Commons movement taking shape soon. Via eco-geek:

Inspired by open source movement behind Creative Commons and the Linux OS, the WBCSD and these companies believe that by sharing patents that reduce pollution and waste, they will provide a spawning ground for new collaborations in efficiency and sustainability.

And this is just the beginning of this kind of intellectual property sharing – other corporations with environmental technology are being actively recruited to join the Eco-Patent Commons.

- Kite powered ship to cross the Atlantic. I remember Paolo's 'Yellow Card Man' vaguely referencing the future return of clipper ships in the post-oil world. Oh, and speaking of Paolo, he’s going to be on Wired Science’s blog Science Fiction Friday tomorrow.

- A new documentary called "Flow" just premiered at Sundance, about water profiteering, one of the biggest growth industries in the world as access to drinking water becomes more scarce. They call for a UN resolution declaring access to clean drinking water a human right. At the same time, an exhibit at NYC Museum of Natural History showcases coming global water shortage.

- Hey guys, did you know that apparently the U.S. economy is in the shitter? Well now some crank at Intel (what would he know about economics?) claims that we need to invest in something called "science" to get out of it. Several critics tried crunching the numbers to see if he was right before they then remembered that we Americans can't do math anymore.

- A new study finds that rich nations have caused 1.8 trillion dollars in environmental damage to the third world. The third world didn't immediately return requests for comment on the story, since they're all fucking dead.

[Got news?]

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Asimov's Guestbook

Posted by frankh at 11:42 AM
James Patrick Kelly's column in the March 2008 issue of Asimov's is devoted to the Mundane SF Movement. If that's why you're here, the comments for this post are a convenient place to declare that Geoff Ryman is your Personal Saviour and to pledge your complete devotion to Mundanity, or to rant about how the Movement is threatening your Way of Life.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

History Channel show asks what happens when WE'RE history....

Posted by A. at 3:17 PM

Kevin Kelly at i09 has a great review of the history channel special Life Without People. And no, it's not about agoraphobes. If you missed it, there will be an encore on Wednesday at 8/7 PM central. It kind of reminded me a little of The Future Is Wild, and it's kind of sad when some of the best science fiction is TV documentaries. Most refreshing was to see David Brin as a talking head on the show, rather than denouncing it as evil evil anti-progress, anti-enlightenment propaganda.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Mundanespotting December 2007

Posted by frankh at 10:54 PM
Mundanespotting December 2007

I had a little time to try some new short sf recently. I won’t be able to keep up in the near future (maybe I’ll be back for the major award nominees), but here’s a look at a recent month to see what the market is like.

I am covering these nominal December 2007 ezines:

Interzone (#213)

Interzone is finally available from fictionwise. Fictionwise also now directly supports the Sony ereader. Thus, I’m getting a pretty convenient reading environment for most of this (less so for JBU—I use their RTF release with the graphics removed).

— “Stray” by Benjamin Rosenbaum and David Ackert (F&SF): fantasy
— “Odin’s Spear” by Steve Bein (Interzone): mountain climbing on Callisto in a traditional sf future. I was unconvinced enough that I didn’t read very far, but there may not be anything hopelessly un-mundane if you like this kind of space adventure.
— “Kukulkan” by Sarah K. Castle (Analog): aliens
— “‘Domo Arigato,’ Says Mr. Roboto” by Robert R. Chase (Analog): race to grab an asteroid to build a space elevator to get to the “wealth” of the solar system, but a robot puts a fly in the ointments, as it were. Thoroughly traditional space story. The technology to exploit all that “wealth” (or even make a simple step in that direction) is always conveniently 20 years away. Keep dreaming, and read this story if you like that stuff.
— “The Lost Xuyan Bride” by Aliette De Bodard (Interzone): historical fantasy
— “The Bone Man” by Frederic S. Durbin (F&SF): fantasy
— “Double Secret Weapon” by Tony Frazier (JBU): fantasy
“Who Brought Tulips to the Moon?” by S. L. Gilbow (F&SF): another interesting sociological story by the author of “Red Card” from February 2007. The minimally convincing moon setting is not really important to the story, which has the Outer Limits vibe.
— “Reunion” by David W. Goldman (Analog): aliens
— “Second Banana” by Way Jeng (JBU): space opera
— “Icarus Beach” by C. W. Johnson (Analog): space opera
— “do(this)” by Stephen Graham Jones (Asimov’s): a kid brings a computer to life
— “Laws of Survival” by Nancy Kress (JBU): aliens
“The Rules” by Nancy Kress (Asimov’s): the Corporate Power Elite respond to ecological crises in the near future.
— “Misfits” by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (JBU): time travel
— “The Lonesome Planet Travelers’ Advisory” by Tim McDaniel (Asimov’s): aliens
— “Darwin's Suitcase” by Elizabeth Malartre (JBU): time travel
— “The Art of Memory” by Barry N. Malzberg and Jack Dann (JBU): fantasy
“Osama Phone Home” by David Marusek (F&SF): the Corporate Power Elite respond to terrorism in the present. My favorite story from this rather weak batch of mundane sf.
— “Finisterra” by David Moles (F&SF): historical fantasy or space opera or something otherwise otherworldly
— “The Men in the Attic” by John Phillip Olsen (Interzone): political dissidents are hidden inside a guy’s head. This is well on the cyberfantasy side of my personal mundane sf line. I can imagine lots of neat cyber stuff but I need to see some reasonable level of extrapolation—not just magical brain dumps with no serious changes in society to go with it.
— “Salvation” by Jerry Oltion (Analog): time travel
— “Christmas Eve at Harvey Wallbanger’s” by Mike Resnick (JBU): fantasy
— “Don’t Ask” by M. Rickert (F&SF): fantasy
— “Metal Dragon Year” by Chris Roberson (Interzone): historical fantasy
— “Molly and the Red Hat” by Benjamin Rosenbaum (Interzone): fantasy
— “Fossilized Gods” by J. Simon (JBU): fantasy
— “Strangers on a Bus” by Jack Skillingstead (Asimov’s): fantasy
— “Anything Would Be Worth It” by Lesley L. Smith (Analog): time travel
“The Best of Your Life” by Jason Stoddard (Interzone): Somewhat interesting (if not entirely convincing) social extrapolation that is mundane enough for me. There is some cyberfantasy in the background that I can overlook.
— “Queen's Mask” by Barbara Tarbox (JBU): fantasy
— “Inheritance” by David Wesley (JBU): weather satellite goes AI as asteroid approachs to destroy civilization, or something like that. Too cyberfantastic for me to bother but others might be more patient and find something to like.
— “All Seated on the Ground” by Connie Willis (Asimov’s): aliens

That’s only four stories I’m calling mundane. A pretty weak crop, but at least it was not hard to get through because of all the obvious time travel and alien crap. Stay tuned for more mundanespotting….