Friday, March 21, 2008

The Mundanista News Wrap-Up 03/21/08

Posted by A. at 1:45 PM
-Happy Iraq War Anniversary! To celebrate, Oil Change International has released a report on its 5 year climate and energy impact. Money quotes:
"Projected total US spending on the Iraq war could cover all of the global investments in renewable power generation that are needed between now and 2030 in order to halt current warming trends."
"If the war was ranked as a country in terms of emissions, it would emit more CO2 each year than 139 of the world’s nations do annually. Falling between New Zealand and Cuba, the war each year emits more than 60% of all countries."

-The Case for Cars! OMG you guys, Robert Zubrin has joined the ranks of DailyKos! *gasp* His mission? Destroy OPEC. (For great justice.) Because only by destroying OPEC and switching to methanol can we beat the arabs to something. Best part: Methanol's only considered environmentally hazardous if you want to keep your optic nerves!

-Enough to make yourself sick. Almost ten percent of the U.S. population now suffer from an autoimmune disorder, with that number increasing each year. It now outnumbers both cancer and heart disease in causes of death nationwide.

-Water is for the weak! So because some crybaby hippies insist on bringing attention to the fact that people need water to live, and the fact that most people are in favor of people living, World Water Day is tomorrow. Enjoy it while it lasts. Oh, and by some strange coincidence, they're remaking Dune.

-25 reasons to read New Scientist. NS has a panel discussion of the 25 biggest future threats to biodiversity. Congratulations to the winners!

-My God, it's full of flaws! 2001: A Space Odyssey named one of the ten most historically inaccurate fims evar by Yahoo movies. (Clever, eh?)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Consensus Future

Posted by frankh at 1:06 PM
Here's some great denial-breaking mundane sf thought from a Gary Westfahl essay just published on Locus Online:

It need not be said that science fiction today, more so than ever before, perceives itself to be in desperate straits; concerned reports of plummeting sales, shrinking income, and cancelled contracts are all too common. While many explanations can be advanced for these sad developments, I see the central problem as the genre's ongoing overreliance upon an exhausted, and clearly invalidated, "consensus future."

This consensus future was probably best articulated in Donald A. Wollheim's The Universe Makers: Science Fiction Today (1971), and has been most vigorously promoted by various incarnations of Star Trek — so much so that one might describe it today as the "Star Trek future." It's what I've been talking about all along — the idea that humanity will, in relatively little time and with relatively little effort, expand first throughout the solar system and then throughout the cosmos to inhabit thousands of worlds, bond with generally humanoid alien species, build a Galactic Empire or a Federation of Planets, and keep advancing toward an ultimate encounter with God Himself. Now, as I can confess from personal experience, it is very easy to grow tired of stories set within this overly familiar sort of future, and the events of the last fifty years, as I have discussed, certainly provide more than enough reasons for questioning its accuracy as a prediction of humanity's future.

In sum, as I mentioned in my essay on The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, this "consensus future" of science fiction is actually nothing more than a fantasy. And, if readers are going to be spending their time with fantasy, why shouldn't they go for the real thing, instead of ersatz fantasy masquerading as a prediction of humanity's future? Might this be the reason why fantasy is booming, and science fiction is floundering?

Nothing more than a fantasy.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

It's the end of the world and he feels fine

Posted by goatchurch at 1:03 AM
James Lovelock, popularizer of the Gaia Hypothesis, which has had several outings in Science Fiction, has given a recent interview:
In 1965 executives at Shell wanted to know what the world would look like in the year 2000. They consulted a range of experts, who speculated about fusion-powered hovercrafts and "all sorts of fanciful technological stuff". When the oil company asked the scientist James Lovelock, he predicted that the main problem in 2000 would be the environment. "It will be worsening then to such an extent that it will seriously affect their business," he said.

"And of course," Lovelock says, with a smile 43 years later, "that's almost exactly what's happened."
On the subject of what the future holds now.
Most of the things we have been told to do [to prevent climate change] might make us feel better, but they won't make any difference. Global warming has passed the tipping point, and catastrophe is unstoppable.

"It's just too late for it," he says. "Perhaps if we'd gone along routes like that in 1967, it might have helped. But we don't have time... Britain is going to become a lifeboat for refugees from mainland Europe, so instead of wasting our time on wind turbines we need to start planning how to survive. To Lovelock, the logic is clear... our only chance of survival will come not from less technology, but more.


Humanity is in a period exactly like 1938-9, he explains, when "we all knew something terrible was going to happen, but didn't know what to do about it". But once the second world war was under way, "everyone got excited, they loved the things they could do, it was one long holiday ... so when I think of the impending crisis now, I think in those terms. A sense of purpose - that's what people want."


What would Lovelock do now, I ask, if he were me? He smiles and says: "Enjoy life while you can. Because if you're lucky it's going to be 20 years before it hits the fan."
So, here's the question to all right-thinking SF fans out there.

Is it more enjoyable to write SF about space travel and aliens and how the act of shopping is going to drive the technological revolution, or do you want to write Mundane-SF that looks a bit funny now, but stands a chance of becoming increasingly relevant as time progresses?

Anyone can write a cyberpunk crime story today, but the people who look good are the ones who wrote it before the mainstreaming of the Internet. The technology was all there to see back in the 1980s; but precious few people recognized how important it was at the time.