Mike Brotherton, Science Fiction, and Escapism

Some time ago, I posted a link to a blog post by Mike Brotherton on why we need science fiction.  It’s a short but pointed read.  The main reason is this:  “Real life.”

I hope Mike doesn’t mind me stealing his title and his first two words, which contain his whole point.  After all, I did give him some link love as compensation.  And I will also note here that I think he is a roguishly handsome man.


There’s not a word in the essay with which I disagree.  But I still have some problems with saying so.  The reason why is the tendency among people who don’t like science fiction, or speculative fiction at large, to dismiss the entire genre as “escapist.”  Mike’s essay actually gives those people ammunition.  Not that I think many of them will read it, because they wouldn’t be caught dead visiting the website of a certified-astronomer-cum-hard-sf-novelist.  Still, I worry.

What’s worse, there’s some truth to the barbs.  (more…)

Published in: on June 20, 2012 at 11:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

Thoughts on Writing Rules

First, have a glance at this list of Pixar’s storytelling rules.  I found this on Twitter from one of the people I follow.  I couldn’t seem to find who, though I’ll keep looking to give proper credit.

Second, here’s an interesting list of writing rules from Myke Cole.  Some will find it frustratingly contradictory.  I think it’s perfect just the way it is.

Now to my question:  What purpose do rules really serve, anyway? (more…)

Published in: on June 19, 2012 at 11:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Final Thoughts on Meredith Vickers

Last week, I promised that I would answer some of the arguments made at this link about the nature of Meredith Vickers in the recent movie Prometheus.  Tonight, I’m making good that promise.  It’s been an interesting intellectual exercise drafting this post, and I’ve enjoyed it immensely.  Tomorrow, though, I’ll move on to other things.

(Spoilers follow…though I imagine that most people who want to see Prometheus already have, it’s still nice to give fair warning.) (more…)

Published in: on June 18, 2012 at 11:58 pm  Comments (2)  

Further Thoughts on Prometheus, and Meredith Vickers

On Monday, I uploaded my review of Prometheus.  Last night, I went to see it again in hopes of answering some of my more pressing questions.  In the process, I realized some of my criticisms were wrong, and so I appended a correction to my original review.  I also had half a dozen other questions crop up, however.  Those will be listed at the end of this post.

But while rewatching the movie, I not only revised one of my initial criticisms of Prometheus, I came up with a startling interpretation which would tie my revised observation together with two other facts in the movie related to the character of Meredith Vickers.  This is the sort of character revelation that I would hope is revealed in a sequel.  It was simply too good not to post about.  Someone else may already have seen the same thing I saw, but I solemnly swear that this post represents my own work, and is not stolen from anyone.

[Spoilers ahead.]

So, about Meredith Vickers: (more…)

Published in: on June 14, 2012 at 11:51 pm  Comments (8)  

Europa off the Starboard Bow

When I was a young boy, I used to stand in my backyard and look at the moon.  There’s nothing unusual in that, of course.  I imagine that every young boy has done the same.  But I was a child steeped in the possibilities of the Space Age.  The moon was not an unreachable object.  I had met a man who had flown around it in orbit.  It was only a matter of time, I reckoned, until people were going up there to stay.  And I was firmly convinced that I would be one of them.  Going up to the moon to live and work, while taking vacations on Earth?  That should be possible by my old age, shouldn’t it?  When I would be thirty or so.

Thirty is just around the corner now, as far as the span of a lifetime is concerned.  And I am no closer to living on the moon.  Nor would I be if I were an astronaut of any country.  I never go into political issues on this blog – and I don’t intend to start now.  But I feel compelled at this point to mention a bipartisan complaint about the American government for surrendering control of the space race it was best equipped to lead, both by underfunding NASA and by forcing it to misappropriate the limited funds it does possess.  This is not a political issue.  It is instead a species imperative.  I consider it vital for humanity to colonize other bodies within our solar system as a first step toward exploring the stars and ensuring our long-term survival.

While I welcome the increased participation from the private sector in developing spaceflight technologies, it will take them some time to catch up.  But it seems increasingly probable that they will have to lead the way, especially because they possess a key advantage.  Many national governments have to answer to their citizens.  That is as it should be, but it also means that agendas shift with the prevailing political winds.  A company with a dedicated board of directors might be able to formulate and sustain an explorative agenda better than any government ever could.  This could lead to the restoration of what current space missions lack – an inspiring vision.

All of this is my way of setting the stage for this comment:  Look at this.  Wow. (more…)

Published in: on June 13, 2012 at 9:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

How Do We Get New Readers of Speculative Literature?

Recently I have been grappling with this essay over at SFSignal.com.  I don’t mean to say I think it’s incomprehensible.  I understand it perfectly well, though I have to agree with those commenters who find it overwritten and far too academic.  I’m a believer in not muddying things up when you don’t have to.  The problem John H. Stevens is discussing can be stated much more plainly: what does it take for people to become readers of speculative fiction?  Do they have to learn a different way of approaching stories, a different set of reading skills than it takes to read their preferred genre?  Or do they have an innate distaste for speculative fiction because they simply don’t feel like they “get it” very well?

Neither of these hypotheses about “why” is nearly as interesting to me as a solution to the problem.  And after some thought, I believe I’ve come up with an idea that would make answering Stevens’s question unnecessary.  Whether the problem has to do with a learning curve or an aversion, the answer is the same:  acclimation.  Following are three ideas I came up with for introducing a friend to the wonderful world of speculative fiction. (more…)

Published in: on June 12, 2012 at 11:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

I Sing the Body Eclectic (or, RIP Ray Bradbury)

Ray Bradbury was not my first science-fiction love; that was Isaac Asimov.  He was not the writer I read most compulsively; that was (and is) Orson Scott Card.  What Bradbury means to me can’t be captured in a simple label.  Except, perhaps, most human.

Some fiction inspires me.  Some amuses me.  Some unsettles me.  Bradbury frequently did all three, and he could move me from one to the other within the course of a single short piece.  I read Bradbury not to be exalted or brought low, but to come at life from another angle.  Often the reaction I have upon finishing a story or essay of his that I’ve never read is:  “I’ve thought that way!  But I could never put it into words.”

Bradbury gave me those words. (more…)

Published in: on June 6, 2012 at 11:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Thoughts on Writing Ideas, and Related Links

I’m writing again.

You have no idea how good it feels to say that.

More to the point, I’ve learned from my mistakes.  Part of what I did during my latest multi-month hiatus from blogging was to take a long hard look at why I suddenly found it so hard to write.  The biggest conclusion I came to:  I was working too hard on coming up with ideas, and then spending them almost as soon as I had them.  It exhausted me.

Here, let me show you an example: (more…)

Published in: on May 24, 2012 at 9:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Vision in Science Fiction, and Other Links

Click here for a fascinating discussion on whether sci-fi is still the “big idea” genre.

Then click here for a typically thoughtful post from James over at Big Dumb Object.

Then click here for my own unworthy thoughts. (more…)

Published in: on May 23, 2012 at 9:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

What’s Your Universe?

Yesterday I posted a link to a piece on high-risk careers in the types of fiction we love so much.  That got me to thinking about something other than careers.  If I could live in any fictional universe of my acquaintance, which universe would I live in?  So I decided to answer the question.

Immediately eliminated:  any fantasy universe that takes place in the distant past, or in any sort of pre-modern civilization.  I like my creature comforts too much.  Air conditioning is lovely.  Sorry, Middle-Earth.

None of Joss Whedon’s fantasy works, thank you.  I would either be the person chased by the monster, the person chasing the monster, or the monster.  None of those types has a high survival rate.

There’s no point in choosing to live in an insular sci-fi world unless you’re one of the ones on the inside.  So Dr. Who would only be fun if I got to travel with Dr. Who.  And that would eventually end with me getting ditched anyhow.

The Star Wars universe pre-Empire has a lot of creature comforts in the heart of the Republic, so it might not be a bad choice, except that I would then have a high probability of living in the Star Wars universe during the Empire.  That would be no fun.  And I always have to keep in mind that I probably wouldn’t be rich in these worlds.  You want to choose the ones with the best middle-class lifestyle.

I would not look good with a comically large mouth.  No anime.

The Federation has hundreds of planets, and seems to be relatively at peace.  The technology level is high, too.  I would be in a good environment even if I didn’t serve aboard a starship.  So I suppose that has to be my choice.  As long as I can stay away from ships named Enterprise, I could live a long and happy life with no disturbances.

What about you?  What world would you choose?

Published in: on May 22, 2012 at 8:24 pm  Leave a Comment