Barriers & Cages

I’m not singling out any one book here; no prizes for figuring out what got me started, of course.

Here’s my question:

What is cool and ironic about revelling in how fucked up the world could be in some more extreme future?

Is the extreme and deadly ruined future where everything is settled by gore and bad writing supposed to be a warning?

Or is it supposed to be an escape, make us feel better about our bank balance and toe lint problems?

Either way, I don’t see how it works. The world is already fucked up, guys. We have melting ice caps, species extinction, extreme weather. We have genocide, chemical warfare, drones used in battle. We have starvation in some parts of the world and morbid obesity in others, we have the hivemind, we have xenophobic hatred and religious extremism of all kinds, including extreme atheism looking at you Richard Dawkins. We have power structures that function without our knowledge, offshore rogue economies; we have surveillance. We have Congressmen taking selfies of their dicks. We have all this crap in real life. Real life is much, much more interesting than these endless sci fi adventure templates. Where is the imagination in writing yet another ‘thriller’ that all too predictably involves a lot of blood, rape, and systemic oppression without ever really addressing where shit is going? Do you really think you can add something the horror of the information surround we already live in? What exactly is being illuminated here?

Because unless you can, unless you are really super fucking sophisticated and so far I have’t read anyone who is, then please don’t. Don’t write about sexbots and engineered humans designed to remorselessly kill or any of the other clichés of clichés of clichés that are passing for science fiction. You’re lazy and I see right through you.  Publishers: stop saying these books are doing something new when you know very well that they aren’t and you’re just trying to make a few sensationalist bucks. What you are doing is completely transparent.

You know what’s hard, as a science fiction writer? What’s hard is imagining worlds that aren’t the same old traps. What’s hard is imagining futures, or alternatives, that aren’t governed by the same kinds of power and that aren’t all about empire and oppression and who has the biggest dick or can make it seem like they do with mirrors.

What’s hard is imagining uses of technology that could get us out of this situation we are in, for real. Imagining ways of coexisting that do not resort to large-scale murder in one part of the world and everybody in the rest of the world pointedly looking away at cat pictures. Imagining currencies and structures and means of involvement that could get us somewhere as a species and fuck, as a planet, without destroying our own biosphere.

It’s hard to think about, hard to extrapolate, hard to imagine. Hard to make stories about things that have never happened, things that are unimaginable to us now. But isn’t that what SF is supposed to be—or am I on the wrong bus again?

Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing in a genre that thinks people like me are good for fucking and simpering or a bit of extra protein when the cockroaches run out. And when you call this genre out it says: it was a warning! It was a critique! It was IRONIC.

I’m struggling night and day to come up with SF that isn’t just the same old EVERYTHING IS FUCKED, LA LA LA.  The same old violence porn by and for people who have no idea what violence is, what it does, who have no respect for its consequences. Writing SF is hard. It’s not for wankers.

Or is it? Really, seriously, I want to know.

I really want to believe we can do better than this.

 

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