December 11, 2003
I'm of the opinion that the strange function     
that Science Fiction has served in advancing     
Western thought is in eclipse.                   
Once this function was only rarely acknowledged,    
though now it's almost conventional wisdom:         
   Bruce Sterling (quoting Lem)                    
   likes to talk about SF as      AG_SPARKS       Sterling also
   "a spearhead of cognition".                    speaks proudly of SF                      
                                                  writers as court jesters,    
   Gregory Benford has called SF                  with the freedom to say      
   "the underground literature of science"        what others can't.           
   Thomas Disch speaks of science fiction                                      
   as the menu of possibilities.                                              
                                                       But now that this 
            STUFF_UP_THE_CRACKS                        is recognized,
                                                       now that Sterling
Of course, much has                                    can just appear
been called                                            publicly as a
"science fiction"       EXPOSURE_TO_VACUUM              jester/pundit,
which does not                                         maybe the special
deserve to be taken                                    advantage of
anywhere near this                                     science fiction
seriously.                                             is gone.

This goes far beyond Sturgeon's              If it seems that very little
Law... most SF was not written               good science fiction is being
to be anything like "a spearhead             written these days, maybe
of cognition", and most SF was               it's because it's become
not read in hopes that it would              obsolete.
be so.
                                        There was a period in time
 "Science Fiction" was                  when there was no place
 the dark wood, a                       for a certain kind of
 hideout for an outlaw                  thinker to go, except to
 band that remains                      science fiction.
 nameless.               DARKWOOD
                                     Now maybe there's no need.  If
 Jesters taken refuge                you have visions in your head
 in a parade of clowns               of strange technologies and
                                     wild futures, you don't write
                                     a science fiction novel.

                                     You write books like:
                                     Drexler's "Engine of Creation"
                                     Brin's "Transparent Society"
                                     Dyson's "Infinite in All Directions"
                                  Presuming you don't just go    
                                  firing off business plans to    SHARPER_LANCES
                                  venture capitalists.        

             So, the future                              Once you become
             has become a                                respectable, does
             commonplace.                                that cramp your
             The idea that tomorrow
             may not be like today is                    Will you swing
             no longer an underground                    quite as wildly
             doctrine.                                   as you did when
                                  TIME_MIND              you thought the
                                                         world wasn't
             And once again,                             watching?
             it is a time
             of change for
             the literature
             of change

             An end of an era
             perhaps, the close
             of a golden age.         And I'm not fourteen
                                      anymore, either.

To refrain from prophecy,    
I'll ask: what are the            
possibilities for the fiction     
of possibilities?                 
   The story form has
   advantages over the essay:
      The story requires the            
      author to confront
      a future's impact on
      an individual,              The texture of existence
      detailed level.             The flow of life

Fiction readers                        LUCID_VAGUENESS 
demand dialog, so
philosophic fiction
necessarily becomes a
philosophic dialog.                Libertarian theory comes off
                                   better than libertarian science fiction.
      The enemy of
      single vision.               Perhaps this indicates a
                                   flaw in the theory?
                                   ... and a virtue of the fiction.