Is 'science fiction' a bad word now?

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Postby tapehead on Sun Apr 15, 2007 1:09 am

WIRED wrote:LOL.

The nose-thumbing is nothing new. In the '50s, Robert Heinlein dismissed the term, opting for "speculative fiction." (What fiction isn't?)


An interesting point from the article AB referenced regarding the term.
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Postby minstrel on Sun Apr 15, 2007 1:41 am

There's been some discussion of what qualifies as "science fiction" and what is "speculative fiction".

It seems to me that there is a lot of what WAS "science fiction" back in the 30s, 40s, and 50s, that can only be considered "speculative fiction" now. Or even "fantasy". This is because science and technology have advanced since the stories were written.

I love many of the old "science fiction" stories - stories that were based in science at the time, but now are implausible. I wish that filmmakers today would raid the vaults of Astounding Science Fiction from the golden era and make films that would have been considered science fiction then, but maybe not so much now.

One series of stories, in particular, that I would love to see movies of is George O. Smith's "Venus Equilateral" series. For those of you who don't know these stories, the series is about a group of engineers stationed on a hollowed-out asteroid in the orbit of Venus, but sixty degrees further on, so that it can provide communications to the rest of the solar system in the way that communications satellites around the Earth provide communications to us.

Some of the stories Smith wrote were purely and delightfully technical challenges. One, "Calling The Empress", was about a situation in which an interplanetary spaceship had gone missing, due to a problem in its drive system. How do rescuers find this ship? It may seem easy to many here, but Smith emphasized the size of the Solar System and how difficult it would be to even detect a ship that had gone off course. The solution to the problem was ingenious (within the context of the series of stories) and would have made a wonderful movie or TV episode. But it's hard sci fi, and maybe it wouldn't be popular today.

Does anyone else remember the "Venus Equilateral" stories? (I'm looking at you, Adam Balm! They might be right up your alley ...)

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Postby tapehead on Sun Apr 15, 2007 1:48 am

Minstrel, by your own assertion, wouldn't these stories then still be science fiction, as science and technology haven't 'advanced' to that kind of space travel and exploration? (not challenging your assertion, just curious regards your point).
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Postby Adam Balm on Sun Apr 15, 2007 1:51 am

minstrel wrote:
Does anyone else remember the "Venus Equilateral" stories? (I'm looking at you, Adam Balm! They might be right up your alley ...)

:)


Hah! Doesn't ring a bell, I wish it did though... Man I miss that type of fic.

Gives me a thought though. Would anybody be interested in splitting this off as a 'Pulp Memories' thread, where we can all reminisce about the days of Doc Savage, The Phantom, Weird Tales, Amazing, Astounding....about those little gems we came across..??
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Postby Anti-Christ on Fri Apr 20, 2007 12:50 am

I'd love Turtledove's "WorldWar" series to go to screen. Lizards with machine guns. Come on!
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Postby Adam Balm on Fri Apr 20, 2007 12:58 am

Anti-Christ wrote:I'd love Turtledove's "WorldWar" series to go to screen. Lizards with machine guns. Come on!


Er...not that kind of thread sorry. I think this topic could do with a renaming.

ETA: Here's the thread you might be thinking of btw: http://zone.aintitcool.com/viewtopic.php?t=281
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Postby DinoDeLaurentiis on Fri Apr 20, 2007 10:43 am

It would a seem a to a the Dino that a the term "speculative fiction" is more a just a the marketing tactic, no? A 'cos back inna the 50s, you hadda the whole angle of a the science being alla bad anna such a 'cos a the development of a the hydrogen bomb inna WWII, no?

It was a 'cos of a this that a the Science, she became a to be seen by a the general public not as a the boon to a the mankind, but as a the horrific force that we alla hadda to fear... a force that unna'checked was a gonna to bring about a the destruction of a the entire planet, no? Anna iffa you look atta most of a the sci-fi pictures inna the 50s, science, iffa not a the villian, is a surely the catalyst that brings about alla the bad stuff, no?

Anna so Heinlein's desire to move away from a the term "science fiction" inna favor of a the "speculative fiction" was a merely 'cos of a the term "speculative" sounds a so much a more positive anna hopeful, eh? Which was exactly what alla the peoples wanted a while they were practicing alla their "duck anna cover" drills, no?

But before a the nuclear developments, science, atta least since a prolly the Steam Age, was a seen as a the boon to a the mankind, no? Anna it brought about alla the advances inna the health, a the living standards, anna understanding of a the natural processes (similar to a the time of a the Science's rebirth inna the Renaissance), anna so's up unna'til WWII, science fiction was actually a the popular term which could a sell a the book, a the pulp, anna the films, no?

Anna now inna the United States which a largely controls a the, how you say? "zeitgeist" of a the opinion of a the science inna the popular media, you gotta the situation similar to a the science of a the Renaissance, where you gotta the peoples who challenge a the validity of a the Science inna the name of a the Faith, anna like a the persecution of a the Galileo, you gotta the modern persecution of a the Evolutionists anna the Global Warming scientists anna such, anna so's a the Science, she's a sort of "onna the outs" again inna the popular culture.

Combine a the religious attack onna science with a the socio-economic impact of a the rise of a the Computer Age where a you have a lot of a the skilled tradespeople anna artisans being replaced by a the machines anna forced a to find work inna the "New World" they donna understand, anna again, that only adds to a the scientific "back-a-lash," no?

Holy crappa... I need a the bran muffin anna the rest, eh?
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Postby Adam Balm on Fri Apr 20, 2007 2:25 pm

DinoDeLaurentiis wrote:It was a 'cos of a this that a the Science, she became a to be seen by a the general public not as a the boon to a the mankind, but as a the horrific force that we alla hadda to fear... a force that unna'checked was a gonna to bring about a the destruction of a the entire planet, no?


Now are you referring to science or to your own science fiction films?

Oh, and good points all around. Although I'd disagree in that it's not that simple. The first science fiction story ever done was Frankenstein, a story of science as an arguably bad thing. And into the industrial revolution you have plenty of dystopian science fiction inspired by the terrifying mechanisation of the world, often by some of the world's best authors like Jack London. Industrialization brought improved standards of living yes, but also it brought people in from the fields and forced them into the factory. H.G. Wells' four great books (Time Machine, War of the Worlds, Invisible Man and Island of Dr. Moreau) all showed industrialization and technological progress suspiciously and not as a simple 'boon to mankind' but something with the potential to take away ones' humanity. Jules Verne's later stuff had more of this feel, which stands in stark contrast to his earlier optimistic fiction. And in the early 20th century during the surge of pulps like Amazing Stories and Astounding, you also had cautionary tales like Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, and films like Fritz Lang's metropolis.

Optimism and pessimism have always been the twin poles of SF. While The Bomb probably did make a big difference in how some people viewed science, I don't think it shares all the blame for people distrusting science. People have always met science with fear and hope, and there's been many times when one has dipped and the other has risen in public consciousness.. If any of that makes any sense at all.
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Postby DinoDeLaurentiis on Fri Apr 20, 2007 2:29 pm

Adam Balm wrote:
DinoDeLaurentiis wrote:It was a 'cos of a this that a the Science, she became a to be seen by a the general public not as a the boon to a the mankind, but as a the horrific force that we alla hadda to fear... a force that unna'checked was a gonna to bring about a the destruction of a the entire planet, no?


Now are you referring to science or to your own science fiction films?

Oh, and good points all around. Although I'd disagree in that it's not that simple. The first science fiction story ever done was Frankenstein, a story of science as an arguably bad thing. And into the industrial revolution you have plenty of dystopian science fiction inspired by the terrifying mechanisation of the world, often by some of the world's best authors like Jack London. Industrialization brought improved standards of living yes, but also it brought people in from the fields and forced them into the factory. H.G. Wells' four great books (Time Machine, War of the Worlds, Invisible Man and Island of Dr. Moreau) all showed industrialization and technological progress suspiciously and not as a simple 'boon to mankind' but something with the potential to take away ones' humanity. Jules Verne's later stuff had more of this feel, which stands in stark contrast to his earlier optimistic fiction. And in the early 20th century during the surge of pulps like Amazing Stories and Astounding, you also had cautionary tales like Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, and films like Fritz Lang's metropolis.

Optimism and pessimism have always been the twin poles of SF. While The Bomb probably did make a big difference in how some people viewed science, I don't think it shares all the blame for people distrusting science. People have always met science with fear and hope, and there's been many times when one has dipped and the other has risen in public consciousness.. If any of that makes any sense at all.


Yes, but a the Dino, he was a not referring to a the overall tone of a the science fiction per se, but more a the public appetite of a the science fiction genre inna general, eh? Inna some periods, she is a more voracious for a the genre than inna the others.
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Postby Adam Balm on Fri Apr 20, 2007 2:33 pm

Yeah. But ironically, counter to your point, science fiction popularity (both in box office dollars and magazine circulation) actually increased after the bomb was dropped because this gave the potential for more interesting stories like radioactively mutated monster movies and the like. So the public appetite for science fiction didn't necessarily wane in response to that.
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Postby buster00 on Fri Apr 20, 2007 2:34 pm

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Where does this sort of thing fit into the equation?
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Postby instant_karma on Fri Apr 20, 2007 2:43 pm

Adam Balm wrote:
DinoDeLaurentiis wrote:It was a 'cos of a this that a the Science, she became a to be seen by a the general public not as a the boon to a the mankind, but as a the horrific force that we alla hadda to fear... a force that unna'checked was a gonna to bring about a the destruction of a the entire planet, no?


Now are you referring to science or to your own science fiction films?

Oh, and good points all around. Although I'd disagree in that it's not that simple. The first science fiction story ever done was Frankenstein, a story of science as an arguably bad thing. And into the industrial revolution you have plenty of dystopian science fiction inspired by the terrifying mechanisation of the world, often by some of the world's best authors like Jack London. Industrialization brought improved standards of living yes, but also it brought people in from the fields and forced them into the factory. H.G. Wells' four great books (Time Machine, War of the Worlds, Invisible Man and Island of Dr. Moreau) all showed industrialization and technological progress suspiciously and not as a simple 'boon to mankind' but something with the potential to take away ones' humanity. Jules Verne's later stuff had more of this feel, which stands in stark contrast to his earlier optimistic fiction. And in the early 20th century during the surge of pulps like Amazing Stories and Astounding, you also had cautionary tales like Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, and films like Fritz Lang's metropolis.

Optimism and pessimism have always been the twin poles of SF. While The Bomb probably did make a big difference in how some people viewed science, I don't think it shares all the blame for people distrusting science. People have always met science with fear and hope, and there's been many times when one has dipped and the other has risen in public consciousness.. If any of that makes any sense at all.


You really shouldn't tell Dino that a story about re-animating a corpse is science fiction.

I'm sure the hope that it's possible is all that keeps him going some days...
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Postby Adam Balm on Fri Apr 20, 2007 2:44 pm

buster00 wrote:Image

Where does this sort of thing fit into the equation?


And furthermore....

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Postby minstrel on Fri Apr 20, 2007 2:44 pm

I disagree with Dino that science became unpopular in the 50s. WWII brought about many technological innovations, and the bomb was only one of them. There was also radar, jet aircraft, computers, rockets, and so on. The space race really got going after Sputnik and WOW did that turn on a bunch of young boys like me in the 1960s. Science and technology were very popular in that time.

I think Heinlein preferred the term "speculative fiction" because, while he wrote about technology like all other sf writers, he was very interested in sociological issues. He wrote about religious intolerance, authoritarian government, and LOTS about sexual freedom. This is speculation about society, not strictly science and technology.

When are we going to finally get a good big-budget movie version of "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress" anyway?

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Postby Adam Balm on Fri Apr 20, 2007 2:53 pm

minstrel wrote:I disagree with Dino that science became unpopular in the 50s. WWII brought about many technological innovations, and the bomb was only one of them. There was also radar, jet aircraft, computers, rockets, and so on. The space race really got going after Sputnik and WOW did that turn on a bunch of young boys like me in the 1960s. Science and technology were very popular in that time.


Another paradox (and I wrote about this in one of my reviews) is that 1958, after Sputnik was launched, saw a HUGE decline in popularity of SF. A whole bunch of the magazines folded and many people thought at the time that the space race might have killed SF. So while optimistic technological innovations seem to inspire a geeky minority to seek out SF, the public at large seems less interested. Why seek it out when it's already here?

I put forward the theory, and I don't think it's my own, that science fiction crashes and burns not when people think science is bad, but because they think science is boring. We got space travel and it wasn't like Commando Cody or Buck Rogers. It was 'as exciting as taking a trip to Pittsburgh'. We got cyberspace and it's not Neuromancer, it's filled with myspace pages and spam.

I think SF is experiencing a drop right now because science doesn't offer them an escape right now, rather the public perception is that it offers them a reminder of the boring and depressing world it brought us.
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Postby instant_karma on Fri Apr 20, 2007 2:59 pm

As with so many other conundrums, jetpacks are the answer...
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Postby Adam Balm on Fri Apr 20, 2007 3:01 pm

instant_karma wrote:As with so many other conundrums, jetpacks are the answer...


Ironically enough, most of what I'm saying is actually ripped from my review of this....
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Postby The Vicar on Fri Apr 20, 2007 3:06 pm

No so much a "bad word" as it is an inaccurate description.
And "speculative fiction" sounds like some weird assed STD.
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Postby instant_karma on Fri Apr 20, 2007 3:23 pm

I think 'speculative fiction' is more appropriate for things like documents saying that Iraq has WMD's that can be deployed in 40 minutes...
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Postby Adam Balm on Fri Apr 20, 2007 3:29 pm

instant_karma wrote:I think 'speculative fiction' is more appropriate for things like documents saying that Iraq has WMD's that can be deployed in 40 minutes...


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Re: Is 'science fiction' a bad word now?

Postby TheButcher on Tue Apr 10, 2012 11:13 pm

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Re: Is 'science fiction' a bad word now?

Postby TheButcher on Tue Jun 24, 2014 12:25 pm

Science Fiction in the Fifties: The Real Golden Age
Robert Silverberg wrote:Historians of science fiction often speak of the years 1939–1942 as "the golden age." But it was more like a false dawn. The real golden age arrived a decade later, and—what is not always true of golden ages—we knew what it was while it was happening.

That earlier golden age was centered entirely in a single magazine, John W. Campbell's Astounding Science Fiction, and the war aborted it in mid-stride. Campbell steered a middle course between the heavy-handed science-oriented stories preferred by the pioneering sf magazine editors Hugo Gernsback and T. O'Conor Sloane and the cheerfully lowbrow adventure fiction favored by pulp editors Ray Palmer and Mort Weisinger. He wanted smoothly written fiction that seriously explored the future of science and technology for an audience of intelligent adult readers—and in the four years of that first golden age he found an extraordinary array of brilliant new writers (and re-energized some older ones) to give him what he wanted: Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, A. E. van Vogt, Jack Williamson, Clifford D. Simak, L. Sprague de Camp, and many more.
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Re: Is 'science fiction' a bad word now?

Postby TheButcher on Tue Jun 24, 2014 12:29 pm

The Failed Publisher That Gave Us I, Robot And Arthur C. Clarke
Charlie Jane Anders wrote:We owe a huge debt to Gnome Press, a small start-up science fiction publisher that launched in the wake of World War II and failed because it couldn't pay its authors. As Andrew Liptak explains over in Kirkus Reviews, Gnome made Asimov's I, Robot possible, and gave us the first themed anthology.


Who Is John W. Campbell, Jr.:
Dastardly Villain? Sanctified Savior? or Just a Human Being Devoted to Science and Reason?
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Re: Is 'science fiction' a bad word now?

Postby TheButcher on Wed Sep 03, 2014 9:46 pm

It's Time To Discover The "Neglected Master" Of Science Fiction
Charlie Jane Anders wrote:Henry Kuttner's clever writing had a huge impact on science fiction, and there's never been a better chance to discover his work. A ton of his work has just been reissued by Diversion Books, and we've got an exclusive excerpt from his book The Time Trap, which was just nominated for a Retro Hugo.
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Re: Is 'science fiction' a bad word now?

Postby TheButcher on Fri Oct 23, 2015 9:36 pm

io9:
How Playboy helped save science fiction.
Charlie Jane Anders wrote:Not only did Playboy provide a huge audience for science fiction stories during the publishing crash of the late 1950s, but the mag also helped keep short SF mainstream with its focus on “beginnings, middles and ends.” Our own Andrew Liptak explains.


Kirkus:
Playboy's Science Fiction
Andrew Liptak wrote:In recent weeks, adult men's magazine Playboy surprised everyone by announcing that they would shift the tone of their magazine by eliminating the nude pictures for which they are famous. The move comes at a time when print magazines are struggling, and with magazines like Playboy finding increasing pressure from free alternatives online. While the magazine is known in particular for its adult content, it’s also a source of rich articles and fiction—including science fiction.

Hugh Hefner founded Playboy in 1953 after working for several years in the magazine industry, including at Esquire. Hefner wanted to create his own lifestyle magazine, one that would appeal to a wider single male audience. With $8,000 raised from investors and family members, he put together the first issue in December of 1953. Upon its release, the first issue sold out quickly.

In 1954, Hefner hired Ray Russell, an author and editor who had written for magazines, to become the magazine’s associate editor and oversee fiction. Both men were interested in science fiction: Russell had published a number of speculative works, and Hefner had been an “avid reader of Weird Tales during the 1940s and had even joined the ‘Weird Tales Club,’ ” as noted in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Thanks to this mutual interest, the magazine began reprinting science fiction. In January 1954, they published “Bird of Prey,” by John Collier, and then landed a major work by Ray Bradbury: his novel Fahrenheit 451, which was serialized in the March-May 1954 issues. Later that year, stories from William Hope Hodgson, Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, and Charles Schafhauser appeared in the magazine.

In 1956, Hefner brought on A. C. Spectorsky to edit the magazine, and he helped to bring the magazine quality writing and authors. The magazine was quickly becoming a major hit with the American public, and was providing high quality literature and articles alongside pornographic images. Within science fiction circles, the magazine was also proving to be a useful one, as monthly periodicals were beginning to fade away. According to Mike Ashley in his book Transformations: The Story of the Science Fiction Magazines from 1950 to 1970, “Not only did it maintain a high profile for science fiction, it became something of a sanctuary during the lean years that hit at the end of the fifties.” In 1966, Russell left his post as Associate Editor and was replaced by Robie MacAuley. Starting that year, the publication began publishing a number of anthologies, including: The Playboy Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy (1966); Playboy’s Stories of the Sinister and Strange (1969); and The Dead Astronaut; The Fiend; From the "S" File; The Fully Automated Love Life of Henry Keanridge; Last Train to Limbo; Masks; Transit of Earth; and Weird Show, all in 1971.
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