The Canadian TV show “Big Ideas” on TV Ontario had homegrown SF author Robert J. Sawyer on to talk about the effect Hollywood, and specifically the blockbuster concept of Star Wars, has had on the genre of science fiction – specifically how the social commentary edge to it has been dulled on the silver screen, which has extended to writing as well.
Sawyer gives a history of science fiction and how certain works have stood up over time, while others have not. It’s quite interesting, at least for those of us who like to get meta about our reading genres. In many past societies, direct criticism of rulers or social norms were ill-received, often ending in prison sentences or worse, while analogies and euphemisms thrived under plausible deniability. But today, it’s not such a big deal. Does this spell the end for disguised social critique? Or do we still need to have our ideas challenged in surreptitious ways? What say Futurismic readers?
Give the podcast a listen, and as a bonus, listen to Steven Pinker swear on the same page.
[Edit: Fixed the link, thanks to commenter Nancy Jane Moore]
Canadian author Robert J. Sawyer received the Galaxy award, China’s top science fiction prize, from the China International Science Fiction and Fantasy Festival in Chengdu, in Sichuan province.
Sawyer gives his take on the good science fiction can do for Chinese culture – mainly by providing a venue for controversial or taboo topics to be aired in a country not known for its free speech. In addition, Sawyer relates the current situation regarding the genre to its genesis in inter-war years of America, how people reading sci-fi are inspired to careers in science and technology, and how people can actually see the increments in life quality provided by that science.
Sawyer touches on my major reason for enjoying science fiction – social commentary:
"They’re [China’s science fiction authors] ripe for a transition to a much more interesting sociology and social impact in the softer sciences," [Sawyer] said.
That kind of writing will also allow them to write about subjects that might otherwise be too sensitive in a civilization that doesn’t allow open discussion, he said.
It makes you wonder if the transition to democracy might happen based on sci-fi stories.
Before now, I’d never heard of Robert J. Sawyer. I think I’ll go check out some of his books my next trip to a bookstore, it sounds like he’s got some interesting ideas.
(via SciTech Daily Review)