Tag Archives: social commentary

Bad Media Spin On The LHC

It was all fun and games until someone took the end-of-the-world speculations one step too far:

A 16-year-old girl in Madhya Pradesh, [India] allegedly committed suicide after watching news on channels about possibility of the end of earth following the atom-smasher experiment in Geneva that began on Wednesday…Her parents told reporters she was watching about the world’s biggest atom-smasher experiment in Geneva on news channels since the last two days following which she got restless and ended her life.

I’m divided between blaming the wildly inaccurate claims circulated by the media, and just a general lack of scientific education for believing these “doomsday” claims. But there’s this, regarding the media portrayal of the event in India, to support both:

The ministry found stories talking about the world coming to an end, shown in various dramatised forms, as unsuitable for “unrestricted public exhibition” and “unsuitable for children“. Media critics have pointed out that instead of looking at the Big Bang experiment as a scientific development, doomsday stories only succeeded in scaring naive viewers and annoying those who saw through the facade. “The experiment has been the talking point everywhere for all the wrong reasons,” a media critic said.

[story from Sify, additional updates from The Times of India, via Bruce Sterling]

Death threats over Large Hadron Collider

frankensteinIt’s not quite pitchfork-bearing mobs, but still.

Scientists working on the world’s biggest machine are being besieged by phone calls and emails from people who fear the world will end next Wednesday, when the gigantic atom smasher starts up….

Such is the angst that the American Nobel prize winning physicist Frank Wilczek of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has even had death threats, said Prof Brian Cox of Manchester University, adding: “Anyone who thinks the LHC will destroy the world is a t—.”

Fermilab plans a pajama party to celebrate the start of the experiment.

[Photo: Fuzzy Gerdes]

A Different Kind of Science Fiction

Syringe and ampoulesAs science fiction writers and readers, we tend to think a lot in technologies, and medical advancements, and visitors from other worlds. But there is a vast array of science fiction that surrounds us that I believe a lot of writers have left untouched for a long time: social sciences. Dystopian fiction was popular in the 60s and 70s with the Cold War in full swing, and the obvious excesses of a corrupt government were evident (not that they’re any less so now). Now, people are fascinated with cyber technology and nanobots and all sorts of other modern marvels, and the way of the Dystopian (or the anti-Utopian) writer have fallen a bit by the wayside. [Picture courtesy of happysnappr].

African childWhat do science fiction writers think of global conflict? What happens when the world falls into chaos after environmental collapse? Where will the world be if we eradicate ourselves with biological warfare? There’s no grand technological breakthrough that lies at the heart of these types of stories. No, there stories that have been told many times, but they’re present, and they’re modern, and they’re pertinent: they are human, and that is what makes them so profound. Socially conscious writing is important, in my opinion, because it begins to bring back to science fiction what it began as: a way of questioning that which is potentially dangerous. [Photo courtesy of hdptcar].

Man is the greatest weapon the Earth has ever seen, and we work daily to destroy it. Unlike Mundane-SF (and the near-fanatical movement that surrounds it), traditional, socially conscious science fiction ought to teach the reader something; it ought to make them walk away with some new insight not only into the mind of the writer but also into the way in which the world around them operates. And while any good writer makes tech-driven science fiction a commentary about the world around us, those works written with the thought in mind of being there to teach, in addition to being entertaining, makes for great works that bridge the gap between the great literary canon and the small guys of science fiction.

Robert J. Sawyer on SF and Hollywood

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]