Feb 21, 2016

Science Fiction in Deep Time

original cover art
The Exode Trilogy is an exercise in recursive science fiction: the science fiction genre must be crafted and brought into existence in order to allow Humanity an opportunity to spread among the stars. In a sense, science fiction itself is the protagonist of the story, so it is natural that I have begun to think about a suitable antagonist.

Amplifying Science Fiction
I've spent decades developing my concept of what constitutes science fiction. As a relatively new literary genre, science fiction means different things to different people.

For Exode, I imagine that science fiction was brought to its greatest flowering in the Ekcolir Reality. In that Reality, science fiction remained in the hands of a small cadre of scientists and engineers. Still, it was proof of the concept that Earthlings could be prepared for First Contact. The roots of science fiction may never fully be known, but they can be traced into the First Reality (see also).

2008 edition
In the Final Reality, the universe that we reside in, science fiction needed to be amplified and brought to the attention of the masses. Science fiction could not remain a high-brow literary genre; it had to spread across the world via mass media in advance of First Contact with the Buld. That spread of science fiction among the people of Earth functioned as a vaccine, creating protection from the truth and it turned the truth about the arrival of the Buld into just another silly story about alien visitors to Earth, just one story among many.

If it was the analogues of Gernsback, Asimov, Vance and Clarke who created science fiction in the Ekcolir Reality, then who were the architects of the type of newfangled science fiction that arose in the Buld Reality?

last and first science fiction
One important twist of the Buld Reality was provided by John Campbell's turn towards parapsychology. Also, there were many efforts made to popularize science fiction and distribute it to a mass audience by way of radio, television and film including the work of Gene Roddenberry and his creation of Star Trek. Another part of warping science fiction into a new form involved the creation of Carl Sagan.

Even while science fiction was just being invented, some writers such as Olaf Stapledon were setting the foundation for what would become the "second wave" of science fiction, what we can think of as the pop culture domain of "anti-science fiction". Writers such as Stapledon, with no background in science, were able to spread the memes of science fiction to a wider audience. In the Exodemic Fictional Universe, both science fiction and anti-science fiction were carefully created and crafted for the great purpose of getting Earth out of its "trap" and liberating humans from the dead end existence that had been our original fate.

1971 - cover art by Edward John Jones
Worlds we won't live to see
My preference is for stories that show a high degree of interest from the author in science, but many people are happy to avoid the fussy constraints imposed by nature. An example: after the character was depicted on TV in 1954, many science fiction authors took Ian Flemming's James Bond into science fictional settings, often with only a minimalist's tip of the pen towards science. Vance's mature equivalent of Bond was Kirth Gersen. Marion Zimmer Bradley imagined her own version of the interstellar secret agent man.

1983 edition
In her introduction to The Door Through Space, Bradley wrote that she had grown tired of writing "straight science-fiction", which she seemed to view as a fad.

Apparently there is supposed to be future/alien science behind the psychokinetics in The Door Through Space, but Bradley could not be bothered to explain the fine details. In the story, the protagonist (living in a future with interstellar travel) is baffled by the question of how television signals might be sent to the far side of a planet. Bradley was no Arthur Clarke.

Lord of the Toads
1979 - cover art by Walter Velez
The Door Through Space reminds me of The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin, which from a science nerd's perspective is about the invention of the ansible. The Door Through Space is about obtaining the secret of teleportation technology, but in both of these books there is little science, which should surprise nobody, given the background and interests of the authors. Ultimately, what really mattered for science fiction themes such as First Contact was simply getting it "out there" into the widest possible domain of public consciousness.

A story from the Ekcolir Reality.
Original cover art by Swen Papenbrock
Previously, I'd imagined that science fiction was first introduced into Earthly culture of our Reality when Ekcolir went back into the past.

However, Gohrlay just informed me that science fiction was popular at Observer Base during her first life.

The science fiction game has probably been popular among Interventionists since the very beginning.

Related Reading: The Escapists

Next: The X-Files Season 10 Finale

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