Transhumanist Science Fiction: The Most Important Genre The World Has Ever Seen? (An Interview with David Simpson)
- August 30, 2014 at 2:00 pm #20285PeterMember
Has transhumanist literature become the most important form of literature, not just in science fiction, but in fiction in general? David Simpson argues that it has and I had the chance to delve into it further with him.August 30, 2014 at 4:37 pm #20286PeterMember
Hi David, I am wondering if you saw the two articles recently in WIRED Magazine regarding “apocalyptic” or “dystopian” fiction.
There are many that feel that these sorts of stories help us by warning about potential negative outcomes or scenarios while others (including myself) would argue that at least some of these sorts of films and books instead promote excessive fear. In particular “Hollywood blockbuster” style films purposely manipulate the audience’s emotions and fight/flight response with action sequences, camera techniques, and appropriate editing etc. This strong emotional state is in part what makes films fun to see, but also it can change how people think about real world events and ideas.
People that watch Terminator movies fear Skynet. But what if our fear is misplaced and we end up missing opportunities that could extend or enhance life?
What is your take on this and how does it influence your fiction? Can negative stories cause negative outcomes?
And what about positive optimistic stories? There seems to be a lack of creativity in this area frankly such I wonder if a storyline without a frightening near or actual apocalypse could be made as a major Hollywood film.August 31, 2014 at 12:18 am #20291DavidParticipant
Hi Peter! Thank you for your question. This has come up quite a few times over the years and my answer comes in two parts: the first is that I don’t think a novel or movie that was specifically about technology making people’s lives better would be very entertaining, as it would come off as a polemic, and people expect their attention to be grabbed and held when reading or viewing a story. In screenplay class, we were taught that there had to be a dramatic “reversal” within the first ten pages that threw the character’s lives into chaos and sent the action forward, or else the screenplay would never sell because you’d lose your audience. Drama, in the end, is conflict, and stories need to have conflict or else they aren’t really stories. They’d be essays or polemics (and though there are a handful of good polemics out there, they are hard to find!)
The second part of the answer though, would be that once a technologically advanced world where the tech clearly makes people’s lives better is established, it would definitely be possible to create a narrative within that world that had conflict, but where the technology wasn’t the main focus. So, let’s say an author took the world I created in Post-Human, where the characters are immortal, have intelligence upgrades, a benevolent “nanny” AI is making sure things run smoothly, and then created conflict between characters that wasn’t directly the result of anything involving an AI, but instead it was a mystery or detective story, just one set in an incredible future. I think that could actually work and I think we may reach that point soon. Readers and the general audience have come a long way and just last night I was offered the opportunity to have one of my novels included in a “singularity” book bundle along with a group of other writers who agree with me that this is the ultimate subject for fiction authors to be grappling with right now. I think the stage where we have to write to introduce these fantastic concepts to readers and get them beyond their fears will eventually come to an end, and then we’ll just be writing novels and books where the new transhumanist tech is just part of life. Post-Human glimpses that at various stages in the plot, but the central conflict is still about the world itself, the nature of humanity, and the ultimate nature of intelligence in the universe. (Those are the most intriguing mysteries for me to be writing about for now!)
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