Editorial – Aug 2017 : Why Science Fiction isn’t keeping up?

July 30, 2017 | By | Reply More

Hello everyone

Although I’ve been reading more non-fiction for review than current Science Fiction, something that has struck me is how little modern technology has filtered into it. When you see American TV films acknowledging the using mobile phones to text message and showing the message on screen, you do have to wonder why instant communication, at least on-planet, isn’t acknowledged or used in our genre. It isn’t like it’s a trope that is likely to go away any time soon. If anything, it’s likely to intensify over the generations. People like to be in contact even if it doesn’t always mean in the physical sense.

Looking objectively, the most revolutionary change in communication in our modern world affecting most people is the ownership of a mobile phone. Oddly, I don’t own one myself but am aware of the dependency a lot of people have on it. On some levels, it’s just an extension to what we use laptops for Internet communication.

Other than size and application capacity, I doubt if that will go to implant stage. We have enough proof from car crashes and accidents where inappropriate use of these devices means implants aren’t likely to be an option in the future. Humans are too easily distracted. Then again, if there are areas where they turn off automatically then the ball game changes…except when you witness an accident and need to notify the police and ambulance but who needs a human intervention for that to happen? Inter-phone communication would be enough if it’s monitoring medical functions and do the alert for you. You might even get AI first aid faster than waiting for an ambulance to arrive. None of which is likely to change any time soon so why isn’t it used in its more rudimentary form?

Oddly, an Artificial Intelligence supplying information via an ear link isn’t actually new. It goes back as far as 1984 with Kevin O’Donnell Jr’s novel ‘ORA:CLE’. So any advances in Internet connections aren’t really going to beat that but you would expect it to happen more in fiction. Having something whispering information in your ear all the time could advance sufficiently so the human element isn’t even needed in the end. Your devices exchange information and only let you know what you need if you need it. Then again, why should you be bothering to communicate in person anymore anyway?

Unlike futuristic devices like the laser gun whom you can track back to the earliest projectile weapons, the function is the same just a different means to achieve it. The same with mobile phones. They work within the limits of what we know and where they go beyond that might make it Science Fiction. But it doesn’t need to be futuristic to be in use, it’s just another aspect of everyday life that is taken for granted. Like no one predicted the way computers would work out, no one foresaw most people owning a mobile phone neither. Reality beat us to it and yet Science Fiction doesn’t embrace its use. Yet it’s a present day trope that can’t be ignored.

Granted it can get in the way of having characters in peril but when you look at the amount of crimes and disasters in our modern world, even the likes of city surveillance cameras and mobile phones have their dead spots, being wiped or plain not being in the right area to catch something happening. It’s not an omnipotent tool. Are things going to be that different in the future? Is surveillance going to go up or down? Unlike George Orwell’s ‘1984’, it’s less likely to be Big Brother Government who is making use of the information received by Big Brother Corporation who are just as likely to be insidious with it. To not to acknowledge how our modern world has/is changing in Science Fiction is hardly the right way to look at things, even if it’s only background to the main elements of the story.

It does make me wonder if the real problem with modern SF is that writers have fallen in love with the glory days of our genre too much and not acknowledging where we are heading or what it would really be like in the future. It’s either that or we have the biggest dead spot in not acknowledging our own reality in our writing. To not use our current reality as the starting point for affecting the future seems off. For any Science Fiction story, the future starts from our present today. This might explain the current popularity of Steampunk and its various flavours. People want a simpler time not an intense version of what we have today. Orwell’s dystopia of the future was designed to shake things up. Shouldn’t we have shown some stronger dissent in Science Fiction by now or are we truly in love with what we see as the ‘good stuff’ without looking for deeper problems to display in our fiction?

Reflectively, I could ask the same of my own fiction. I used sat-nav once in one of my Psi-Kicks stories nearly a decade ago now and then showed it misdirecting which is a common mistake and still reflects on how some people can’t read maps. As my Psionics can spake to each other then there’s little need for them to use mechanical devices so no one listens in. Certainly their Blank keepers/assistants wouldn’t necessarily need to be in constant contact when many of their assignments need them to be off the grid as they are supposed to be undercover but I am giving some serious consideration to the problem.

I’m certainly have to think more about the communication angle there as well. If someone like me, who doesn’t own a mobile phone can be concerned, it does make me wonder about the other ‘modern’ SF writers out there who must surely use such technology all the time and have taken it so much for granted that they don’t use some things in their own stories. So, well and truly, Science Fiction needs to be introduced to the modern world. It also makes me wonder what else we take for granted but still ignoring.

 

Thank you, take care, good night and beware the alien with a phone, he might be ringing here than home.

 

Geoff Willmetts

editor: SFCrowsnest.org.uk

 

A Zen thought: Love is blind when a blindfold is worn.

 

What Qualities Does A Super-Geek Have: A never ending inquiring mind.

 

Observation: Back to my old chestnut, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. When HAL was lip-reading Bowman and Poole in the pod, why didn’t he just eject them from the Discovery then? With no spacesuits, both astronauts would have been stuffed because even if they tried going through the airlock, they would have had no protection at all from the vacuum. HAL could still waken Doctors Hunter, Kaminski and Kimball as the Discovery approached Jupiter and explained the accident. HAL could even keep the AE-35 unit non-functional as he would have had plenty of time to mess with its circuits.

 

Observation: Considering that DC Comics Zatanna’s spells work by her saying the words sdrawkcab, I mean backwards, does that mean her actual name is Annataz Arataz?

 

Feeling Stressed: So why do you think holidays, one of the biggest stress-pullers, is good for you?

 

Missed Opportunity:

            If you aren’t seeing the types of book you would want to read, chances are that I don’t have any reviewers who do them. I’m stocking up on reviewers right now. The extended info is below but essentially, if you can write and breathe and make good observations, you stand a chance. Email me at: gfwillmetts at hotmail.com

NOTE: Although there are details below, please observe the bigger message elsewhere on site. I’m always recruiting reviewers and this is the time of year to recruit as the nights are shorter and so you might be sleeping less!!! I’ve got two more reviewers in the past couple months and always need more. If you’re living in the UK, love books and feel a bit geeky then read the notes below. You have to love reading anyway. You might be what I’m looking for and I do train people up and it’s good for your writer’s CVs and books to feed your reading habit. As some of my team are discovering, they can also interview writers and write articles as well. You can do that without reviewing as well but reading and reviewing is a good discipline. We’re a good team to belong to.

Polls: We did have them for a time but the new version was causing a mess in WordPress so until a new version that doesn’t cause conflicts comes around, we’ll have to do without them but please use the answer option at the end of any material to express comments because we do read them.

For the record: For the odd query I have about being linked to media contacts. I do not have either a personal twitter or facebook account. There’s enough of me here to not outstay my welcome. I’m also puzzled why some people see SFC as a blog site when we’re not. We were in this format long before blogs. It’s getting to the point that people can’t tell the difference between blog and butter.

Beware Of Virus Attacks: December 2012, even though I hadn’t left an active link to my email address, it got solidly attacked and then blocked from everyone, including myself. By necessity, having a form of open contact to me comes as part of the editor’s job. I’m still seeking reviewers and new material so follow the paths through the website and go where no spam-bot dares. I’ve yet to see them write anything. Humans and aliens can apply, providing they live in the UK. Monsters need to prove they can read and write. We could do with some reviewers who like fantasy right now. Don’t be scared of the instructions, you’d be surprised how easy it is to learn. So, if you want to contact me, build these words into an email address: gfwillmetts at hotmail dot com I won’t bite, especially as I’m hunting for fantasy reviewers right now, although that doesn’t preclude others. In fact, I’ll settle for any more willing reviewers who love to read. Did I say I was after reviewers?

NB: We do get digital books and if you live abroad, then this avenue could be open to you. I’m not putting it in as a link to avoid spam. Just copy and paste into your emails to contact me with my address noted in the paragraph above. I’m always recruiting and details are through a link on the top of the SFC main page and in the SFC Forum for this and articles and stories as well. Just because it’s sunny, doesn’t mean you’re going to read any less. We could do with some more fantasy readers right now!

If you’ve on a budget, a book for a review is a good bargain and I can teach the nervous how to do it by seeing what you do when you present a sample. It’s a good deal. We get books in a variety of formats these days so all things are possible to those with the knack for putting words into sentences and saying what they think.

PPS Don’t forget to join the SFCrowsnest Forum. Join up and express your thoughts in leaving typed words that make sentences. I’ve noticed many of you are joining up but the Forum isn’t supposed to be a passive site. If you want convention news and other things like that, it can be handy and some publishers even hand out their schedules for signings and such. Remember the editorial above. I’m not advocating a vow of silence. Well, unless you’re a monk but I doubt if that precludes typing. Are you going to be a lurker or a typer??!! Remember the editorial above, passivity is for sheep not a sentient species. The number of hits shown on the Forum aren’t daily, but for every ten minutes! Write something and others will respond if you have something to say. Equally, you could just be a guest and look around, especially as we release a lot of news that way, but the more the merrier when you have something to say. You don’t have to sign up to have a look as to when these things are happening and I’ve yet to hear of a flash crowd turning up for such things but there’s always the first time. We’re not libel for that if you do such a thing, just to keep my boss happy.

Don’t forget, I’m always on the lookout for new reviewers as well as articles, interviews and stories and after some recent changes, let’s see if the full details about that appears below. If they don’t then look in the new Forum or on the link line at the top of the main page. For potential book reviewers in the UK, it’s a good way to keep up your reading habit and show you can write. There are detail links scattered over the website and on the forum. If you don’t think you’re up to scratch, you’ll discover why I’m the dutch uncle. Repeating this several times is for those who only scan and who don’t want to wind back up the page.

Another real Zen thought but this time for potential writers:If you can express an opinion independently of others and aren’t likely to bend to the masses then you might show potential as a writer.

Zen for those who are scared by all the instructions below: Many of the instructions are things you should be doing automatically if you’re developing your writing skills. If you do them already then focus on the ones that you don’t get right. They are there to help you as much as me to get the best writing from you. If you think you’re 80% there then I’ll help you get the final 20%. Trust me, I’m an editor and I can get things right.

BOOK REVIEWS    – Don’t feel intimated by all the info below or linked to. If you’re any good as a writer, much of it should be second nature already.

Do you love books? Do you like curling up and reading a book in preference to socialising, even on the Net? You might not even want to curl up, that’s only an option. Do you have a preference for fantasy, SF or horror? We really could do with some fantasy readers!!! Do you find it the greatest pastime you have next to being on your computer?

Are you very vocal about what you like and don’t like in what you read?

Would you like to share your thoughts with others about books?

Would you like an endless supply of books to do this with?

Do you live in the UK?

Can you spare an hour every day to read?

Do you think you can write about what you’ve read?

Are you finding the recession is hitting your book buying habit?

If you’ve been nodding your head up to this point then link in below and see if you have what it takes to be a reviewer at SFCrowsnest. If you have that special knack to read and write or want to develop said skill then the only way you’re going to find out is to take the plunge yourself rather than wait for others to do it first. Reading a lot of books is a requisite for any writer. Being able to say what makes them good or bad hones your own skills. Even if you’re just happy with reading with a little writing on the side then this might be for you. It’s got to be better than waiting for the sun to come out in this weird summer and now cold winter. It’s also amazing how much you can read in an hour a day.

If you’ve survived this far in the editorial, let me reiterate something from the website newsletter and the above editorial. As you can see from the main page, we have one of the biggest SF/fantasy/horror monthly reviews columns on the Net. Our success has increased the number of books that comes in and our policy is to read everything and give it a roadtest before giving a review so you have some idea of what you’re letting yourself in for. You want the bottom line about what you’re going to choose to read. That means we need people actually willing to read the book and tell others they’re opinion in reviews. For that, we’re always on the outlook for more reviewers.

Do you think you have what it takes to review a book? It’s a skill that can be easily mastered and we need a few more. If you love fantasy, we have more than enough to keep you busy for instance.

Apart from the ability to put words into sentences, you also need to know how to précis, do a little research on associated subjects and can express opinions constructively about the good and bad points about the books you read. We even let you choose from our pile of received books rather than foster something on you that you wouldn’t normally read. You’ll even get a little editorial help in how to write good copy and that can always lead to other things. I’m not as scary as I sound editorially and it’s better to do the test review and see how you fare than not attempt to see how well you did. I did say you have to love books and willing to read beyond your favourite authors, didn’t I?

If you like reading books in the genre and can average two or maybe three a month, can really think and show you can write a decent review and, most importantly, live in the British Isles (sorry, expense, time and distance travelled mostly prohibits elsewhere), then use the link below and see our requirements. We can’t pay you but writing a review has to be cheaper than buying a book and a good incentive to see if you have what it takes to develop your writing skills.

Do you think you’re up to writing a review? If you think you can, then you’re really going to think you’ve landed your hands in the biscuit tin. It won’t hurt to try and see if you have the right stuff by sending me a sample review to show me you can write. If you want an added incentive, it can also be good for your CV.

Look up the Review Guidelines by linking here: <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_reviews.php”></a> with a press of a mouse button.

SHORT STORIES

We always have an interest in running short stories which can be anything from one to thirty or so pages long. We’re always willing to give short story writers a chance to be seen if they can withstand my scrutiny even if we can’t pay for their efforts, your material will be seen by a lot of people if it’s shown on the SFCrownest website. If you can get a short story written well then it’ll make it easier to move up to novel-length.

Look up the Short Stories Link by linking here <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_bigfiction.php”></a> with your mouse.

FLASH OR ONE-PAGE FICTION

We’ve also a teaching ground of one page stories, so check out the rules elsewhere on the website. It’s a lot tougher than it looks and far too easy to just write and write and hope something good comes out of it. What writing a one page story does is test your ability to control your word count and still tell a story in a concise way. This doesn’t mean we don’t accept stories of different lengths – a short story can be anything up to 30-40 pages long after all – but opens up the means for really short stories from ideas that don’t need as much space.

Flash fiction stories by linking here: <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_flashfic.php”></a> with your mouse.

NOVEL-LENGTH SAMPLES

For those keeping track, I’m actually now caught up but don’t tell everyone as I’m undecided as to whether to keep looking at novel-length story samples, move over specifically to short stories – which we do anyway for the website – or get a couple of my own book projects completed. The latter, I still intend to do anyway and now actually working on but don’t let that put you off too much. If you want me to look over a sample, you can contact me through the links on this website.

Before you submit, study the next section below as it’s there to help you do some of the right things and reduce the number of times I’m repeating myself over silly grammatical errors and spelling mistakes that you shouldn’t be making if you’re serious about becoming a writer. It makes editing a lot easier if any editor has less work pointing out poor English which you should have been sorted out in the first place and more focused on other areas of your work that deal with plot and the other serious elements of storywriting. As a writer, it is your command of the English language and its grammar that will show how serious you are about writing.

There might not be much of a wait unless I get a deluge, however those sending in ebook samples, please read the Guidelines by linking here <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_bigfiction.php”></a> with your mouse here or through the bottom line menu on the opening page of the SFC website.

EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT WRITING BUT AFRAID TO ASK

General advice for those who want to become writers of any sort: There’s an old editorial adage: If you can’t aim for perfection why should an editor nurse-maid you to that state? Nominally, my job is to catch minor glitches not total mishaps. If you’re a writer, then you should understand the words, sentences and grammar of the job you’re supposed to be writing or are you considering it as mundane and boring as any other job to get right? Fall in love with making every sentence the best you’re ever written, read up and understand the rules of grammar. Put the time in researching any subject you’re using in the story. Be prepared to put a story away for a few weeks and go back to it for a self-edit until it’s as good as you can make it. Even I do that. You look good. I make you look better but you have to start off with good.

A lot of the time, errors will just stare you in the face when you didn’t see them the first time round. Once you know where your weaknesses are, they can be sorted out and allow you to move a little higher up the ladder towards making your material look its best and more importantly, getting your material seen by readers.

The link here will show you the Common Problems Link page and what I see mostly <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_commonprobs.php”></a>

with your mouse. It’s the smart writer who doesn’t get caught out with these.

Good luck.

Geoff

Category: Offworld Report, World getting weirder

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About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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