“Not A Bunch of Softies” and the Singularity

A few years ago, Jack William Bell wrote an article complaining about the impact of the Singularity on science fiction writing.

“The Singularity is this enormous turd that Vernor Vinge crapped into the punchbowl of SF writing, and now nobody wanting to take a drink can ignore it.”

He believes that twentieth-century science fiction was about the possible, the possibilities of following one path or another, of one future or another. And that the Singularity, usually defined in shorthand as “the point where the future becomes unimaginable,” really puts a crimp on this one.

He boils it down to two options: “Our choices consist of either writing purely escapist fare or of asking hard questions about ultimately unknowable things.” Bell doesn’t go very far exploring the latter, but we’d like to at Glorious Dawn.

What do you think? Does the Singularity make traditional, future-telling SF impossible, or does it open new possibilities? Note that science fiction writers approaching the Singularity (Vinge, Stross, Goonan, Banks) either by showing its origins, or talking about those on its fringes. And why should it be unimaginable? Ishi the Indian could make sense of pre-WW1 San Francisco after forty years in the stone age, and that’s a larger leap than any between us and any Singularity (especially it comes as soon as predicted).

So, is there a future in SF? Or are all the futures unknowable?


About gdpress

Glorious Dawn Press are tired with this whole "death of the publishing industry" scene. We believe that running lean, bending over backwards for the readers, treating authors as human beings, and using every tool available, we can bring readers and authors closer together.
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2 Responses to “Not A Bunch of Softies” and the Singularity

  1. gdpress says:

    (from Loweko, with his permission)

    I propose a theory. The reason for the dearth of “populist” tales of the Singularity, i.e. the use of Mrs Brown and her associated tropes, is the same reason for the dearth of stories set in the Abrahamic Heaven.

    It is supposed to be utterly awesome and feel damn good, and this (a) makes audiences and authors alike feel awkward and (b) the nature of any paradise is to resist the kind of upheaval and conflict that drives most stories.

    That said, the latest Culture novel had a stab at it.

    I imagine it is a case of no-one making the attempt because it is Hard, more than the concept itself shutting down speculative SF.

  2. gdpress says:

    Lachlan Atcliffe: That’s just because no-one has dared write the Singularity from a first-person consumerist viewpoint. It is an open question whether anyone would read it, but the challenge is there.

    Ben James Rypstra: That would be an interesting story. You could perhaps have several plot lines interwoven from various different people – the technophile, the luddite, the conspiracy theorist, the computer illiterate parent of the diehard fan of the company producing the products (lets not call them apple)

    Brendan McNamara: I’ve imagined one that can be told from the technotopian citizen as well as the organic counterculture escapist simultaneously in a reality very similar to this one. Both perspectives actually achieve oneness with infinite information and supplement each other as the biological nature of the computer and the computerized nature of biology are revealed for their necessity of each other.

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