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Sci-Fi

William Gibson Gives Up on the Future 352

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the what-chance-do-the-rest-of-us-have dept.
Tinkle writes "Sci-fi novelist William Gibson has given up trying to predict the future — because he says it's become far too difficult. In an interview with silicon.com, Gibson explains why his latest book is set in the recent past. 'We hit a point somewhere in the mid-18th century where we started doing what we think of technology today and it started changing things for us, changing society. Since World War II it's going literally exponential and what we are experiencing now is the real vertigo of that — we have no idea at all now where we are going." "Will global warming catch up with us? Is that irreparable? Will technological civilization collapse? There seems to be some possibility of that over the next 30 or 40 years or will we do some Verner Vinge singularity trick and suddenly become capable of everything and everything will be cool and the geek rapture will arrive? That's a possibility too.'"
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William Gibson Gives Up on the Future

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  • by nurb432 (527695) on Monday August 06, 2007 @04:53PM (#20134405) Homepage Journal
    So what its hard, and you might get it wrong? That doesnt mean it cant be entertaining reading and thought provoking.

    History class is for the lazy writer since there is little to 'invent'. Sure, history is really interesting and educational, but not in the same way as scifi is entertaining and thought provoking.

    And if his 'history works' turn out anything like the "difference engine" was ( it was set in the past remember ), then his career is over as a writer im afraid.
  • become? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Monday August 06, 2007 @04:56PM (#20134453)
    It's become too difficult? I think it's always been difficult and he's just now beginning to realize how far off the mark his books have been. Don't get me wrong, I love his stuff and will continue to read his books, but saying it's become too difficult is just silly. As for his new book being set in the past, why does that seem to ring a bell? Anyone know of any other cyberpunk novelists that have gone that route?
  • by palladiate (1018086) <palladiate AT gmail DOT com> on Monday August 06, 2007 @04:58PM (#20134483)

    Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make.
    He's as wrong about this as he was his "cyberspace." It will obviously be followed by the invention of something to shut down an army of robots controlled by the world's first ultraintelligent machine. I know I'm killing a sacred cow here, but were any of his predictions all that accurate? I'm not trolling, but after recommending Neuromancer to my far more literate wife and suffering major embarrasment that she called it "the worst kind of pseudo-intellectual garbage," I had to re-read it. All I can say is that it's a good book to read in middle school 20 years ago. It doesn't hold up very well.
  • by zenasprime (207132) on Monday August 06, 2007 @05:07PM (#20134589) Homepage
    ...Or is it? Eh...I always thought Sci-Fi was more about bringing the present to light then predicting anything about the future but who am I... :p
  • Climate change (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gilesjuk (604902) <.giles.jones. .at. .zen.co.uk.> on Monday August 06, 2007 @05:10PM (#20134615)
    Alternately, climate change destroys much of human life on the planet.

    It won't be Mad Max, Waterworld or Soylent Green but certain foods are going to become a luxary. Certain fish already are.
  • oblig simpsons. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Joe the Lesser (533425) on Monday August 06, 2007 @05:12PM (#20134639) Homepage Journal
    Somehow the future is surprising, yet not surprising. I revel in watching the world change, the same mistakes being made, but still with crazy plot twists.

    The future has always been quite similar to the past, that's probably the most striking thing about it. Culturally things have hardly changed in centuries. People fight over religion, travel wherever they can to get away from each other, experiment with anything they get their hands on, grow up, get married, raise children, and die. The tools we use change, but our actual lives as homo sapiens...not so much.
  • by prgrmr (568806) on Monday August 06, 2007 @05:17PM (#20134701) Journal
    she called it "the worst kind of pseudo-intellectual garbage,"

    The "worst", as opposed to the "best" kind?

    The book is speculative fiction: Is it garbage because its predictions haven't been met? Is it "pseudo-intellectual" because it is a work of fiction, and, to some extent, was intended to entertain? Or is it that she judged the story or the characters or the setting to her disliking insteading judging the writing itself?

    Granted, it's not an earth-shattering revelation on the insights of society and technology, but then I don't believe either the book itself or Gibson presented it that way.
  • I'd like to suggest that if you HAD read his books, you'd ask him to please put down the pen and do something else.
    I'm sorry, I can't ask anyone to stop writing a book. I can ask people to stop acting or directing movies but for some reason another book on earth can only be good.

    I don't know why. I think it's because the millions paid to make Kangaroo Jack could feed an entire African nation for quite some time. And that writing a book usually costs a person just enough to live and get by while it's in the process. I see books as more of a pure form of free speech also and I never want to see a book censored or banned regardless of its content. Purist, idealist view I know but if I had a religion it would be centered around that.

    Maybe it's because the world wanted James Joyce to stop writing. Maybe it's because the world wanted Anthony Burgess to stop writing. If they had succeeded, we wouldn't have Ulysses or A Clockwork Orange. Two monumental masterpieces in my mind.

    Don't ask him to stop writing, I'm sure someone somewhere still enjoys the works, you don't have to keep reading them. I no longer read Crichton or Stephen King even though I read everything by them in eighth grade. Is it because I've grown up or they've changed? I cannot say but I still hope they author novels until their dying day so that others may enjoy them.

    What does a bad book by an author you once loved hurt you? Let them publish, read the reviews and pick carefully. I think that deep down inside you'd still read them and get some enjoyment even if it's just discussing them with your friends.
  • Were it not for willing suspension of disbelief, the entire genre of fiction would not even be viable.

    Fixed that for you. Suspension of disbelief is just as much a requirement for other fiction subgenres as it is for SF, in greater or lesser amounts. In some ways I think 'hard' SF requires less than other types of fiction, because it gives you plausible arguments for setting aside your disbelief.

    But were it not for people's willingness to set aside their disbelief in order to be entertained, we wouldn't have a whole lot of art. (Certainly there would be very little theater; how do you cope with some of the tortured plotlines common in classical theater, or for that matter, why people are standing in front of you and paying no attention to the fact that they're on stage?)
  • by nuzak (959558) on Monday August 06, 2007 @05:43PM (#20134985) Journal
    Yes, and in 50 years, they'll calculate more information than is contained in the universe in less than Planck time.

    Moore's "law" as you understand it is already plateauing.
  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday August 06, 2007 @05:46PM (#20135013) Homepage Journal
    - rising energy costs will define how we use transport
    or Nuclear Fission will start to replace natural gas and coal fired power plants followed shortly buy Fusion in about 20 years.
    Coal reformulation will replace oil as the primary source of liquid hydrocarbons.

    - poorer nations will be strongest adopters of ecological technologies
    Poorer nations will continue to exploit the cheapest and dirtiest fuel sources such as coal.

    - cities will reject the automobile and become a lot nicer places to live in

    Would be nice if they would just build some side walks near my home!
  • by mangu (126918) on Monday August 06, 2007 @05:51PM (#20135071)
    Of course, the border is fuzzy, but in general one could say that a work gets further apart from SF and deeper into the fantasy field when the impossibilities start piling up. A good SF story may depend on one "fact" that's considered impossible in the current scientific knowledge, for instance it may be about time travel or faster than light travel, but when the author starts depending too much on magic it becomes fantasy.


    About the singularity, my opinion is: who knows? It seems more or less like life after death, we have no sure way of knowing from where we stand today, we should just wait and see. It's a funny thing, when you start examining past predictions of SF. In one of the books in the original Asimov "Foundation" trilogy, written about 1940, there was a description of a calculator: "Seldon removed a calculator from the pouch at his belt ... Red symbols glowed out from the gray". In other words, Isaac Asimov had a calculator from the early 1970s in a book he wrote in the 1940s.


    Another funny prediction is that something very much like a search engine was predicted both in Arthur Clarke's 1975 book "Imperial Earth" and in the film "Rollerball", from the same age. But neither of these predicted the internet, both of them had a search engine running in a supercomputer that had assembled in it the whole of human knowledge.


    The point is that it's possible to predict functionality, because that's something we need and someone will invent it sooner or later. But we cannot predict when or how that functionality will be achieved. Arthur Clarke's Google was 300 years in the future, Rollerball's was in 2018. And there's more: when the scientist in "Rollerball" wants some data he types a command and the computer starts reading punched cards.


    In conclusion, I'm ready to bet we will reach that "singularity", but I don't know whether it will be in the next 30 or 300 years. And I have absolutely no idea how we will do it or what will come after.


    In some way we can say that we already have reached a point where machines are more intelligent than us. The first mathematical theorem that was proved by a machine and that humans couldn't prove was the "four color map" theorem, proved about 30 years ago, taking about a thousand hours of calculations from the supercomputers of the day.


    There was an age that ended about 150 years ago when an intelligent person would be able to learn everything worth learning in science. Today, the more we learn the more we become specialized, and the more we need machines to handle our knowledge. But I see nothing wrong with that, if a man can control a crane that lifts a thousand tons, why couldn't a man control a computer that handles knowledge far beyond the capacity of a single human being?

  • by nuzak (959558) on Monday August 06, 2007 @05:53PM (#20135097) Journal
    > The over unity energy technology may be quite possible.

    Sure, if you repeal the laws of physics

    Tesla was a genius, but he turned into a complete wackjob in his old age.
  • by Control Group (105494) * on Monday August 06, 2007 @05:56PM (#20135135) Homepage
    Wow, pessimistic much?

    FTL travel I'll give you; it would take a major rewrite of physics to make that a reality. It's not happening.

    AI, though? I'm unaware of any fundamental reason AI can't be realized. Quite the opposite: the fact that what we term intelligence has already arisen naturally rather strongly implies that it can be done. It may not be right around the corner, but - unlike FTL travel - we know intelligence to exist; all we have to do is replicate it.

    And unlimited energy? If you're defining it as depressingly rigorously as possible, and referring solely to conservation of energy, yes, of course. But you don't need to violate conservation to provide unlimited energy from the point of view of the human race. Just harnessing a significant percentage of the energy the sun blasts out in all directions would solve our energy problems forever. Just like AI, we know it's there, it's a matter of engineering a way to use it.
  • by Cadallin (863437) on Monday August 06, 2007 @06:06PM (#20135207)

    He writes what he wants, but the reason Neuromancer & Co. was amazing was because he took certain aspects of the current time and extrapolated them into an interesting future.

    I think this is the problem. Look at where we are right now. Extrapolating elements of our present into an interesting future is something many authors have struggled with. Because, quite frankly, the era we're living in is pretty dystopian. For an example: Today Congress passed the "Protect America Act" which grants sweeping surveillance powers to the executive branch with no judicial or legislative oversight. George Orwell didn't know the half of it. How do you work with that? Who is most likely to be able to other throw the totalitarian regime recent US governments have turned the USA into? The Chinese? The other great totalitarian surveillance state?

    I really disagree that there were as many issues pressing down on us in the '80's. Barring a Strangelove-esque Doomsday device, MAD was never going to really end it all. The worst issues facing the '80's were the ones that we were blissfully unaware of, or ignoring. Global Warming, Energy crisis in the next 50 years, etc. Worst case (realistic) scenario with the Cold War was the utter destruction of the major world power bases, which doesn't sound all that bad in hindsight.

    In my opinion, the best long term extrapolation from our current situation is "Earth Abides" by George R. Stewart, and its probably too optimistic.

  • by |/|/||| (179020) on Monday August 06, 2007 @06:12PM (#20135285)
    Unlimited energy and control of the graviton? I'm guessing that the result would be... global warfare on an unprecedented scale, resulting in either A) an endless dictatorship or B) the end of humans. Probably B, when somebody's automatic war machine turns out to be an uncontrolled chain reaction.

    Not to be too much of a cynic or anything, but I'm glad the mysteries of the universe aren't unlocked easily, and that they don't usually live up to the hype. Change is good, but sudden change is destabilizing.

  • by Quadraginta (902985) on Monday August 06, 2007 @06:26PM (#20135459)
    I dunno, maybe it's just something that happens to you when you get older. You stop being quite so fascinated with gizmos and widgetry and start becoming interested in the "technology" of social interactions and human nature -- and that leads you straight to history and historical fiction.

    I mean, the same transition happened to me. In my 20s and early 30s I read gobs of sf and other kinds of speculative stuff. Now (early 40s) I tend to be a much more interested in history and social psychology. Not sure why.

    Maybe it's because the attraction of sf is mostly the fun of "working out the consequences" of a few mildly plausible assumptions. As in: what would happen if teleportation booths were invented? What would society be like, what would it be like to live in such a world, what other inventions would be enabled, et cetera?

    But perhaps as you get older the chains of reasoning that you use to work that stuff out start to seem flimsier and less believable, since you've seen in your personal life how often predictions of the future turn out to be self-delusional garbage. You live through the 1970s "Energy Crisis" and realize how even very short-range forecasts (of e.g. a world out of oil by 2000) can be bogus, and you start to see how easy it is to delude yourself about what the future will bring, and (which is perhaps more personally discouraging), how this doesn't deter people one whit from continuing to make and consume delusional predictions of the future.

    Plenty of sf writers at least unconsciously want to warn or enlighten readers about the probable consequences of present trends. It's discouraging in one sense to realize how wrong you were, but discouraging in probably an even greater sense to realize that no one even cares, that people lap up hard-headed "scientific" predictions of the future with about as much enthusiastic credulity and failure to critically re-evaluate when they prove wrong as they do astrological horoscopes. You might start to think: what's the point? Why think long and hard about what the future will bring if (1) I'm probably going to be wrong, and (2) no one even cares much about whether I'm right or wrong. Maybe you start to feel like a circus clown, making funny faces to make the rubes laugh. You feel like you could drop four major scientific goofs into your next book, and as long as there were plenty of crackling laser beams and mind-blowing nanowidgetry no one would care. Like you're George Lucas and you can sell a totally lame screenplay with pathetic acting, just so long as the computerized special effects are cool enough.

    If that happens, then perhaps you start to be drawn to the past, to chains of reasoning that are more solidly-based, because they terminate in the present with consequences you can directly observe. The intellectual attraction is still "working out the consequences" of assumptions about what in the past was important and led to the present we know, but you've more assurance that your chains of reasoning aren't completely cracked, because they're anchored, so to speak, at various points by historical facts.

    There is probably also some attraction in the idea that if you can understand the past in some way more consistent and believable than anything yet achieved, then you will open a unique door into predicting the future, too.
  • by Valdrax (32670) on Monday August 06, 2007 @07:15PM (#20136053)
    Neuromancer was very well written, but utterly short-sighted (as all futurism is. Like Cory Doctorow said, futurists only create the present, just more of it). The world he created felt fake, plastic, and surreal.

    Neuromancer is absolutely brilliant for what it is -- a dystopian critique of everything that was frightening about the 80's for those who had been adults in the 70's: Corporate mega-mergers; the captivating, numbing, spellbinding nature of television, the "Me generation," the dissolving bond of loyalty between company and employee, the increasing disregard of companies for the lives of citizens, drug use going from drugs for relaxation and communion to those for stimulation and frenzy, weakening government at the same time corporate power began to transcend borders, Japanese dominance of the markets, the transition away from natural folk music to synthetic and hard music, edgier and more aggressive fashion, body modification, alienation and the increasing fraying of social bonds, market booms and busts, the obsolescence of the average worker, etc., etc.

    You're right that "futurists only create the present, just more of it," but if you think that the world of Neuromancer was "fake, plastic, and surreal," then that's there's nothing wrong with that. That's what it was supposed to be!

    Early cyberpunk is nothing but the nightmare shadow the 1980s, and "fake, plastic, and surreal" was the dominant feeling of that era for a lot of people.
  • by Txiasaeia (581598) on Monday August 06, 2007 @07:16PM (#20136071)
    Disclaimer: I'm Gibson's #1 raving fanboy.

    What Gibson writes isn't hard sf by any stretch of the imagination. Neuromancer, as I'm sure most of the /. audience is aware, was written by Gibson when he had very little, if any, knowledge of how computers work. Bundles of fiber-optic lines as thick as a horse's tail, for instance. Second, technology isn't the point in most of his stories. In Neuromancer, we have one superhuman entity attempting to merge with another one. Do we have intricate passages in which the technology of this is discussed? Nope. The AIs in Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive, I'd argue, are closer to traditional definitions of gods than pieces of technology. Look at what we know about the Aleph in MLO: it's a mother-huge slab of nanotech, infinite storage space, and can somehow connect Earth with Alpha Centauri. We're definitely lacking some technical details here. I'm a bit fuzzier on the Bridge technology, but certainly Pattern Recognition isn't sf at all, given that it took place in the recent past at the time of its publication.

    Rather than hard sf, let's call Gibson's early writings what they are: cyberpunk, stories about high technology, low lifes, and their interactions in a social millieu. The emphasis isn't technology at all, but social change. I mean, look at the importance of megacorporations and zaibatsus in Gibson's writings, something that's not characteristic of Vinge or Kim Stanley Robinson (who'd I argue is more of a hard sf writer than Charles Stross). Look at Case's first reaction when he is able to punch deck again: there's no technical details for what's been repaired in his brain, but the description of an ecstatic (in the strictest definition of the word) experience. Even the development of the relationship between humanity and AIs over the course of the first trilogy overshadows the technology that drives AIs. There aren't any scientific details and there's no attempt to reconcile science with plot in Gibson's writings. This isn't a bad thing.

    To quickly wrap it up, I've always believed that cyberpunk, with its emphasis on heroes, higher [technological] beings, and grand conflicts that change the course of society are new myths for a technological society. Look at Greg Bear's "Petra," Stephenson's _Snow Crash_, Cadigan's _Mindplayers_... the emphasis on the religious/spiritual/pseudo-religious/spiritual is seemingly more important than the technology that drives each of these works. I'm very sad that Gibson is moving away from this, but given Pattern Recognition, he's moving towards an exploration of mass media and society, which is also very fascinating. (And what's this about space operas not being considered sf? Who would say this?)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 06, 2007 @07:18PM (#20136087)

    1) Gravity is finally figured out as a force.

    We engineer devices to nullify it and usher in a new age of transportation, at ANY speed.

    Instantaneous speed now has an entirely NEW meaning


    Except that Gravity is only what is sticking us to the earth, it is really not all that influential on how fast an object can travel. What limits the speed of our vehicles are primarily two things: Inertia and Friction. The invention of the Wheel took Gravity out of the picture for the most part. Inertia and friction are what you need to overcome to get your instantaneous speed.

    If you need a breakdown, it goes like this:

    Gravity is an extremely weak force that draws two objects together. The fact that it takes an object the size of the earth to create our gravity and the fact that we can still momentarily leave earth with little effort (i.e. jumping) shows how weak that force is.

    Inertia is the natural tendancy of an object to continue in its current state. For example, if an object is not moving, it will continue not moving untill something moves it. If it is moving it will continue moving until something stops it.

    Friction is essentially the tendancy for two objects to "stick" to each other. That's the stuff that slows a baseball that is flying through the air. (note: Gravity is what brings the ball back, but it doesn't actually slow the ball down at all, that's friction).

    All three of these forces act together to make it hard to move something. Gravity is the weakest and easiest to overcome and is really a non-factor unless you are directly opposing it (i.e. trying to go straight up). Friction can be limited and, in some cases almost eliminated (maglev and other cool stuff, plus the empitness of space). Inertia is the grandaddy force in regards to moving an object, and so far as I know it cannot even be limited, much less eliminated. It requires the least amount of energy to get an object moving, but to increase the object's speed it requires more and more energy.

    Nullify Inertia and THEN some crazy things are possible.
  • Re:Well, crap! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by buswolley (591500) on Monday August 06, 2007 @08:12PM (#20136601) Journal
    There is only one true future prediction! We'll all die.
  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Monday August 06, 2007 @08:27PM (#20136709)
    I completely disagree. You must not live in a megalopolis like Phoenix. In a place like this, something as slow as a golf cart or Segway is simply too slow to get around in a reasonable amount of time (never mind the fact that the Segway looks totally gay; if you want minimalistic 1-person travel, either get a bike, or if you're disabled, a scooter). Transit times of 30 minutes to 1 hour are common here, because people frequently don't live anywhere near their workplace. Moving closer frequently isn't an option because either the realty is too expensive at that location, or because their spouse works someplace far from their own workplace.

    The main problem with cities designed for cars is that everything is extremely spread out; there's lots of wide roads and highways, and very few tall buildings. It's not like dense cities like Manhattan, where thousands of people work in one building. Also, because everything is oriented towards single-family detached homes, the residential areas take up enormous space. You're not likely to convince Americans to move into dense urban apartments; the benefits of home ownership are far too great, from the financial to the quality-of-life (apartment living generally sucks unless you're deaf and don't mind kids vandalizing your car).

    Your examples of NY and London are inapplicable; again, the density there is much higher, and people have accepted not being able to own their own homes, probably because of the careers available in those cities, and the much higher salaries usually offered. Also, if you've ever visited Manhattan, you'd know that children there are a rarity. People generally move to the suburbs to raise kids.

    In a city that dense, installing a mass-transit system makes sense, and actually works. It also helps a lot if the city is generally long and narrow. Again, here in PHX, the city is spread out over hundreds of square miles in both the x and y axes; the amount of infrastructure you'd need to install to cover all that would be insane. We do have buses here, but you're looking at a 4-hour trip to get from Chandler to Scottsdale. That's not exactly useful.

    The reason cities this dense can exist is because there's lots of alternatives. Most Americans don't live in NYC, or any city resembling it. The people who like that kind of environment, and can live with it (because their career pays enough, they don't have kids, etc.) migrate to those cities. Everyone else stays in less-dense places and owns a car. Trying to get everyone (or even 50% of everyone) to move to cities like this would never work, again, at least not without razing our current car-centered cities and building new dense cities.
  • Re:Well, crap! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gijoel (628142) on Monday August 06, 2007 @08:58PM (#20136923)
    But on the brighter side the sky won't look like a television tuned to a dead channel.
  • by noewun (591275) on Monday August 06, 2007 @09:28PM (#20137139) Journal

    My wife has a masters in English

    No offense, but the fact that your wife has a Master's in English doesn't mean squat. I have a degree in Creative Writing and that doesn't make my opinion more valid than anyone else's. I know people with CS degrees who can't operate a toaster. There is no more or less informed opinion when talking about appreciation of art: it's all entirely subjective.

  • by fyngyrz (762201) * on Monday August 06, 2007 @09:38PM (#20137247) Homepage Journal
    I would like to point out that cyberpunk's vision of cyberspace with its entirely abstract-GUI hacking and its death by security program is just as magically unscientific as warp drives and funny-foreheaded aliens.

    And in turn, I would point out that you appear to know very little science, as your entire assertion here is wrong. GUI abstraction is the basis for GUI's in general. Further abstraction is not unreasonable; I have had demos on my desktop that did quite a few things, including 3D abstractions of various types. Impractical? Possibly. Unscientific? Not even a little bit.

    Death by security program? Today on slashdot there's a story about a LED device that makes you puke. We know that electricity can kill you. Stuttering flashes can put humans into an epileptic seizure. Disjoint feeds to your eyes can disturb your orientation. Would you *really* care to say there's no way to shut you down via an interface that is connected to not just your eyes, but your ears, senses of touch, heat, and so forth, electrically, pressure-wise, heat-wise, visually, aurally? What if it can induce visions right into your nervous system, bypassing your eyes? What if it can dispense drugs? Unscientific? Hardly. Socially unlikely? Perhaps, but that doesn't make it bad scientific speculation. That just means there is an onus upon the author to create a story where we can believe such things would have come about so the work will be readable and engaging.

    These ideas are far more plausible in hard SF terms than (for instance) Trek's warp drive at this moment in science. That makes Trek lean a lot harder towards fantasy than Gibson's Neuromancer, which is what I presume you're kvetching about here. Even the AIs that Gibson postulates are still viable hard SF elements. At this point in time, we have no reason to believe, scientifically speaking, that computer AI will prove intractable in any of the forms he postulated. And it has been some years since he wrote the novel.

    Methinks you would enjoy SF more (hard or not) if your imagination was a little more informed around the edges.

  • by endianx (1006895) on Monday August 06, 2007 @09:58PM (#20137433)
    I've never thought those types of books were about predicting the future. Take a book like 1984. It hasn't come true, at least not yet. But even if it isn't a correct interpretation of the future, it still serves as a warning. In fact, perhaps a small part of the reason 1984 never happened is because it was written.
  • by LS (57954) on Monday August 06, 2007 @10:53PM (#20137869) Homepage

    He probably stopped taking drugs. No, I'm not joking...

    LS
  • by awol (98751) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @06:08AM (#20139819) Journal
    And then there is the other type of SF where the author doesn't focus on the technology but rather the Society that develops in the future. Specifically stories like Dune where the genius (or luck) of the author is to not worry about describing the technology and focus on the way the politics will develop in the far (in human terms) future. In this way the disbelief is much more easily suspended since the author does not have to describe too much of the detail of the science. Particularly when so much of the technology in question is "old" technology by the time period in which the story is set.

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