Monday, May 23, 2011

Science fiction without the giant killer robots

Please don’t get me wrong, I love giant killer robots, and I would love to write a novel involving evil alien overlords or apocalyptic doom, but sadly my mind doesn’t work that way. I keep coming up with ideas where the world looks fundamentally the same — no flying cars or jet packs or giant killer robots — but at the same time the world is fundamentally different.

For instance, a person who travels from our reality to the reality of Good Cop, Dead Cop, would think the world looks pretty much the same. Cars, smart phones, hairstyles and clothing look pretty much the same, but the world changed in 1997.

Another really good example of the world fundamentally changing is any novel where humans make contact with another technologically advanced intelligence somewhere in the universe. Everything will change from that date, especially if there is any way to exchange meaningful information. There will undoubtedly be television shows about the aliens, babies will be christened with even more bizarre names than they are now and for many people, our fundamental place in the universe will be changed. And yet everything will largely look the same. People will be born and die, wars will probably still be fought and religious extremists will still blow up buildings, but we will know that we are not the last and final word on evolution.

Or maybe a novel where cows learn to speak and beg not to be slaughtered. I’m extremely fond of steaks and burger, but even I couldn’t eat something with whom I can hold existential arguments.

Or a world where it is discovered that a belief in a god or the supernatural is the result of a virus that infected humans thousands of years ago and a scientist has now discovered a cure.

These are all science fiction without giant killer robots but I think they still qualify as science fiction — at least as much as a book where the dead can chat on the Internet.

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