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Science-Fiction from the Clothing Department

Libertarians love their science fiction. For many, SF was the launch pad that opened their imaginations to innovative ideas, unique ways of thinking, exciting future possibilities and escape from the conventional wisdom of the status quo. Ayn Rand and Objectivism only confirmed and expanded the concepts already accepted and libertarianism was merely the natural next step.

From there the philosophy of individual freedom and personal responsibility orbited back onto itself, making “Libertarian Science Fiction” a recognized subgenre of futurist literature. Wikipedia’s introduction to the topic includes this synopsis:

The identification between libertarianism and science fiction is so strong that the U.S. Libertarian Party often has representatives at science fiction conventions and one of the highest profile authors currently in the subgenre of libertarian science fiction, L. Neil Smith, was the Arizona Libertarian Party's 2000 candidate for the President of the United States.

Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke were considered the "Big Three" writers of science fiction’s Golden Age, typically identified as the period from 1938 to 1946 but extending into the 50s and 60s as well. Some, such as Robert Silverberg, consider the 1950s as the true Golden Age and certainly the “Big Three” were still writing during that decade and beyond and possibly producing their best work.

Heinlein was self-consciously libertarian but Asimov seems not to have been so inclined. Here’s a quote from Asimov about Heinlein and his libertarian ethics:

He always pictured himself a libertarian, which to my way of thinking means "I want the liberty to grow rich and you can have the liberty to starve." It's easy to believe that no one should depend on society for help when you yourself happen not to need such help. – Isaac Asimov, I. Asimov: A Memoir (1994), p. 308

In 1974, Vietnam veteran Joe Haldeman published a science fiction novel called The Forever War that used outer space as a metaphor for the conflict in Southeast Asia . The book won the Nebula, Hugo, and Locus Awards—the genre’s top honors—and has never been out of print. It has also been optioned for the screen almost continuously— Channing Tatum was attached to star as recently as a year ago —yet no film version has ever made its way into theaters.

“When you say ‘science fiction’ to Hollywood,” says Marc Bernardin a TV writer and podcaster who has been an editor for The Hollywood Reporter and the Los Angeles Times , “they see space opera and laser beams.”

Or giant robots, killer androids, alien slime things, and humans with super powers. What Hollywood doesn’t see is what makes literary sci fi unique: it is a genre of ideas, and in the hands of top practitioners like Octavia Butler, Ursula LeGuin, William Gibson, and others, sci fi is a futuristic lens used to view subjects like race, gender, politics, and how technology is changing humanity.

“Hollywood groupthink is anathema to the nature of sci fi, which is a cerebral philosophical exploration of humankind and puncturing the limits of our imagination,” says author and film critic Thelma Adams . “I think the central concept here is that Hollywood, Cap H, is as terrified of sci fi as it is of an alien invasion. And that’s because the studios, as they have been increasingly corporatized, become absolutely risk averse in a way that they haven’t always been.”

“Science fiction is different from other kinds of narrative,” Haldeman told The Daily Beast. “It’s difficult to be true to a complex idea and communicate that idea. You don’t have to look much further than money. The default scheme for science fiction [in the film industry] is pretty low, about 6 th grade. There’s not much ambition to do anything. Once you have that much money riding on a project, you don’t want to take chances.”

In other words, stick with the tried and true, the proven money makers—franchises like Star Wars , Star Trek, Transformers , and the endless movies based on DC and Marvel characters. Ignore classic sci fi like Isaac Asimov’s geopolitical Foundation books, Robert Heinlein’s fish-out-of-water classic Stranger In A Strange Land , and Octavia Butler’s slavery time travel novel Kindred , or tie them up in a development hell that can last for decades.

Libertarians love their science fiction. For many, SF was the launch pad that opened their imaginations to innovative ideas, unique ways of thinking, exciting future possibilities and escape from the conventional wisdom of the status quo. Ayn Rand and Objectivism only confirmed and expanded the concepts already accepted and libertarianism was merely the natural next step.

From there the philosophy of individual freedom and personal responsibility orbited back onto itself, making “Libertarian Science Fiction” a recognized subgenre of futurist literature. Wikipedia’s introduction to the topic includes this synopsis:

The identification between libertarianism and science fiction is so strong that the U.S. Libertarian Party often has representatives at science fiction conventions and one of the highest profile authors currently in the subgenre of libertarian science fiction, L. Neil Smith, was the Arizona Libertarian Party's 2000 candidate for the President of the United States.

Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke were considered the "Big Three" writers of science fiction’s Golden Age, typically identified as the period from 1938 to 1946 but extending into the 50s and 60s as well. Some, such as Robert Silverberg, consider the 1950s as the true Golden Age and certainly the “Big Three” were still writing during that decade and beyond and possibly producing their best work.

Heinlein was self-consciously libertarian but Asimov seems not to have been so inclined. Here’s a quote from Asimov about Heinlein and his libertarian ethics:

He always pictured himself a libertarian, which to my way of thinking means "I want the liberty to grow rich and you can have the liberty to starve." It's easy to believe that no one should depend on society for help when you yourself happen not to need such help. – Isaac Asimov, I. Asimov: A Memoir (1994), p. 308

Libertarians love their science fiction. For many, SF was the launch pad that opened their imaginations to innovative ideas, unique ways of thinking, exciting future possibilities and escape from the conventional wisdom of the status quo. Ayn Rand and Objectivism only confirmed and expanded the concepts already accepted and libertarianism was merely the natural next step.

From there the philosophy of individual freedom and personal responsibility orbited back onto itself, making “Libertarian Science Fiction” a recognized subgenre of futurist literature. Wikipedia’s introduction to the topic includes this synopsis:

The identification between libertarianism and science fiction is so strong that the U.S. Libertarian Party often has representatives at science fiction conventions and one of the highest profile authors currently in the subgenre of libertarian science fiction, L. Neil Smith, was the Arizona Libertarian Party's 2000 candidate for the President of the United States.

Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke were considered the "Big Three" writers of science fiction’s Golden Age, typically identified as the period from 1938 to 1946 but extending into the 50s and 60s as well. Some, such as Robert Silverberg, consider the 1950s as the true Golden Age and certainly the “Big Three” were still writing during that decade and beyond and possibly producing their best work.

Heinlein was self-consciously libertarian but Asimov seems not to have been so inclined. Here’s a quote from Asimov about Heinlein and his libertarian ethics:

He always pictured himself a libertarian, which to my way of thinking means "I want the liberty to grow rich and you can have the liberty to starve." It's easy to believe that no one should depend on society for help when you yourself happen not to need such help. – Isaac Asimov, I. Asimov: A Memoir (1994), p. 308

In 1974, Vietnam veteran Joe Haldeman published a science fiction novel called The Forever War that used outer space as a metaphor for the conflict in Southeast Asia . The book won the Nebula, Hugo, and Locus Awards—the genre’s top honors—and has never been out of print. It has also been optioned for the screen almost continuously— Channing Tatum was attached to star as recently as a year ago —yet no film version has ever made its way into theaters.

“When you say ‘science fiction’ to Hollywood,” says Marc Bernardin a TV writer and podcaster who has been an editor for The Hollywood Reporter and the Los Angeles Times , “they see space opera and laser beams.”

Or giant robots, killer androids, alien slime things, and humans with super powers. What Hollywood doesn’t see is what makes literary sci fi unique: it is a genre of ideas, and in the hands of top practitioners like Octavia Butler, Ursula LeGuin, William Gibson, and others, sci fi is a futuristic lens used to view subjects like race, gender, politics, and how technology is changing humanity.

“Hollywood groupthink is anathema to the nature of sci fi, which is a cerebral philosophical exploration of humankind and puncturing the limits of our imagination,” says author and film critic Thelma Adams . “I think the central concept here is that Hollywood, Cap H, is as terrified of sci fi as it is of an alien invasion. And that’s because the studios, as they have been increasingly corporatized, become absolutely risk averse in a way that they haven’t always been.”

“Science fiction is different from other kinds of narrative,” Haldeman told The Daily Beast. “It’s difficult to be true to a complex idea and communicate that idea. You don’t have to look much further than money. The default scheme for science fiction [in the film industry] is pretty low, about 6 th grade. There’s not much ambition to do anything. Once you have that much money riding on a project, you don’t want to take chances.”

In other words, stick with the tried and true, the proven money makers—franchises like Star Wars , Star Trek, Transformers , and the endless movies based on DC and Marvel characters. Ignore classic sci fi like Isaac Asimov’s geopolitical Foundation books, Robert Heinlein’s fish-out-of-water classic Stranger In A Strange Land , and Octavia Butler’s slavery time travel novel Kindred , or tie them up in a development hell that can last for decades.

Science fiction (often shortened to SF or sci-fi ) is a genre of speculative fiction , typically dealing with imaginative concepts such as futuristic science and technology , space travel , time travel , faster than light travel , parallel universes , and extraterrestrial life . Science fiction often explores the potential consequences of scientific and other innovations , and has been called a "literature of ideas". [1] It usually avoids the supernatural , unlike the related genre of fantasy . Historically, science-fiction stories have had a grounding in actual science , but now this is only expected of hard science fiction . [2]

James Blish wrote about the English term "science fiction": "Wells used the term originally to cover what we would today call ‘hard’ science fiction, in which a conscientious attempt to be faithful to already known facts (as of the date of writing) was the substrate on which the story was to be built, and if the story was also to contain a miracle, it ought at least not to contain a whole arsenal of them." [5] Rod Serling said, "fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science fiction is the improbable made possible." [6]

Isaac Asimov said: "Science fiction can be defined as that branch of literature which deals with the reaction of human beings to changes in science and technology." [7] According to Robert A. Heinlein , "a handy short definition of almost all science fiction might read: realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method ." [8]

Lester del Rey wrote, "Even the devoted aficionado—or fan—has a hard time trying to explain what science fiction is", and that the reason for there not being a "full satisfactory definition" is that "there are no easily delineated limits to science fiction." [9] Author and editor Damon Knight summed up the difficulty, saying "science fiction is what we point to when we say it", [10] while author Mark C. Glassy argues that the definition of science fiction is like the definition of pornography: you do not know what it is, but you know it when you see it . [11]

Science fiction is largely based on writing rationally about alternative possible worlds or futures. [12] Quoting Hal Clement , Frederik Pohl said that [13]

The author is entitled to One Big Lie. He can say, for example, that faster-than-light travel is possible; or that a time machine has been invented; or that men can read each other's minds . What comes after that may not be a lie, however; it must follow naturally and inevitably from that first premise.

I’ve been wondering if most science fictional concepts were invented in the 19th and 20th centuries and if we’ll just be reprocessing old speculative ideas during the 21st century?

Just now I was flipping through the listings of all the forthcoming and recently published science fiction on Audible.com. Most of the titles and authors were ones I had never heard of before. There’s tons of science fiction coming out, but after reading their blurbs I’m not sure if any of them offer new SF inventions. Well, if you’re young and haven’t read tons of science fiction, then there are lots of new ideas to encounter. But if you’re old and have been reading science fiction for decades it seems like all the ideas have been used before. Is it possible we’ve already explored the limits of science fiction?

Fiction has been around for thousands of years and most plots are retreads. Quite often scholars of fiction try to consolidate plots into a limited standard number . When I first started reading science fiction in the 1960s it felt like an author would come up with a new SF idea, and then spin an old plot around it. For example, Ringworld,  very neat idea, but the plot reminded me of Oz books. Regular folks go on an adventure, meet lots of strange folks, see lots of weird sights, then travel together until the story ends.

I’m not sure if Larry Niven invented the concept of a ringworld, but Wikipedia credits Olaf Stapledon for imagining the first solar megastructure which we now call a Dyson sphere . I’d think a ringworld would be a creative variation. Just in terms of solar megastructures how many original structures could be imagined and how many creative variations? I’m sure there are limits.

I thought the 1938 story “Helen O’Loy” by Lester del Rey was the first story of a man marrying a robot, but then this year I read “ A Wife Manufactured to Order ” by Alice W. Fuller from 1895, and I wondered just how old is the idea of building spouses to order? The second half of the 20th century has countless romantic stories between humans and robots. The idea is well-liked now, but when will it be too known to entertain?

A twelve-year-old kid could read a new story today about a love affair between a machine and homo sapien and think it a fresh concept. I guess that means science fiction in the 22nd century will still provide a sense of wonder even if the ideas it presents are actually very old. Of course, by then people might actually be marrying robots. Who writes about first trips to the Moon anymore? Will science eventually ruin all the practical science fictional ideas by actually constructing them?

Libertarians love their science fiction. For many, SF was the launch pad that opened their imaginations to innovative ideas, unique ways of thinking, exciting future possibilities and escape from the conventional wisdom of the status quo. Ayn Rand and Objectivism only confirmed and expanded the concepts already accepted and libertarianism was merely the natural next step.

From there the philosophy of individual freedom and personal responsibility orbited back onto itself, making “Libertarian Science Fiction” a recognized subgenre of futurist literature. Wikipedia’s introduction to the topic includes this synopsis:

The identification between libertarianism and science fiction is so strong that the U.S. Libertarian Party often has representatives at science fiction conventions and one of the highest profile authors currently in the subgenre of libertarian science fiction, L. Neil Smith, was the Arizona Libertarian Party's 2000 candidate for the President of the United States.

Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke were considered the "Big Three" writers of science fiction’s Golden Age, typically identified as the period from 1938 to 1946 but extending into the 50s and 60s as well. Some, such as Robert Silverberg, consider the 1950s as the true Golden Age and certainly the “Big Three” were still writing during that decade and beyond and possibly producing their best work.

Heinlein was self-consciously libertarian but Asimov seems not to have been so inclined. Here’s a quote from Asimov about Heinlein and his libertarian ethics:

He always pictured himself a libertarian, which to my way of thinking means "I want the liberty to grow rich and you can have the liberty to starve." It's easy to believe that no one should depend on society for help when you yourself happen not to need such help. – Isaac Asimov, I. Asimov: A Memoir (1994), p. 308

In 1974, Vietnam veteran Joe Haldeman published a science fiction novel called The Forever War that used outer space as a metaphor for the conflict in Southeast Asia . The book won the Nebula, Hugo, and Locus Awards—the genre’s top honors—and has never been out of print. It has also been optioned for the screen almost continuously— Channing Tatum was attached to star as recently as a year ago —yet no film version has ever made its way into theaters.

“When you say ‘science fiction’ to Hollywood,” says Marc Bernardin a TV writer and podcaster who has been an editor for The Hollywood Reporter and the Los Angeles Times , “they see space opera and laser beams.”

Or giant robots, killer androids, alien slime things, and humans with super powers. What Hollywood doesn’t see is what makes literary sci fi unique: it is a genre of ideas, and in the hands of top practitioners like Octavia Butler, Ursula LeGuin, William Gibson, and others, sci fi is a futuristic lens used to view subjects like race, gender, politics, and how technology is changing humanity.

“Hollywood groupthink is anathema to the nature of sci fi, which is a cerebral philosophical exploration of humankind and puncturing the limits of our imagination,” says author and film critic Thelma Adams . “I think the central concept here is that Hollywood, Cap H, is as terrified of sci fi as it is of an alien invasion. And that’s because the studios, as they have been increasingly corporatized, become absolutely risk averse in a way that they haven’t always been.”

“Science fiction is different from other kinds of narrative,” Haldeman told The Daily Beast. “It’s difficult to be true to a complex idea and communicate that idea. You don’t have to look much further than money. The default scheme for science fiction [in the film industry] is pretty low, about 6 th grade. There’s not much ambition to do anything. Once you have that much money riding on a project, you don’t want to take chances.”

In other words, stick with the tried and true, the proven money makers—franchises like Star Wars , Star Trek, Transformers , and the endless movies based on DC and Marvel characters. Ignore classic sci fi like Isaac Asimov’s geopolitical Foundation books, Robert Heinlein’s fish-out-of-water classic Stranger In A Strange Land , and Octavia Butler’s slavery time travel novel Kindred , or tie them up in a development hell that can last for decades.

Science fiction (often shortened to SF or sci-fi ) is a genre of speculative fiction , typically dealing with imaginative concepts such as futuristic science and technology , space travel , time travel , faster than light travel , parallel universes , and extraterrestrial life . Science fiction often explores the potential consequences of scientific and other innovations , and has been called a "literature of ideas". [1] It usually avoids the supernatural , unlike the related genre of fantasy . Historically, science-fiction stories have had a grounding in actual science , but now this is only expected of hard science fiction . [2]

James Blish wrote about the English term "science fiction": "Wells used the term originally to cover what we would today call ‘hard’ science fiction, in which a conscientious attempt to be faithful to already known facts (as of the date of writing) was the substrate on which the story was to be built, and if the story was also to contain a miracle, it ought at least not to contain a whole arsenal of them." [5] Rod Serling said, "fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science fiction is the improbable made possible." [6]

Isaac Asimov said: "Science fiction can be defined as that branch of literature which deals with the reaction of human beings to changes in science and technology." [7] According to Robert A. Heinlein , "a handy short definition of almost all science fiction might read: realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method ." [8]

Lester del Rey wrote, "Even the devoted aficionado—or fan—has a hard time trying to explain what science fiction is", and that the reason for there not being a "full satisfactory definition" is that "there are no easily delineated limits to science fiction." [9] Author and editor Damon Knight summed up the difficulty, saying "science fiction is what we point to when we say it", [10] while author Mark C. Glassy argues that the definition of science fiction is like the definition of pornography: you do not know what it is, but you know it when you see it . [11]

Science fiction is largely based on writing rationally about alternative possible worlds or futures. [12] Quoting Hal Clement , Frederik Pohl said that [13]

The author is entitled to One Big Lie. He can say, for example, that faster-than-light travel is possible; or that a time machine has been invented; or that men can read each other's minds . What comes after that may not be a lie, however; it must follow naturally and inevitably from that first premise.



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