A. CARTER - NOVELIST:
devalue, dismiss, and disregard
World famous Canadian
Science Fiction novelist Mark
A. Carter discusses why people devalue, dismiss, and
disregard Science Fiction
PEOPLE DIMINISH SCIENCE FICTION: Back in the day,
while I was working toward an initial degree in
English Literature, Science Fiction was snubbed, by most,
as pulp and
sub-literature. It was considered an unworthy subject
of serious study with no redeemable features. Many saw it as
all bug-eyed monsters and
damsels in distress, as depicted by
Hollywood in B movies;
whereas, what was depicted in films was decades, centuries, and
often millennia behind the printed word. So I begged to differ
as did others like Ernie Redekop
at the University of Western Ontario
who offered a course in the subject.
There were so many uncertainties
back then. Was Science Fiction
a legitimate genre? What should
it be called? Was it Science Fiction
or Sci-Fi or
SF? And what did SF
really mean? Was it Science Fiction,
Science Fantasy, Speculative Fiction, or
Speculative Fantasy? Now, it's all
water under the bridge.
Fiction, as many saw it, had its origins in the writings
of H.G. Wells. Some believed
it originated with Jules Verne.
Some thought it began with Mary Shelley's
Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus. I saw its
origins in mythology and saw proof of it in the
Epic of Gilgamesh, the
Greek Myths, the Mabinogion,
and the Elder Edda.
copyright © Tom Gauld. All Rights Reserved.
In those myths I saw great human
drama played out pitting humanity against great adversity and
overwhelming odds. I saw warnings, folly, bravery, and punishment.
And I saw the use of a tool given to the hero by the
gods, to give him a fighting chance in his endeavors
to save the world.
Myths showed us that if we transgress,
if we tempt the gods, if we
strive to know too much, we shall be punished. We will unleash
unspeakable evil upon ourselves and possibly upon the entire
world. These benign tales, some based on historical truths, some
flights of unbridled imagination played out as
scenarios warned of the consequences of human folly.
And in those myths, I saw the genesis
of modern Science Fiction.
Step ahead. The average person
today does not think Science Fiction
is anything special. It has become the mainstay of
futuristic films, particularly those depicting
dystopian futures, the end of the world, and the ever
popular alien invasion. In
fact, we are so bombarded with Science
Fiction on television and at the theater that it has
become anathema to many. People
have become complacent. And
when they look around themselves, they are blind to the impact
Science Fiction has had on
their daily lives. To quote J. G.
Ballard from Fictions of
is becoming Science Fiction. From the margins of an almost invisible
literature has sprung the intact reality of the twentieth century.
Most people take the technology
of our modern world for granted. They just think, as they
waltz around talking on the their
cell phones, while they watch their
high definition flat-screen televisions, with media service
delivered at the speed of light
through fiber-optic cable
or satellite dish, that
pixies invented it all. But actually those
pixies are engineers, scientists,
and the inspiration for their innovations came from
Science Fiction has been used to inspire innovation,
the influence of the genre
on our world is a two-edged sword.
Some imagined technologies have been used for good. Some
are all too obviously designed with the opposite in mind. And
in the wrong hands, or with the wrong
mind-set, the warnings that
Science Fiction provides will be played out in reality,
with dire consequences. Why? I think it is because our species
is smart but foolish. It's in our nature. The ancient
Greeks knew it and wrote about human nature in their
myth of Prometheus. And if
we don't heed the warnings of Science
Fiction, we are likely to suffer the daily agony that
Prometheus endured for giving
man fire. We will annihilate ourselves. To quote the
Cyberdyne Systems Series 800 Resistance Infiltrator Model-101,
Version 2.4 from Terminator
2: Judgement Day where we have lost control of and
are fighting a war with our AI
in your nature to destroy yourselves.
Let's hope not. But ironically,
of course, we are in full development of
AI machines right now and the
drones seen in Terminator
are currently here now too. It's only a matter of time before
we lose control of them. Based on my Frankenstein
hypothesis, we always lose control of our technology.
So why on Earth are we developing
them? I think it is because we always have to
push the envelope. We always have to
see if it can be done.
Sadly, that attitude will lead
to dire consequences that are played out in reality instead of
benignly in the pages of Science Fiction
or at the theater. We haven't yet learned that just because
you can do a thing, it doesn't mean you should. Of course, that
takes maturity as a species. Bla ...
bla ... bla ... enough said.
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