Canadian Science Fiction novelist
Mark A. Carter defines Sci-Fi,
and talks theory, dichotomy
of dilemma and solution, Frankenstein motif, disaster theme,
the homopoetic, geopoetic,
cosmopoetic and xenopoetic
sources of doom, and why we should listen but are not.
off, I would like to know what Science
Fiction is. I have written it for years, as have others,
but the literary genre has
never been clearly defined. Welcome
to my world.
To me, whether you call if
SF, or Sci-Fi, or
Science Fiction is irrelevant.
It's all the same stuff. And
that stuff is important because,
at its core, the stories are scenarios
about human beings confronted with adversity who use science
and technology to dig themselves out of their dilemma.
Well, I guess that is a definition of sorts. It's my definition.
I'm sure it will be criticized. Nevertheless, the
dichotomy of dilemma and solution percolates the genre.
I begged to differ as did others like
Ernie Redekop at the University
of Western Ontario who offered a course in the subject.
My particular interest lies in
the disaster aspect of Science Fiction
perhaps because it is dilemma
and solution written large. I sometimes refer to it as
doom and gloom Sci-Fi. Academically,
I have referred to it as the Doomsday
Theme. The movie industry loves it. I divide it into
four types: those caused by mankind,
caused by the Earth,
caused by the cosmos, and
caused by aliens. I referred
to these types back in 1981
as the Homopoetic, Geopoetic, Cosmopoetic,
and Xenopoetic sources of
Homopoetic disaster story, which is based on the
Frankenstein motif, we meddle at playing
God and create something. But the
flip side of this type of story is that we are always
punished for our hubris. We
always lose control of our creation with dire consequences. It
applies to all branches of science. Pick one. There is a story.
Geopoetic disaster story sometimes makes use of the
Frankenstein motif too. In these stories, we push our
fate by trying to manipulate the world around us. But the world
always pushes back, with dire consequences. We also have, in
this category, stories of natural
Earth caused disaster such as drought, earthquake, fire,
flood, hurricane, ice-age, magnetic
displacement, plagues: bug, bacteria, mold, virus, and
etc.; plants, tidal wave, tornado, and volcanic eruptions. The
Science Fiction of these stories
concerns our use of science to solve the problem and ultimately
Cosmopoetic disaster story is about how the
cosmic shooting gallery in which we live attempts to
end us. Yes,
Virginia, it features asteroids, comets, moons, and planets
that enter our local space and threaten us. Some stories in this
category feature our sun and everything it can throw at us from
filament eruptions, to bouncing us closer or farther from our
current orbit inside the precious habitable zone, to magnetic
storms, and going nova. These stories are either survival stories
or simply stories of our demise. They warn us about the necessity
of getting off this planet and spreading
our seed among the stars, if we are to survive as a species.
They reiterate the notion that we perish if we are complacent.
They remind us of the science fact that this type of disaster
is not a matter of if. It is a matter
of when. How many times have we heard that expression?
Yet, here we are.
Xenopoetic disaster story is simply about alien invasion.
These stories vary from good, old fashioned
bug-eyed monster tales to bacterial, spore, and viral
plagues from space, humanoid aliens who infiltrate our midst
and are known only to a paranoid few human beings, to outright
extermination by a species with an
agenda, an aptitude, and an attitude. Again, it is our
science and technology, and our innate
instinct to fight for survival that determines the outcome
of these stories.
I stated back in
1981, that Science Fiction
has discernable value because it is predictive. I believe
that still. And that is why I write it. But do we listen? Do
we heed the warnings? No. We don't. And this is why I have a
self-diagnosed Casandra complex.
Just to remind you, it's a psychological phenomenon in which
an individual's accurate prediction of a crisis is ignored or
things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I
am not sure about the universe." - Albert Einstein
Human beings, and especially
those in political power and in science and technology, suffer
the delusion that they are in control. And that kind of
hubris speaks of the Frankenstein
motif. But what they do in this reality, if indeed it
is real, has an impact on us all. Presumably this life that we
live is not a story living in the pages of a
paperback or bound in the
ones and zeros of an eBook.
Perhaps it is all a hologram,
as some physicists suggest. Nevertheless, we live here.
And the consequences, and there are always consequences, will
be felt by us all.
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