Mark A. Carter

WHY WRITE Science Fiction?

World famous 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.

WHY? First 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 doom.

In the 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.

The 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 to survive.

The 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.

And the 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 dismissed.

"Two 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.

Read: Vonnegut, file drawer and urinal
Sci-Fi - devalue, dismiss, and disregard

Now you know.

from the imagination of Mark A. Carter - novelist

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