Monday, September 02, 2013

Fact values

One of my colleagues has turned me on to the amazingly creative writer Kim Stanley Robinson, a writer who wears the label science fiction with pride:

It’s often struck me that the name “science fiction,” in some ways so inaccurate and wrong, is actually extremely powerful anyway, because the two words can be translated into “facts” and “values,” and the fact/value or is/ought problem is a famous one in philosophy, and often regarded as insoluble, so that if you call your genre “fact values” you are saying it can bridge a difficult abyss in our thinking. 
This means frequent failure, of course, as it is indeed a difficult abyss. But it is a strong claim for a genre to make, and I’ve come to love the name “science fiction” and dislike very much the various replacement names that would supposedly rehabilitate or make respectable the genre: speculative fiction, fabulation, the fantastic, etc. None of them have the power and historical heft of science fiction. (source)

Robinson's good at both the fiction and the science part - apparently he routinely includes detailed description of technical innovations that pass scientific muster. I've picked up his recent 2312, and so far so good! Not forty pages in he tells you how to hollow out an asteroid (at least 5km in diameter and 10k long) and turn it into a terrarium for earth habitats. Rotate it fast enough and you can replicate the force of gravity centripetally on the inside of its walls, so you get a kind of wraparound world. (By 2312 there are "innie" and "outie" settlements throughout the solar system!) A properly timed lighting element along the axis replicates the effect of a terran day. It sounds simply gorgeous. The lights from a village overhead twinkle like stars at night!

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