SciFi Nerd Dream Come True

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Since this weekend marks the unofficial beginning of summer, and I already know how my summer will end, let’s talk science fiction.

I registered for the 71st World Science Fiction Convention this coming Labor Day weekend. It will be a nerd dream come true on a few levels.

First, the prestigious Hugo Awards are given out at the event. I plan on reading the five nominees and submitting a ballot by July 31. It will be awesome to see the program, meet science fiction authors, and talk about the craft.

Then there is the costume contest. I went to the Emerald City ComicCon last year during a layover in Seattle. What a crazy event! The costumes were wild and fun, and, well, nerdy! The science fiction convention costumes may be even crazier!

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No, I will not be in costume.

Finally, on a larger level, of all the fiction genres, I find science fiction to be the most entertaining. I am excited to be steeped in the scifi culture for a few days.

Why I Love Science Fiction

Growing up the way I did, I was a bit solitary, and spent much of my tween and teen years reading voraciously. More often than not, the pulp was science fiction, books by Isaac Asimov, J.R.R. Tolkein, Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke (2001, 2010, etc.), Stephen R. Donaldson, Terry Brooks, early David Brin (who is now a great blogger, too), Larry Niven, and on and on.

My love for space operas, and to a lesser extent sword-wielding fantasies, extended to movies. Like many Gen Xers, the original Conan, Star Wars and Star Trek movies were repeated staples. TV Shows like Buck Rodgers and Star Trek: The Next Generation were great, too.

Science fiction allowed me to envision the future, and how technology would evolve and impact our world. It sparked my imagination, and encouragin me to consider societal issues like power dynamics and technology impact.

Spoiler Alert

These days, I may be the only person on earth who hasn’t raved about J.J. Abrams Star Trek: Into Darkness. I attribute that to my long love of science fiction. A casual trekkie or someone not very familiar with the series wouldn’t understand my disappointment.

Into Darkness was like watching a Rolling Stones concert, same hits, same guys, yeah it was great, but was it special? Instead of a new movie, it was a tongue and cheek replay of hits, and demonstrated the flaws in the lexicon (which were exploited in the Hugo Award nominated Redshirts, by John Scalzi).

Plus the new Khan can’t hold a candle in the wind to Ricardo Montalban. Instead of trying, I felt like J.J. Abrams settled for a somewhat bitter Terminator-esque character.

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Into Darkness should actually scare Star War fans about the quality of the next trilogy. Sometimes J.J. Abrams gets stuck in the cuteness of meta stories. He loses the compelling arc of a good science fiction story, which includes imagining the way technology impacts society and people. It’s why I stopped watching Lost in the middle of season 2. I feel like Star Wars 7 will only offer a meta blockbuster rehash of the old good and evil force story arcs.

Good science fiction tells compelling human stories against the backdrop of societal issues created by future technology. Considering how fast technology is changing us and its affect on our culture. Science fiction helps us scenario and deal with possible impact. Consider the following:

  • William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition made us consider the disaggregation of the human identity in the face of social media and hidden media conglomerates.
  • Gibson’s Neuromancer and Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash and The Diamond Age take a deep look at the power anarachies created by technology, the destruction of nation states, as well as artificial intelligence and its impact on the human soul.
  • Richard Morgan made us consider how the human soul may be stored on a chip or in the cloud with Altered Carbon.
  • James S. A. Corey forces us to cnsider genetic engineering as a weapon in Leviathan Wakes, a theme also picked up in Iron Man 3.

Are these stories unique in their societal issues? No. But they all had unique takes on it, some of which are feasible or have come true. All of them forced me to think and imagine our future world.

Science is wild. We don’t know what it will create. However it manifests itself, science and technology will impact our culture in dramatic fashion.

That’s why I continue to love science fiction. And so, this summer I will go forth boldly where I have not gone before and explore some new ideas via science fiction.

Will science fiction be a part of your summer?

19 Replies to “SciFi Nerd Dream Come True”

  1. This summer I’m planning on revisiting some of my favorites from the past. Larry Niven’s Ringworld and Robert Silverberg’s The World Inside are at the top of my list. Should make for good beach reading.

    1. Ringworld was awesome! I have not read Silverberg, so I’ll be sure to add that to my list of to-reads! Hope you are doing well, David!

      1. If you enjoyed Ringworld – check out Niven’s Fleet of Worlds series. It is a complete retelling of the Known Space stories up to Ringworld but from the Puppeteers’ point of view.

  2. I guess it’s already a part of it? I just read an Arthur C. Clarke novel (Childhood’s End) and will need to read some more of his work. I’m planning on reading Slaughterhouse 5 next month. It sounds like a genre bender, which means it’s right up my alley. I’m waiting because it’s free on the Kindle library, but I’ve used May’s allotment already. Until then, I have Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes to keep me company. That isn’t sci-fi at all, but I read the stories and think of how similar the tone and interests are to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

    1. You are reading old school stuff! Got to love it. You may enjoy H.P. Lovecraft, too, since traditional fiction/fantasy seems to appeal to you!

      1. I like old school. Unfortunately, it makes me really picky when it comes to the new.

        I’m sure I had to read some Lovecraft at some point, but I’m going to have to dig into his work. I see he has a collection of macabre tales. Should I mention I had to suppress a “yay” when I saw the title?

        1. That’s because what stands the test oftime tends to be damn good!

          LOL, I really enjoyed Lovecraft. Stephen King basically credited his whole career through the 80s to Lovecraft.

  3. I’m more of a fantasy nerd when it comes to reading, although I’ve enjoyed a lot of sci fi, too. Favorite authors include Kay, Nix, Wooding, Gaiman, Pratchett, Bull, Bradbury, King and of course Douglas Adams (I could go on and on and on, but I’ll spare you). I also adore Philip K. Dick’s short stories and I’m a huge Star Wars and Firefly fan.

    I wondered if you’d seen this post yet – it made me laugh out loud: http://www.buzzfeed.com/expresident/fantasy-novels-that-are-good-despite-their-covers

    I vividly remember combing the shelves of used book stores when I was young, desperately searching for great books while trying to see beyond some of the truly questionable cover art that plagues so much speculative fiction. And I’ll be reading several of the books on the list this summer, as a bonus.

    1. LOL, those are hilarious. I didn’t think you could make a bad Tolkein cover… Until now. I never was able to get into Robert Jordan.

      You’ve got quite a few. Philip Dick is amazing. He’s the David Bowie of scifi, always underrated, but perhaps the most influential of all!

  4. How timely! I’ve been looking for some audiobook recommendations for an upcoming road trip (Minnesota to Calgary – over 20 hrs) and will definitely check out William Gibson’s selections. Thanks Geoff!

    1. Oh, I think you’ll love Gibson. He’s definitely one of the top minds of our generation!

  5. Geoff,

    I have always been a bit of a sci fi fan myself. I tend more towards the classical stories. 1984, Brave New World, The Time Machine, and other works from the early 1900’s. They were soooo far ahead of their time and a lot of what they thought the future would be like has actually happened.

    The campier stuff, like Star Trek and Star Wars is ok, but I’ll take Ira Levin’s “This Perfect Day” any time over just about anything else.

    You have made some interesting recommendations. Maybe I’ll try some more modern stuff for a change.

    Cheers,
    Marc

    1. 1984 and Brave New World were definitely amazing works! I never really got into H.G. Wells, but clearly he and Lovecraft and others were just essential to the movement.

      I’ll have to add Ira Levin’s book to my list to read. Thanks for the recommendation! I published a full list today of favorite scifi works at someone else’s request.

  6. Enjoy the convention, Geoff. Me, I always tended towards heroic fiction and fantasy with just a little dabbling in science fiction. I did read my share of Hugo Award winners, though. Two of my favorite authors in high school were Susan Cooper and Patricia McKillip. Of course, I read my share of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and John Saul, too.

    I think Robin Cook has done a decent job of “what if scenarios” for if people cross the ethics line when it comes to medical technology. I’ve also read several authors recently who do some astoundingly scary…because you know it could happen…extrapolation on terror threats.

    1. I loved Stephen King growing up. I stopped reading him in the late 80s, but I’ve watched from afar and clearly he has remained prolific. I need to finish the Dark Tower series. Robin Cook is also a very good author as is Creighton in these scenarios. Good stuff!

  7. Hubby and I love conventions – we are total nerds. Sci-Fi is high on our list, but our favourite convention is the HorrorHound Weekend. It happens a couple of times a year in the US, we usually go when it’s in Indianapolis or Cincinnati so we can visit friends too. This year we’re going in September to Indy for the convention.

    I love the people watching, the costumes, but mostly I love the community. You see many of the same folks year after year and we’ve formed some great friendships.

    Conventions are about much more than just the shows or movies or books they represent. They are a way for people to express themselves. I’ve seen people who are normally shy, lack confidence and self esteem really shine at these events. Everyone is accepted for who they are. I love that most.

    1. There is little vain pride at these events, I agree. And yet they are immensely popular, guilty pleasures if you would, or perhaps proud ones. And that’s what makes them so cool and refreshing, as you point out. I have yet to go to a horror event, but it does sound like these are in the same vein.

  8. I am unhappy to hear that you will not be in costume….why miss all that fun??? and the photo ops??? Please reconsider.

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