Tin House, a literary magazine, asked me to introduce the current science fiction issue with an overview of the field. I wrote them an essay called "Radical Presentism," about the way that science fiction reflects the present more than the future.
Mary Shelley wasn't worried about reanimated corpses stalking Europe, but by casting a technological innovation in the starring role of Frankenstein, she was able to tap into present-day fears about technology overpowering its masters and the hubris of the inventor. Orwell didn't worry about a future dominated by the view-screens from 1984, he worried about a present in which technology was changing the balance of power, creating opportunities for the state to enforce its power over individuals at ever-more-granular levels.
CORY DOCTOROW: RADICAL PRESENTISM
Now, it's true that some writers will tell you they're extrapolating a future based on rigor and science, but they're just wrong. Karel Čapek coined the word robotto talk about the automation and dehumanization of the workplace. Asimov's robots were not supposed to be metaphors, but they sure acted like them, revealing the great writer's belief in a world where careful regulation could create positive outcomes for society. (How else to explain his idea that all robots would comply with the "three laws" for thousands of years? Or, in the Foundation series, the existence of a secret society that knows exactly how to exert its leverage to steer the course of human civilization for millennia?)
For some years now, science fiction has been in the grips of a conceit called the "Singularity"--the moment at which human and machine intelligence merge, creating a break with history beyond which the future cannot be predicted, because the post-humans who live there will be utterly unrecognizable to us in their emotions and motivations. Read one way, it's a sober prediction of the curve of history spiking infinity-ward in the near future (and many futurists will solemnly assure you that this is the case); read another way, it's just the anxiety of a generation of winners in the technology wars, now confronted by a new generation whose fluidity with technology is so awe-inspiring that it appears we have been out-evolved by our own progeny.
Candles that smell like a bookstore, old books, or a musty old cellar? Pal, you sure like books! My home is filled with books, and pets. Guess which one lends more to the olfactory nature of my domicile? Frequently, especially after running the carpet deep-cleaner, I’ll want to light a candle… or burn a sage […]
What follows is the most mind-altering first chapter I’ve read in a long time, from biomechanist Katy Bowman’s latest book Movement Matters: Essays on movement science, movement ecology, and the nature of movement. These items —an electronic car unlocker and a tea bag— are convenient. But what I’ve realized is, when we say or think “convenience,” it’s […]
Harry Connolly’s Twenty Palaces series is one of my favorite new storylines in science fiction. After a several year hiatus Harry has brought back Ray Lilly, and all the magic in The Twisted Path. The Twenty Palaces series tells the tale of Ray Lilly, a former convict turned into a magician’s decoy, or Wooden Man. […]
The Nintendo Switch is king when it comes to gaming on the go, but it’s tough to lose yourself in Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Skyrim if your battery dies out. That’s where this Nintendo Switch Battery Charger Case comes into play. Built exclusively for Nintendo Switch, this pack allows for uninterrupted charging while you play, […]
Creative designers play a pivotal role in engaging target audiences and customers, and while companies are eager to bring more of these professionals on board, you’ll have a hard time getting your foot in the door if you’re not using the industry’s best tools. From Adobe to Maya, the eduCBA Design & Multimedia Lifetime Subscription Bundle […]
As more companies aim to reel in costs and boost productivity, project managers are becoming an essential part of many operations, and they’re paid handsomely for their expertise. But, while demand is high, you’ll have a hard time getting your foot in the door if you’re not toting the right certifications. The Official Lean Six Sigma […]