The Final Impediment
Posted by Dirck on 26 September, 2014
Much of the writing I do is in the “weird” or “horror” line. This is to be expected, because this is an area I do a lot of reading in. However, I also read a quantity of what me might call vintage sci-fi. If you ask me who my favorite SF writer is, I will instantly answer, even as I blush, H. Beam Piper. If you press me to name a modern SF writer instead, I will probably produce William Gibson, after a bit of a struggle to think someone who’s a little more of a current poster for the genre.
But I have a hard time getting up any steam writing SF, despite really liking it, because I speak the language in a stilted and archaic manner and I know it. One of the things that appeals to me about the old stuff is they were writing about a future in which Moore’s Law had not been hit upon, and could assume that the graph of technological progress was a line rather than an upward curve. Piper’s powerful computers, capable of hyperspace navigation, had paper-tape outputs!
Despite this, I occasionally look at the big dumb space opera I have drifting around in my head. One can always, as has been popular since Moore spoke the Cassandraic doom for my favorite sort of SF, posit some kind of semi-apocalypse that sets back any kind of technology that one doesn’t want to deal with. A cheat, but it can work out.
What shoves the space opera back down under the surface of my imagination’s brackish waters, though, is wanting to have a some big intense scenes of fleet action, human and alien ships in deadly conflict in the darkness between the stars. Weird fiction and horror (which are not quite the same thing) rely on throwing something that patently cannot exist into the mix, be it a spider the size of a moderate Subaru, a gas that turns people inside out, or a sudden failure of the concept of “up”. Good SF can’t tolerate that sort of thing, so even if one mumbles a little on the matter of faster-than-light travel, there’s some items of physics that won’t lie down and leave you alone.
Which brings us to this week’s film:
For the record– I think Larry Niven’s “Known Space” series played pretty fair with this sort of thing (there’s some great examples in Protector), and Babylon 5 wasn’t too far off base in some of its battle scenes. It still takes the wind out of my sails.