by Zoe Harding
Let’s leave the sordid world of Earth behind for a bit, and explore the potential of a concept that’s kind of easy to dismiss out of hand.
In his venerable Culture series, Iain M Banks describes a future society based around Minds, unimaginably super-intelligent AIs that control vast ships and space-going habitats, on which a massive collection of alternately hedonistic and depressed lesser-biological beings (assumed to be human, although it’s never made explicit) live pampered and comfortable lives. The Culture is semi-utopian, although, if it resembles any society, it resembles the US in its relations with other civilisations, The books frequently focus on both the skulduggery necessary to keep the civilisation running and the injustice of being born outside it. Nonetheless, it is a portrait of a society in which humans (probably) are protected, cared for and treated equally through advanced technology.
Because utopias aren’t easy or fun to write, few societies like the Culture have appeared in fiction before or since. There is one notable version, however, in the form of an oddly idealistic leftie meme: Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism.Continue Reading
by Faizal Nor Izham
One novel I’ve always been meaning to finish is the the award-winning sci-fi classic Neuromancer by William Gibson. Since the initial publication of the counter-cultural novel in – of all years – 1984, it went on to inspire the ‘cyberpunk’ movement in the science fiction genre, as well as the ‘high-tech, low life’ type neo-noir aesthetic that often goes with it. Neuromancer has also gone on to inspire popular films such as Ghost in the Shell and The Matrix.
But what makes the novel so prominent in popular culture is that fact that it was the first to coin the term ‘cyberspace’, i.e. a ‘consensual hallucination‘ replicated artificially by millions of interconnected computer users – which in turn makes up the Internet as we know it today. The story revolves around a washed-up computer hacker hired by a mysterious employer to pull off the ultimate hack (not dissimilar from Keanu Reeves’ original role in The Matrix). This in itself can be seen as an allegory for counter-cultural movements literally taking place within this ‘Matrix’ – a term first coined by the novel way before the movie of the same name was released – a world within the world, similar to the setting of the Tron films.
by Faizal Nor Izham
Science fiction as a literary genre has long been ignored by both the academic and literary world as one that can be taken seriously. However, attitudes towards the genre are slowly changing. It is gradually being accepted and taught by many universities today, with literary modules dedicated to it emerging. It can also be potentially seen as a welcome break by those who are weaned off interpreting the likes of Chaucer or Shakespeare.
Stereotypically, science fiction would traditionally be thought of as a ‘childish’ genre featuring spaceships, Martians, laser guns, and time-travel. In fact, prior to the space race of the 1960s, stories published during the 1920s and ‘30s were often relegated to pulp magazines ordinarily consumed by teenagers and often bore the same kind of literary reputation that comic books had during the same era. For the same reasons, the genre was also not financially lucrative. Numbers of books sold by publishers were limited and writers were often forced to churn out several books per year just to make ends meet. It was also the type of profession many would be reluctant to admit to on social occasions.Continue Reading