Posts Tagged 'The Guardian'

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Back in May of this year we reported on all the joys of the Sad Puppy flap, and this site’s decision to defend SciFi’s ability to act as a space for experimentation – even for those whose political/moral stance we wholeheartedly disagree with. It’s refreshing then to read Samuel Delany in the New Yorker offering a similar deconstruction of the dispute, but to also take on-board his rational analysis that the driving force behind the collected hate is socio-economic. For him, as the disempowered rise in status and commercial heft, so the hegemony lashes out.

This being Drozbot, the pondering doesn’t simply dry up there. As the narrative voices within SciFi diversify – and we bear witness to the unfolding tragedy in Calais, France – the question about the representation of immigration in science and speculative fiction arises.

Delany himself has wrestled with what it means to write from the peripheries. To produce challenging work that has been critically acclaimed by a conservative old guard who couldn’t help but buy into his wonderful brand of experimentation. Meanwhile, a contemporary of his – and another regular to these pages – Ursula le Guin, has also explored the diaspora of humanity from multiple vantage points via her Hainish Cycle of books.

Historically we could also easily include the works of Octavia Butler and a few select others from the New Wave, but what of contemporary writers? Thankfully, there are now a host of fresh, multicultural voices where once there were only a few. And, inevitably, their stories focus upon the disposed. Of course, if we attempt to list even a few here, we immediately exile so many others. But to not evidence such diversity would be equally remiss.

Monica Byrne, for instance, is currently enjoying a wealth of critical acclaim from the SciFi community for her novel The Girl in the Road – a story that charts two female refugees fleeing their homelands as a result of power shifts and impending revolution. Meanwhile Alif the Unseen, by G Willow Wilson, describes the adventures of an Arab-Indian hacker who protects those escaping from political persecution under a Western culture of surveillance. Dig a little deeper and regional subsections of the genre percolate through the inclusiveness of the web. Latino/A Rising, AfroSF and many others pop up regularly on this site’s radar, and all contain tales of cultural tension as a result of worlds colliding.

What then of the white male legacy that still holds dominance within the genre? Well, one particularly switched on writer associated with, but definitely separate from, those reacting to the voice of the ‘other’, the voices from ‘elsewhere’, managed to sum up the inevitably of his own future. As reported on by Damien Walter in The Guardian, author Adam Roberts – in response to a question during the New Genre Army conference asking about where he saw his work heading – explained a shift towards increasing irrelevance. In his view he would, ultimately, be eclipsed by new voices from other countries and other experiences than those of the white male. Kudos to him and his experimental ability to imagine such a bitter sweet future. How very SciFi.

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Damien Walter, at the tail end of last year, published a piece in The Guardian saying that good sci-fi writing had the chance to hold its own against the spectacle of modern videogames. While he was right that most sci-fi games are terribly written, the scope of imagination currently being unleashed within this space is worrying to any scribbler.

Take Inner Space, which reached its Kickstarter goal last year. It’s a game that I personally invested in simply because of its premise and the beautiful execution crafted by Tyler Tomaseski’s team. As the pilot of a glider within a Dyson sphere world, it’s up to the player to unearth artefacts that upgrade your craft and enable deeper exploration. The developer’s promotional video projects a real, alien sense of place, even if the underlying narrative
remains untested.

British developer Hello Games also brings No Man’s Sky to this new wave of sci-fi themed experiences. An entirely procedurally generated universe, if offers one of the most opulent and diverse environs of any space shooter to date. Again, though, is there a good and strong narrative thread holding the player’s attention across this kaleidoscopic galaxy? We shall see.

Around a year ago, the film Gravity featured on the site with the cautious consideration as to whether the opening scene of The Stars My Destination could sustain a feature length level of attention. The answer, in hindsight, was it absolutely could. So no surprise then that Three One Zero have decided there’s millage in generating a game around the same premise (see Adrift trailer above).

Of the three games, the immediacy of a survival story seems the most potent. But it’s still not enough to address the deficit caused by so many bad game plots. Interestingly though, as the discipline of gaming and generating virtual worlds spills out, cross-over projects from the wider artistic community seem to be on the increase.

The Nether is just such an example of this breakout. Making its West End transfer from the Royal Court Theatre, the play deals with issues around what is and isn’t morally acceptable within a virtual world. While not as overtly sci-fi as the games above, it does describe an increasing acceptance of genre tropes as a way of questioning issues within our technically saturated world.

So the written/performed word amplifying its message through VR. Which brings everything nicely back to the title of the post and Ernie Cline, who has already created a beautiful game culture/scifi amalgamation with Ready Player One. News is he’s working on a sequel to his 2011 bestseller. Now all we need is for someone to persuade him to script a game.

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