The Death of (Science) Fiction

Over at Blinded by Science, Bruno Maddox has an interesting article on the Death of Science Fiction (tip of the hat to Bruce Sterling). Apparently, as we rush headlong into The Singularity, reality has caught up with the events of science fiction such that The Future is Now(tm)! William Gibson’s recent books, Pattern Recognition and Spook Country, seem to illustrate this point.

However, there was one particular passage near the end of Maddox’s article that really caught my attention:

For one, it was around that time, the mid-1990s, that fiction—all fiction—finally became obsolete as a delivery system for big ideas. Whatever the cause—dwindling attention spans, underfunded schools, something to do with the Internet—the fact is these days that if a Top Thinker wakes up one morning aghast at man’s inhumanity to man, he’s probably going to dash off a 300-word op-ed and e-mail it to The New York Times, or better still, just stick it up on his blog, typos and all, not cancel his appointments for the next seven years so he can bang out War and Peace in a shed. If one truly has something to say, seems to be the consensus, then why not just come out and say it? If your goal is to persuade and be believed about the truth of a particular point, then what would possess you to choose to work in a genre whose very name, fiction, explicitly warns the reader not to believe a word she reads?

Now, I hardly believe in the Death of Fiction, but Maddox makes an interesting point. Has the larger, non-intellectual-class public moved on from fiction as a delivery device for Deeper Meaning? I know my own Generation Y daughter leans much more toward MySpace, blogs and, especially, film as her primary delivery devices for Meaning. I have made a serious effort this year to increase my Fiction intake (before I read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road this summer, the last piece of Serious Fiction (not including Science Fiction) I’d read was Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections), but find myself drifting towards Sci-Fi again, such as Warren Ellis’ Crooked Little Vein or the aforementioned Spook Country.

And when it comes to writing, here I am banging out blog posts and academic papers. I’m hardly oriented towards sitting down and writing fiction about the rise of web 2.0 technologies in political activism (though, come to think of it, that might not be such a bad idea….), so maybe Maddox is right.

What do YOU think?


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