Friday, May 30, 2008

MIND MELD: Who's Driving This Bus?

SF Signal's back with another Lou-inspired Mind Meld question, this one, "Q: Although science fiction was born on paper, sci-fi presented through visual media (film and television) has significantly higher audiences. Which medium, then, is the driving force behind what science fiction is and where it's headed, and who is driving it?"

They open with novelist John Scalzi, IMHO one of the best and brightest of 21st century SF, saying it's apples to oranges, they're only indirectly related, but really it's the one with the money. This is followed by Stargate: Atlantis executive producer Joseph Mallozzi saying that film & TV is a case of too-many-cooks but it pays well, and the freedom of the novelist to chart their own vision independent of interference is the driving factor.

Other contributors include Yours Truly, Gary K. Wolf, Joe R. Lansdale, Lucius Shepard (who reminds us that it's all compromised crap), Paul Levinson, Mike Resnick, Charlie Jane Anders (with a nice sounding sound bite about how the future is open source fiction), Paul Cornell, Mike Brotherton, and Lawrence Person.

I was particularly struck by what Paul Cornell said - who has written for prose, television and comics so is certainly the most qualified to know:
Certainly, prose SF is always first to any given concept, but public awareness depends not on one movie, but on dozens of Sci Fi Channel movies of the week, parody, advertising use, etc. That public awareness is important, in that SF seeks to portray what happens 'if this goes on', and such satire only really bites if the public recognises the truth of the future being described, as used to be the case with Arthur Clarke's descriptions of the vastly agreed-upon post-Apollo future of humanity in space.

So at the moment, to some degree, in this matter of the public's collective unconscious vision of where it might all go, what's to be done and what's wrong right now, TV and the movies are indeed taking the lead, the superhero trope, Lost and Battlestar Galactica all, for instance, asking 'is my instinct about what the look on that person's face means enough, or do I need some greater insight into their nature in order to be safe?' Dick got there first, but the development of that thought has happened largely outside of prose.
Me, I think that the much smaller, but potentially richer, vein of SF literature charts the vanguard that gradually trickles down and informs the larger, vastly more successful media, which in turn throws up images that get reabsorbed by the literature. Symbiotic, but we're talking whales and those little fish that swim alongside them (I'm still seriously jet lagged).

Still, I think the best case that the literature is still driving (even if the media train it tows behind it is overshadowingly large) is this bit from Joseph Mallozzi's blog:
So who is John Scalzi? Well, he’s just the guy who renewed my interest in SF literature and restored my joy of reading, a joy I am forcing upon you all via this book of the month club. I used to read a lot as a kid, particularly scifi, but as I grew older my hours spent in the company of Asimov and Clarke lessened considerably. Given everything that was going on in my life, reading became an indulgence I no longer had time for. I would continue to read at a more leisurely pace, but I was no longer the voracious reader of my early youth when I would devour two or three books on a good week. Then, a couple of years ago, I sat back and took stock of things. Here I was, a fairly successful writer/producer who, unlike my co-workers, didn’t spend my free time golfing, playing video games, or traveling. So, what was I doing with my free time? Well, to be honest, I didn’t have a lot of it because I’d feel guilty if I wasn’t working on something or, at the very least, thinking about working on something. I realized that I was being ridiculous. I worked hard enough during the season to earn some downtime. I needed a hobby. Something I could enjoy guilt-free. Preferably something that would help me relax and yet, at the same time, keep my mind active. And that’s when it hit me. Reading! It offered the enjoyment and relaxation of a regular hobby but, in my case, also offered the benefit of serving as a means of research and education.I joined an SF online book club, enjoyed the first two selections, and then along came John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War. I was blown away. It was fun. It was funny. And, most importantly, it was clever as hell! I loved it, and most everyone I have recommended the book to has loved it as well.
So, Scalzi writes book. Book so good that TV producer of long running, successful SF franchise loves book. TV producer becomes avid SF reader, promotes SF novels to his thousands of fans, spends all day reading, thinking about, proselytizing SF.

Conclusion A: Books still inform media.
Conclusion B: Both Scalzi and Mallozzi deserve big hug.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

man, you take this shit way too seriously....Lucius