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What SF Novel Are We Living In?

(21 posts)
  • Started 2 weeks ago by Dr. Caligari
  • Latest reply from iamnothing

  1. Dr. Caligari
    Member

    Things seem increasingly surreal out there. I don't think we're going to reach a mass-extinction situation like in "Earth Abides," but I'm starting to feel like we're in a John Brunner novel ("The Sheep Look Up," maybe?).

    Posted 2 weeks ago #
  2. Steve R.
    Member

    As to what SF novel we are living in; a lot depends on how one's viewpoint. Environmental degradation of the earth and socioeconomic consequences are one plausible road to take. The "The Windup Girl" by Paolo Bacigalupi is one such novel though it would be considered near future.

    Basically, I am in the geopolitical realm of "reality" as envisaged in "1984" by Orwell, I find increasingly relevant. We have Newspeak, endless war, erosion of civil liberties in the name of national security, etc. Of course, our society is currently nowhere near as bleak as the "reality" portrayed by Orwell.

    As a way to get our memories jogged, I conducted a brief internet search, this one seemed to contain a list of descent novels, from the ecological perspective: 50 Must-Read Eco Disasters In Fiction.

    From the more political perspective: 21 Books Like '1984' That Will Change How You See The Future

    It's been a long time since I read "The Sheep Look Up", but was interesting is that this book has appeared on many different lists. It appears on both lists that I have cited. So it must be an excellent collection of themes.

    Posted 2 weeks ago #
  3. Mark Pontin
    Member

    We _were_ living in a cross between a Brunner 'Treaty of Rome' novel -- more 'Stand on Zanzibar' than 'Sheep,' though with elements of both -- and Pohl & Kornbluth's
    'Gladiator-at-Law, which was a pretty prescient picture of a neoliberal, Wall St-dominated society for being written way back when.

    We are _now_ entering the global Recess, the planetary socioeconomic reset in the background of the desert resort society in J.G. Ballard's VERMILION SANDS stories. Except we're the rest of the world that Ballard never showed, not the wealthy folks living in Vermilion Sands.

    As for what comes after this reset, we don't know.

    Hopefully, not the Jackpot of W. Gibson's recent novels, nor (say) the man-eat-dog society of Ballard's HIGH RISE (though that was more Ballard reacting to Thatcherism and the initial neoliberal turn forty years ago). Nor, please God, the world of Tiptree's 'The Last Flight of Doctor Ain' and Frank Herbert's THE WHITE PLAGUE.

    It's a fascinating -- though slightly scary - thing to look at the last sixty years and realize that the SF writer with the track record of making the most successful predictions about where we've actually been going was Ballard. Pity he's not around today (he'd have been ninety) because he'd have something insightful to say.

    As for COVID-19, in terms of its actual lethality, we're getting off light. It's actually a wake-up call. Google some of the microbiology that's been turning up as Siberia's permafrost has started melting thanks to global warming during the last few years -- truly alien giant viruses and fungal spores that haven't been around for tens or hundreds of thousands of years and that are now coming back to life. Then speculate about what some of that stuff might do if it got loose.

    Posted 2 weeks ago #
  4. Mark Pontin
    Member

    Repeat: this is just a wake-up call. SARS-COV-1 had a death rate of 10 percent. One out of every ten infectees died from it.

    With COVID-19, it's the disease's very high infection and reproductive rates that are what's screwing us.

    Posted 2 weeks ago #
  5. JohnWThiel
    Member

    YOU NEVER GO BAD AS YOU LIVE ON MARS.

    Posted 2 weeks ago #
  6. MattHughes
    Member

    Stand on Zanzibar, especially for the fragmented way information comes to us. Plus some Brave New World for the hedonistic, me-oriented consumer culture into which this virus is crashing.

    My hope: the ultimate effect of this pandemic will be to end the age when we were just consumers in a free-market economy and return us to being citizens of societies. That people will realize that some essential parts of life are not transactions and that freedom is more than the capacity to choose among competing brands. There are some things, very necessary things, that only communal cooperation can achieve.

    Posted 2 weeks ago #
  7. iamnothing
    Member

    MattHughes: Yes!

    Posted 2 weeks ago #
  8. GusG
    Member

    Matt, I hope I understand your comment correctly. In our free market, we tend to become cogs in the machine that is the economy, which needs vast amounts of wasteful spending each day (each HOUR) to function correctly. I am a great believer in a free market economy, but I also believe that the surpluses, when generated, need to be used thoughtfully for times like this. We don't seem to save up for these events, instead, we borrow more and more on top of what we generate in the name of competition with other economies, or to fund services that we really can't afford.

    Our roles in the economy are de-humanizing to some degree, but we can operate this way and still maintain our humanity and community. We aren't because of two things:

    COMPETITION. We are so obsessed with winning that no one wants to slow down and act responsibly. You can see this in regard to pollution and climate change.

    RATIONAL THOUGHT. No one wants to face the truth. Instead, they want to listen to demagogues and politicians who tell them the lies they want to hear. In times of crisis, truth will get us through. Believing in lies only works in times of prosperity, and those beliefs end the prosperity much sooner than the truth would have sustained them.

    I am an educator, and my two goals for my students are to be rational thinkers who can enjoy competition, but not to the point of obsession. Perhaps this crisis will help those two points. Already our political leaders are trying to act rationally, even though some of them are clearly not accustomed to it.

    With those improvements we can once again be citizens and not cogs.

    Thank you for letting me sound off.

    Posted 2 weeks ago #
  9. JohnWThiel
    Member

    The government more or less controls the educational system, Gus. Your comment about the lack of rationality in the government is what they've been fighting with colleges about, such as Berkeley College and Kent State, all along.

    Posted 2 weeks ago #
  10. MattHughes
    Member

    GusG:

    I'm saying what everyone knew until recent times: that there are some things that the free market, driven by the profit motive, can't deliver properly. Police and fire services are the ones we most often encounter. The military remains a public institution.

    Other spheres -- education, health care, social welfare -- need to be run on the basis of service delivered, not profit earned, if they are to serve the public good. Most advanced countries, and certainly those that score highest on the World Happiness Index, are organized to serve the common good.

    America, and the UK under "austerity," have been marching in the opposite direction. Now comes a threat to the common weal, but the public institutions that should be able to respond have been hollowed out and weakened by the forces that have been transitioning us from societies of citizens into an economy of consumers.

    We'll get to see if those institutions can be revived strongly enough, and in time, to prevent catastrophes.

    Posted 2 weeks ago #
  11. GusG
    Member

    Your points go to the core of our divided society. Personal profit vs. shared wealth and services. Taxation levels. Public vs. private education. As a public school teacher for close to 30 years now, I rely on public funds to keep our schools running, and my job is to deliver instruction equitably among all students, regardless of their family's ability to pay into the tax pool. The socio-economic gap is the hardest of all to bridge by far (gender, age, race, religion...those are relatively simple by comparison). Our new normal, however long it lasts, will make equitable education for our neediest families even more difficult. Online classes are not a good substitute for the traditional face-to-face classroom setting (don't get me started), and if your family does not have a computer, or a smart phone, and high-speed internet, you are going to get left further behind. My classes are especially difficult to deliver by internet or phone (band and orchestra).

    A pandemic is a great equalizer. How we respond will leave a legacy that will contribute to these great classic debates. I am especially interested in how education will be affected. I have had many students contact me who want to know how their musical instruction will be continued. That gives me hope, and I will do my best for them. The free market alone never would have even allowed me to try.

    Posted 2 weeks ago #
  12. Ron
    Member

    In some ways it is like _The Day of the Triffids_ by John Wyndham.

    I work in downtown Chicago, and there is hardly any activity during a week-day, even much less so than on a typical week-end.

    “When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.”

    Posted 2 weeks ago #
  13. GusG
    Member

    Some comparisons are being made to Stephen King's "The Stand." It is a little on the nose, but still interesting to compare our predicament with a novel I read three times in middle school. It was the first time I was allowed out out the Archie and Paddington level, so I may have overdone it.

    Stay healthy and distant everyone. Work together to stay apart. Embrace the irony, not your neighbor.

    Posted 2 weeks ago #
  14. JohnWThiel
    Member

    I notice "The Puppet Masters" and "Nineteen Eighty Four" more than anything, but there's also "The Buttoned Sky" and "Beware the Usurpers" by Geoff St. Reynard, and take it away! What science fiction novel AREN'T we living in?

    Posted 2 weeks ago #
  15. Mark Pontin
    Member

    Scenes from the class war in the Hamptons, J.G. Ballard-style (if you've read Late Ballard novels like SUPER-CANNES).

    Year-round residents threaten that “We should blow up the bridges,” as rich Manhattanites, fleeing from the coronavirus pandemic New York to their summer homes, are buying all the fresh groceries, exposing local hospital workers to potential infection, and behaving with the general disregard for anybody else typical of the wealthy.

    https://nypost.com/2020/03/19/we-should-blow-up-the-bridges-coronavirus-leads-to-class-warfare-in-hamptons/

    Posted 2 weeks ago #
  16. iamnothing
    Member

    Given the physical isolation, how about The Naked Sun?
    "Done viewing."

    Posted 1 week ago #
  17. LukeJackson
    Member

    I think we are in The Time Machine, en route to the distant near future where humans are extinct.

    Maybe Agent Smith was right— humanity is a disease, and another Earth is fighting back?

    Posted 1 day ago #
  18. Marian
    Member

    I'm remembering a quote from Campbell, "History doesn't always repeat itself. Sometimes it yells, 'Can't you remember anything I taught you' and let's fly with a club."

    Posted 1 day ago #
  19. JohnWThiel
    Member

    I don't follow what Campbell was saying there. Perhaps he pulled up an Ace of Clubs for a royal straight.

    Posted 15 hours ago #
  20. MattHughes
    Member

    I take it that Campbell was saying that sometimes history doesn't tell you twice. It throws a club at you for not listening well enough the first time.

    Posted 8 hours ago #
  21. iamnothing
    Member

    John: I thought it was Horace Gold that had the poker game sessions, not Campbell.

    Posted 1 hour ago #

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