2.01.2004

Lonely in a Dark House

The motto of s1ngularity::criticism is "do not be afraid." But from time to time I run across something that leaves me belt-chewing afraid. I can only hope that s1ngularity can somehow save the day.

This time it was an interviewwith Kim Stanley Robinson about his latest novel, Forty Signs of Rain. According to the title, KSR "upholds the left wing of SF"

Mr. Robinson is a fine writer whose works I've admired for a long time. I don't know what his personal politics are, but within the content of this article, I can barely figure out why Mr. Robinson has been assigned responsibility for carrying the banner of the left. He seems to think "free market" is a scam and he states "[a] worker population makes its nutrient goo (surplus value, life force, stuff) and has it extracted by a small minority with superior force at its command."

Radical, dude. If that's all it takes to be labeled a leftist--if this is what passes for a non-conformist position in our genre, in our culture--no wonder we're suffering from a dearth of new and vigorous ideas in our genre.

It wasn't that long ago when it wasn't enough to talk about capital originating from worker to be a leftist: you had to be actively working to redistirubte it from the capitalists to the workers. Have we become so centrist, the outlook of our genre so conforming to the same heavily trammeled, narrow thought-space that even the slight deviation presented in this interview earns you the title of standard bearer for the left? Where are the great works, the great writers who took on the major issues of the day, and were rewarded by readers who seriously considered what they offered, and, thinking for themselves, broadened it, changed it, adapted it.

Unhappily, does this make Mr. Robinson a brave man for daring to separate even this little bit from the "Commerce is G*d" flock?

If so, I'm petrified. Because it's going to take a lot of thinking and observation to steer us through the shoals of technological development that our culture is sailing into, blind to the reefs and even ignorant of the benefits that might really matter. Where once the magnificent thought experiments of SF provided us with lighthouse, compass and chart, now we must ride below decks, the dead helmsman lashed to his post.

Once there was a dawn of a New Age. SF writers saw it coming and wrote about it. Now we are at the twilight of that New Age with a new one dawning, carrying with it new dangers and new struggles. To adopt Mr. Walters' quote from Mr. Asimov, let us not retreat from the challenge.

Best Regards,
Alan

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