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Old 01-07-2007, 01:55 AM
myrrh
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Can Science Fiction become dated?
So, to take a break from the endless texts of translations, I've decided to give my mind a break and read something that is actually written in my native tongue. I came across a copy of Ringworld and figured it would be a good thing to read for my mind to take a break from reality with.

While this is no doubt a great book, at times I feel like I can tell it was written in 1970 and seems like a 70's movie is playing in my head. Like, not so much with the words on the page, or the actual 'science', but more like the mindset of the writting seems very 70's to me. This leads me to the question of the title of this thread. I would think that really great Science Fiction would never become dated, but this book is a classic and I am finding problems accepting it as nothing more than fiction. (granted it is fiction, but I mean that I find it less believable than I think I should)

This also leads to thinking that if someone were to write a Science Fiction novel today, would it have a different feeling than the ones written in the 60's and 70's. It seems that the Science Fiction genre really was formed 30 years ago, and could we be moving away from the ideas of then? An example of this is that of the aliens that appear in Science Fiction books. Thirty years ago this was a huge thing, but now as we actually explore more of the real universe, we still can find no traces of life, yet alone super advanced life like that portrayed in many books and movies.

I don't really know what the point of this thread is, other than to mention something that I noticed. I think that, I personally, have grown to like something more along the lines of Cowboy Beebop style future, where it is humans dealing with problems that humans deal with, as opposed to aliens like on Star Trek and the like. There are exceptions to this, of course, like Star Wars, Alien, and even Predator. I guess, the thing that I just don't see really happening is us humans greating a galatic UN with all other alien races and most of the Universe living happily ever after. This type of Science Fiction is what I think we may be moving past, which may give us a clue as to why there are no more Star Trek series on TV. Humans can't even get along with each other, what makes us think that we would get along with some being from outer space?
  #2  
Old 01-07-2007, 02:37 AM
King of Snake
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Re: Can Science Fiction become dated?
It all depends on the type of sci-fi you're talking about. Stories that may rely heavily on predictions of future technology or (indirect) references to world affairs of the period the story was written in may become easily dated. My favourite sci-fi stories, Isaac Asimov's Foundation series and Frank Herbert's Dune series, are almost timeless because they primarily deal with human values and concepts that aren't linked to any particular period while keeping the technology at a minimum (this holds especially true for Dune)
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  #3  
Old 01-07-2007, 07:06 AM
sanakan
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Re: Can Science Fiction become dated?
Quote:
Originally Posted by myrrh
It seems that the Science Fiction genre really was formed 30 years ago, and could we be moving away from the ideas of then?
science fiction was not formed 30 years ago! Most people credit H.G. Wells with writing the "first" science fiction - "the time machine" (which obviously deals with time travel) was published in 1895.
But one may also see Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" (pub. 1833) as the first science fiction, as it deals with another aspect of science fiction: a "mad scientist" inventing stuff unknown to that time period beforehand.


Quote:
Originally Posted by myrrh
This also leads to thinking that if someone were to write a Science Fiction novel today, would it have a different feeling than the ones written in the 60's and 70's.
science fiction often exaggerates the current state not only of science, but also of social circumstances. Therefore it's only natural for current science fiction writing to reflect the current problems of the world (e.g. world climate & natural catastrophies) and project them into the future.
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  #4  
Old 01-07-2007, 11:39 AM
adam
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Re: Can Science Fiction become dated?
I think it's more a stylistic issue than a thematic issue, myrrh. I mean, I think what you're saying is broadly applicable to any genre; take comedy movies, for instance. You could find some comedy movies from the 70s that seem really dated today and really mired in specific 70s sensibilities, and you could find some that (almost) could have come out yesterday. I don't think it has much to do with the theme...I think a good story could be written about an inter-species federation, but that most of them we've been exposed to are simplistic and/or campy (Star Trek). Science fiction that hasn't dated itself: Dune, as mentioned, Carl Sagan's Contact (fantastic book), William Gibson's Neuromancer (just finished it, was impressed with how current it seemed considering it's 20 years old).

It also, obviously, really depends on their approach to technology. I mean, one thing that makes Star Trek seem dated is that their computers look like light bright sets, and why the hell does Spock have to peer into that little window like that?
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  #5  
Old 01-07-2007, 05:50 PM
froopy seal
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Re: Can Science Fiction become dated?
Quote:
Originally Posted by adam
William Gibson's Neuromancer (just finished it, was impressed with how current it seemed considering it's 20 years old).
Great book. I had to read 'Pattern Recognition' right afterwards. I'm planning on reading Sagan some time, after/inbetween Asimov.

Did you try Clarke? I admire his ability to describe impersonal surroundings as well as people and atmosphere; his (short) stories are so unbelievably visual to me. What's more, he's unsurpassed at predicting future developments. And there's again the timelessness, as in Gibson, Bradbury, Wells, Huxley, Orwell, ...

Back to topic: I agree that the question of datedness arises in other genres the same way. For example, I couldn't care less about social upheaval around 1900, however extensively, boringly depicted it might be. But then, I've always hated history classes.

A difference in science fiction, however, is that often enough a specific year is chosen for the plot to take place. That way, it's easy to laugh at manually altering newspaper articles and handing them back in by tube in 1984, or at funny, clumsy, ridiculously large machines computing obscure formulae and spitting out tons of indecipherable paper.

I'm 100% with King of Snake in that I like science fiction for its somewhat distanced (more objective?) reflection on today's life. Plus, robots are so wikkitly cool.

P. S.: Do too many of my sentences start with 'I' (above, a ration of 1/2)?
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Old 01-07-2007, 08:49 PM
GreenPea
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Re: Can Science Fiction become dated?
Sci-fi can become dated more than any other genre (although good literature will be still relevant, even if some if its elements become dated).

If you read most 30s to 50s sci-fi it can be riddiculously dated because authors fall into the trap of taking something that they are familiar with (for example a phone, and they give it a fancy name and a tv screen) and make it futuristic while they fail to visualize something that would be really futuristic technology wise (for example a mobile phone). I find that most sci-fi that halds up is the one that is not futuristic but that instead explores scientific/philosophical topics instead of trying to visualize a 'high-tech' society as most of them do. For example H.G. Wells, Dune, or the topics that Asimov explored (although not necessarily his settings) still remain relevant but most literature from 50 years ago is just funny to read today.
  #7  
Old 01-07-2007, 08:53 PM
GreenPea
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Re: Can Science Fiction become dated?
Quote:
Originally Posted by myrrh
While this is no doubt a great book, at times I feel like I can tell it was written in 1970 and seems like a 70's movie is playing in my head. Like, not so much with the words on the page, or the actual 'science', but more like the mindset of the writting seems very 70's to me.
Yep, I totally agree. I think all 'futuristic' science fiction falls into that trap. I am starting to really dislike that type of sci-fi.
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Old 01-09-2007, 09:03 PM
den
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Re: Can Science Fiction become dated?
One of the dated aspects of science of fiction that would always stick out to me was the planet Venus. It was either a Heinlein or Asimov book I was reading where they wrote about the jungles underneath the clouds of Venus. It's best to overlook those misconceptions when reading any story, but it still dated itself.
  #9  
Old 01-10-2007, 02:29 AM
sanakan
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Re: Can Science Fiction become dated?
i don't think this really is "dated". sure, the location "venus" was checked out in the meantime (i guess), but today we have the same argument about other planets, for instance Io (mkay, i know it's not a planet).

so while the location changed, the key point "live on other planets in our vicinity" is still going strong.
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  #10  
Old 01-10-2007, 06:08 AM
GreenPea
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Re: Can Science Fiction become dated?
Quote:
Originally Posted by den
One of the dated aspects of science of fiction that would always stick out to me was the planet Venus. It was either a Heinlein or Asimov book I was reading where they wrote about the jungles underneath the clouds of Venus. It's best to overlook those misconceptions when reading any story, but it still dated itself.
Yeah all the writers at the time talked about Venus a lot.
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