Why I’m mad about it…

Posted on | December 23, 2009

I suppose I should make clear that what makes me most annoyed about Winterson’s The Stone Gods (see previous post) is that the Used Furniture problem is more pernicious than just a good writer “slumming” around inside the SF universe, borrowing from the warehouse, or failing to think clearly either the justifications for her setting or the consequences of it.

It’s that, for the past twenty years– longer, if we add in all the forward-looking material from Asimov through the early Cyberpunks (and even the proto-Biopunks like Rucker and Hansen)– there has been a serious, ongoing conversation within the SF writing and reading community about the consequences of our current setting.  We look at Real Dolls and bad phone voicejail trees, at insurance companies giving breaks to people who install GPS trackers on their cars, at the breaking point of Moore’s law and the attempts to keep going, and extrapolate out from there.  This conversation extends from Charlie Stross to Adam Warren (author of Hypervelocity, the most underappreciated posthuman novel of 2007, and inventor of the term “tachycognitive”), from Greg Egan to Masamune Shirow, and Elezier Yudkowski to, er, me.   We’ve been at this for most of our adult lives, thinking about what it means to share our cognosphere with thinking creatures of another substrate, and the moral and human consequences of creating those creatures out of whole silicon and steel.

Winterson apparently is unaware of that conversation.  She treats SF as if it were a Western In Space, a place where she can dodge the “real world” and write whatever she wants, without justification, explanation or extrapolation.  She didn’t do her research.  She didn’t reach out to anyone who reads SF and say, “What’s the state of the art in thinking about these topics?” or “Here’s where I’ve gone with my manuscript, what do you think?”  None of her pre-readers, if she had any, were SF fans.  Nobody pointed her at Accelerando, or Diaspora, or Ghost In The Shell, or even The Journal Entries.  Those are the state-of-the-art for the conversation about human/machine interaction.  Winterson was unaware, and chose to remain so.   I guess I expected better.


One Response to “Why I’m mad about it…”

  1. Fast Turtle
    December 26th, 2009 @ 1:06 pm

    Maybe her goal was to simply write a western in space. Just like Lucas did with Star Wars. Sure Sci-Fi was the backdrop for that but it simply was a damn remake of the classic western plot of “Who killed my Father/Help the Girl in Trouble” yet is wasn’t a bad movie. Same with much of the So Called Sci-Fi I’ve read.

    The main issue is “Was it a good story?” So she got some things wrong, it really doesn’t matter does it or did it strike you as so bad that you just had to pitch a tentacle about it and no I probably wont read it in my copious free time.

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