Steve’s Shiny Pod

Following the lead of Martin over at aardvark, I will do a little pushing for a cause I believe in. And not one of those whining save-the-world causes, for a change. This one is to promote ideas and a sense of wonder and a love for fiction and imagination, and to help make a brighter and more wonderful future for humanity.

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Escape Pod is the best thing ever. EVER, I tell you. Mr. Steve Eley has, for the last 3 years, presented a science fiction story for our listening entertainment every week. These stories are often “classics” plucked from magazines and books, or else new fiction from excellent authors.

Now if you are the kind of person who turns their nose up at the words “science fiction”, and considers speculative fiction to be less “worthy” than the mountain of other made-up stuff in the world, then you can fuck off right now. Go on now, get lost.

melies.jpgLikewise, if you are a raving sci-fi fan who has a federation uniform hanging in the closet, thinks that Yoda is a philosopher and admires the tight plotting in Independence Day, then you can fuck off too. Because you have also missed the point.

Science fiction is as full and worthy a form of literature as any other. And, in fact, when any work of science fiction begins to be accepted as “worthy” it tends to be stolen and renamed as literature by snobs. “But that’s not really sci-fi,” they will mumble. “It doesn’t have aliens in it!”

Examples of this are “1984”, prize-winning books like “The Road”, and practically anything by Margret Atwood. It’s all very sad, but it happens all the time. Literary snobs are idiots.

True science fiction is all philosophy and wonder. It is an extrapolation of ourselves and our society into a new direction, and observing what this change will have on real people. It is not robots and rockets, although it CAN be about the effect that these robots and rockets will have on us as humans. Science fiction is simply looking at ourselves through some different filters.

Now Mr. Eley is out there reading, editing, and posting audio stories out of pure love for the field. I adore people like this, people who will pour huge chunks of their time into projects with little hope of payment, and all out of love.

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To me, the absolute perfect morning (by myself, at least) is sleeping late, doing some writing, and enjoying a lunch-time breakfast in my underwear while listening to the latest Escape Pod, or to one of the 147 stories in the archive. Pure bliss.

So it’s time to get to work. Get your arse over to Escape Pod right now. Listen to some of the stories (although not all of them appeal to everybody, not even to me). And then, if you like it, donate some cash. It all helps in the on-going fight against mediocrity and against the idiot media who hurl their stinking feces at us day in and day out in the hope that some of it will stick. And sure, there’s a lot of bad science-fiction out there, but show me an area of human activity that isn’t 90% shit.

So please people, help to keep this marvelous ship afloat, because once we as a species run out of imagination then we are well and truly fucked.

/ paddy

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10 thoughts on “Steve’s Shiny Pod

  1. I am surprised. 1984 counts as Science Fiction? Where’s the ‘science’ part in it? The helicopters seemed to be the most advanced piece of technology they had.

  2. Andreas: Hello, but have you actually READ the bloody article at all? Where I say, for example, that science fiction is: “an extrapolation of ourselves and our society into a new direction, and observing what this change will have on real people”? It’s not about science or gadgets – its about changes in a society, based on current trends, extrapolated into the future. It’s mainly in on-screen science fiction where technology has a central role. And that stuff is mostly shit.

  3. And that’s simply where I disagree – no science, no science fiction. Fiction certainly, but having science fiction without science is like a slice of toast without the bread. It doesn’t need to have a central role, but a story in a more or less generic setting that could appear in a random town on the world that would not look out of place in this day and time is just not a science fiction story to me, no matter how philosophical or grave its implications, if it does not at least mention science or (for the setting or the reader) advanced technology…well, you get the picture.

  4. Andreas: A good point. Although we might also disagree about when sf becomes “speculative fiction” and where the borders are. But I could name quite a few “science fiction” books where the science is so bad that it may as well not be there at all.

  5. “True science fiction is all philosophy and wonder. It is an extrapolation of ourselves and our society into a new direction, and observing what this change will have on real people. It is not robots and rockets, although it CAN be about the effect that these robots and rockets will have on us as humans. Science fiction is simply looking at ourselves through some different filters.”

    The reason I’m not a science fiction fan is because I’m dense. I know that sci-fi is an extrapolation of what can happen in certain circumstances but I usually get confused about what the author is trying to say.

    That said, I *did* love Never Let Me Go by Ishiguro. That was some damn fine speculative fiction. I even figured out what I thought we was trying to say. It was about cloning. Or the way we treat animals. Something. It was good. It made me think.

    I tried to read Guin’s… Oh hell, now I can’t recall what book it was. I couldn’t get into it at all. Many moons later someone said, “It’s about gender identity.” And I went: OOHHH, why didn’t someone say the fuck so?!

    What I need is one line, “It’s about: [whatever].” And then I’ll read the book and totally get it. In many ways, science fiction is a more complicated form of literature than traditional fiction. But I have a hard enough time sussing what traditional fictionists are on about.

    There are a few sci-fi books on my TBR mountain. When I get to them I may ask you to give me a one sentence explainer to help me on my journey.

    And if you haven’t read Never Let Me Go–I highly recommend it.

  6. Alex Foster: Sure, just let me know. But why should a book be trying to “say” something? Can’t it just be an entertaining story with cool stuff in it?

  7. And that’s where I get lost. With science fiction, I just don’t ‘get it’ unless it has a larger purpose. I feel similarly about mainstream fiction, as well, though. Except in those cases, I get it, I just don’t care. I want to grab the author by the lapels and shout, “What is your fucking point?!” I suppose because I have a point when I write fiction, I expect others to, as well.

  8. Paddy – thanks for pointing me to this resource. I listened to “Friction” on the way home from work the other day and was much impressed. I think the “what is SF?” discussion is generally a waste of time. “Friction” is surely SF because it has alien beings on an alien world, but as a story it’s not about science but, I suppose, about the difference between knowledge and wisdom. At least that’s what _I_ got out of it.

    At the same time, I don’t feel any need to get puritanical about SF. Personally I quite like crappy, lightweight, made-for-TV-not-your-brain SF when I have time to watch it, which isn’t often.

  9. csrster: Yeah, I loved that one too. There are some great stories in the archives. Not all of them, mind you, but very many.

    And the whole SF discussion IS kind of grating and annoying. Every form of fiction has its “trashy” side and SF is no exception. And yes 90% of sf movies are shit, but then again 90% of everything is shit.

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