Monday, June 12, 2017

"People Can't Handle The Future": The Truth About Science Fiction




This is a reaction to a question in a cyberpunk writing group, which devolved/evolved into something of a rant on my part.  But ultimately, I think it does offer some insight into at least how some science fiction and fiction generally is written.  Here's the original question:
"I'd like to address the timing of technology and its impact in our fictional worlds. Specifically what I'm referring to is the sequence in which certain technologies are used in fictional worlds. For example, in Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy, interactive holograms (he likely uses a different term) aren't uncommon. I specifically remember the English boy Kumiko could summon with the device she carried with her. The boy was a hologram that she could interact with, not physically but verbally.
The point of this post is that unless there has already been breakthrough technological advances in artificial intelligence in the world, this type of technology would be impossible. Therefore, authors are forced to think through what other technologies have been invented and to what extent. Another example, if you include sophisticated nanotechnology in your writings, that opens up a monumental can of worms. Nanotechnology will change everything. So an author is forced to think through what his or her world would be like if nanotechnology has been around 15 years or 50 years. How would that reshape the world? It's mind-bending to conceive it.

I could go on and on and on about this, but I'm curious how much thinking and planning all of you put into your work when deciding how technologies are presented. I mean, if you have interactive holograms, you have sophisticated AI. If you have high-grade AI, what else might be present? Or, what wouldn't be present? How will that change things?"

Gibson himself had no idea how the technology he was describing actually worked. I think I remember him once saying that he imagined that computers, 'Had some sort of Star-Trek crystals inside, not these clunky, mechanical structures.' Also, in Neuromancer, 2062, Case is peddling, "3 megabytes of hot RAM", when a.) that much RAM was already worthless within a few years. b.) Nobody pays money for hot 'RAM' as RAM isn't for data storage of valuable info, but 'random access' during operation.

Gibson basically just walked into an arcade, saw kids totally engrossed in these video game things, trying to reach through a screen, and then imagined that there was a real space behind that screen. Voila, cyberspace.

If anything his genius was in his insights into human beings, and their relationships to each other, their artifacts, and their bodies. I honestly cannot think of a better writer, sci-fi or otherwise. Neuromancer was a masterwork, a biting satire and cautionary tale of Reagan/Thatcher-era economics in a world dominated by 'markets' where 'greed is good' and technology amplifies greed and criminality, with no thought of the human 'meat'.
But the truth is, most of his "science" is a lot of techno-hocus pocus that he found in a magazine or heard in a tech conference, and thought sounded cool, and evocative, so he threw it in some technopoetry.  But what sounds cool and evocative, and insightful and beautiful is not the same as what is technically correct, scientifically accurate, and the way the world really is, or the way the future really will be.  I say this being the most massive William Gibson fan.

And the truth is, if you really, really think things through, and try to draw the most realistic, or at least most technically accurate picture of the future... It will be kind of insanely off-the-wall and people will think you're crazy, or it will be totally boring. Like, who would have predicted in 1985, even 2005, that billions of people around the world would spend huge amounts of time chasing virtual fantasy animals on the street (Pokemon Go) or watching *other people* play video games, and make stupid jokes? That the guy with more views than the biggest Hollywood star, the President or the Pope, would be some Swedish Youtuber screaming and making fart jokes while gaming? No one would buy that book in 1985, in 2005, and probably not even now. But that is cyberspace. Not a bunch of James Bond / Oceans 13 console cowboys hacking the planet in trenchcoats with razorgirls, but people watching each other play video games and act like idiots.

The truth is, people can't handle the future. People don't actually want the future, because it is too weird, too boring, and it tells them something about themself that they don't want to hear. IMHO, District 9 was the best science fiction movie in decades. But it's been mostly forgotten, because it threw in people's faces an ugly reality that an alien contact would probably not be about peace or war, but about the way that we generally treat different races/countries. As objects to be exploited for profit, then abused and discarded when convenient. And D9 didn't have Dwayne Johnson or Scarlet Johanssen or something, and people just couldn't handle that.

Anyway, tangent aside, the point is: don't worry too much about the under-the-hood of your future tech, unless it will actually be interesting to your audience.

Monday, June 5, 2017

"We had to dump the residents into the landfill, which was unfortunate."

A short clip from the Neofeud Let's Play that's particularly dystopian, and relevant to our current political climate.  "We had to bulldoze the low-city and dump the residents into the landfill, which was unfortunate." In this episode of 'Let's Play: Neofeud', we visit the bejeweled "upper crust" of the Stratoplex, where the rich debate the best way to cut benefits for poor people. Trump Tower Circa 2027!



If you haven't already, Neofeud is available for $15 on Itch.io! If you can afford it and you want a 10-hour immersive cyberpunk adventure, go ahead and grab a copy! It will be a huge help with making this next Silver Spook Games project work financially as well. :)


So I've been working on this most recent background for about a week now, and it's taken an incredible amount of time. I think the only background that's ever taken me longer was The Neofeud Sky Palace.
Worth it, though, I think!

So in addition to that, I've been working on hashing out the new story for the successor to Neofeud with some of the folks over at Chaos Nova ( http://www.chaosnova.co.uk/?page=home ) which is a group of writers that primarily write in the sci-fi genre. The plan is to put out a prototype of this next game as a test to see how well we work together and what sort of output we can manage, I'm hoping by the end of June. If the prototype pans out, it's likely that we'll work together on a full game. If not, I may end up just working solo again, and there are other potential projects on the table, although those are still pretty preliminary.

Neofeud at this point is at around 350 votes on Steam (but we can always use more- so get out on Steam and vote up now! http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=894789880 ). I'm still hoping that it will squeeze by before the end of Greenlight but we'll see.

You can also vote for Neofeud on Good Old Games (GOG) here: https://www.gog.com/wishlist/games/neofeud?pp=51af0418179317caa1e2d452f67017b44d428d8d
In addition, I've been doing a bunch of promotional video clips and livestreaming every Saturday to help out those who contributed to Neofeud (including all of my generous Patrons). Here's one of the most recent ones I made for Neofeud voice actor Brandon Hovey:



The next video I'm hoping to make is for Deborah Dunaway, another one of Neofeud's biggest supporters, Patreon patrons, and a longtime friend from the William Gibson Board.
So that's what's going on over here. Thanks again to all my patrons @ssmigiel, @bittersweetdb, @Noirjyre, and @benjaminpenney for all of your help and support!