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The Conventions of Science Fiction

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Jax Seib

on 28 April 2014

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Transcript of The Conventions of Science Fiction

Conventions of Science Fiction
Jax Seib
Science Fiction
"All You Zombies--"

Passengers

One

Robert A. Heinlein
Robert Silverberg
George Alec Effinger
Science Fiction can be broken down into
two sub-genres;
HARD SCIENCE
This sect of science fiction is
devoted to creating the most
accurate depictions of the
future possible through the
use of mathematics and real world physics.
Science Fantasy
Fantastical machines function with little to no explanation as to how, and often with the use of some unknown new element or-- in some case-- magic.
Invents its own logic.
Modern logic and understanding
Plot
A twisted tale of time-travel; a mysterious bureau of temporal affairs sends of one their best agents to investigate and perhaps hire a man known as the Unmarried Mother, who tells the tale of how he used to be a woman prior to an involuntary sex change. As the story progresses, it is revealed that-- due to time travel-- all of the main characters are in fact the same person; the mother, the father, the baby, and the agent sent to retrieve them.
Quote 1
"I opened a case, the only thing in the room; it was a U. S. F. F. Coordinates Transformer Field Kit, series 1992, Mod. II - a beauty, no moving parts, weight twenty-three kilos fully charged, and shaped to pass as a suitcase. I had adjusted it precisely earlier that day; all I had to do was to shake out the metal net which limits the transformation field.

Which I did. '-- What's that?' he demanded.

'Time machine,' I said and tossed the net over us."
Conventions
Advanced Technologies -- this bit of text and shows that this story
can be considered "science-fantasy" as it provides no explanation as to how the device functions, or even what it's made of, beyond the world "metal".

When the main character is asked what exactly this device actually was, he simply responds with "time machine" as opposed to launching immediately into a long-winded, mathematical explanation that would both be dull and far too lengthy for a short story.

And, more likely than not, blatantly incorrect.
Quote 2
"My eye fell on 'The By-Laws of Time', over my bed:

Never Do Yesterday What Should Be Done Tomorrow.
If at Last You Do Succeed, Never Try Again.
A Stitch in Time Saves Nine Billion.
A Paradox May Be Paradoctored.
It Is Earlier When You Think.
Ancestors Are Just People.
Even Jove Nods."
Conventions
Alternate Code of Conduct -- this is a code that can only be applicable to the main character in the story-- it's absolutely impossible to practice by-laws such as "Never Do Yesterday What Should Be Done Tomorrow" or "A Paradox May Be Paradoctored". T

These basic rules apply only within this fictional universe, segregating it from our own. As such, this shows once again that this is a science fantasy story.
Plot
Set in the not-so-distant future, Earth is under attack from a mysterious, perhaps psychic force that randomly takes control of-- or "rides"human beings for an indefinite amount of time. Nobody ever remembers what they did when they had a "passenger". However, Charles finds he has some foggy recollections of the last few days and sets out to discover a way to fight back, and retain control over his own mind.
Quote 1
"'What do you recommend for a hangover?'
'Food medication?'
'Anything you like,' I say.
The computer mulls that one over for a while. Then it decides on both, and activates my kitchen. The spigot yields cold tomato juice. Eggs begin to fry. From the medicine slot comes a purplish liquid. The Central Computer is always so thoughtful."
Conventions
Advanced Technologies-- in this scene, Charles converses with a computer and, in return, receives a breakfast from his automated kitchen and some present unknown medicine.

While present technologies are certainly catching up with devices like iPhones and Siri, we certainly don't have automated kitchens controlled by this central network. Or, at the very least, not in every home.
Quote 2
'Was it very unpleasant for you?'
'What?'
'The Passenger.'
A whiplash of reaction crosses her face. 'How did you know I've had a Passenger?'
'I know.'
'We aren't supposed to talk about this.'
Conventions
Alternate Social Conventions -- in this world, the concept of being "ridden" is so common, talking about it has become a bit of a taboo.

In today's society, saying that you've been controlled by some mysterious alien force would either land you in an asylum or your mother's basement with a tinfoil hat.

Plot
Putting Drake's Equation to the test, two scientists volunteer to fly out into the vast, distant reaches of space in search of another form of intelligent life, somewhere in the galaxy.

Years turn to decades, and there is still no sign of intelligent life. One of the scientists passes away in a horrible accident, leaving just a single man wandering the stars alone, without a hope of ever finding anything.
Quote 1
"Now they were traveling through space toward the distant limits of the galaxy. Long, long ago the Earth's sun had disappeared from view."
Conventions
Space Travel -- the concept of traveling great distances through space is a rather common one in science fiction, and is a major theme of this story; the Gillettes have been traveling for years withing the same vessel and have still found nothing.
Quote 2
"The exobiology about which both Gillettes had thought and written and argued back home remained just what it had been then-- mere theory. After visiting hundreds and hundreds of stellar systems, upon thousands of potential life-sustaining planets, they had yet to see or detect any form of life, no matter how primitive."
Conventions
Exobilogy -- is there really life out there, beyond Planet Earth? The theme of alien life or intelligent, star-faring monsters is just as common as space flight is, and perhaps even a little cliché because of this.

Bug-eyed, tentacled monsters have become a staple in science fiction, and this story's blunt lack of alien life is almost disturbing to behold.
Best-Defines the Genre
I think that the story "--All You Zombies--" best defines the Science Fiction genre, as it follows a twisted, almost ludicrous path through time and space in order to weave a tale that is just barely plausible enough to make you wonder whether or not it's happening right now.

On top of this, it's among the greatest time travel stories that I've ever read.
Redefines the Genre
George Alec Effinger's "One" completely shatters the standard, cliché image of a galaxy teeming with life by creating an absolutely isolated space that the Gillettes find themselves sailing through.

It even defies Drake's Equation, which states that given how many stars and planets there are in the galaxy, some of them almost
have
to support life based upon probability alone.

The thought of being completely alone simultaneously excites and terrifies me.
Media Link: Stargate
One of my favourite Science Fiction television shows has to be Stargate. I grew up on this series. It uses actual, plausible mathematics and physics concepts to deliver a very interesting and overall exciting spot of television.
Media Link: Doctor Who
In almost complete contrast to Stargate, we have Doctor Who-- there is no proper physics or mathematics involved whatsoever. This is very clearly an example of Science Fantasy and is literally designed so as not to be taken seriously.
ISP Story
I have an idea for a story about paradoxes-- or rather, the significant lack thereof. Say you were to go back in time to kill your grandfather; if you managed it, how could you possibly be there to kill him in the first place? You couldn't be. That's how a paradox works. Either you didn't actually manage to kill the man or you murdered the wrong grandfather. Awkward.

I want to put that theory into practice; if, say, you were to go back in time to kill the man who was going to assassinate Abraham Lincoln, how would that work out? We all know that the former President was in fact murdered at a play and we all believe John Wilkes Booth was the murderer, given how he confessed to it soon afterwards. The question is; if you were to go back to stop it, would you wind up playing a role in it?

It's this concept I would like to toy around with.
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