Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Alyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress argues that there's too much fantasy posing as science fiction on our screens

now this is something i've been wont to mutter darkly on our sofa as the missus ogles Galactica and its other prequel Caprica

and also re. Lost

the endlessly unfurling and ever-twisting narratives, with their make-it-up-as-they-go-along deus ex machina-s and out-of-the-blue occurrences (not developments but game-changers, terrain-shifting, Laws-of-Reality up-enders)

the wearying profusion of characters and sub-plots

it is a digimodernist (as per alan kirky) trait of onwardness and endlessness... saga-and-legend like stories that just keep on extending themselves... videogames-like layer upon layer of complexity

I think what Rosenberg misses though is that SyFy the channel probably knows its market -- for there appears to be no appetite among the public, particularly the young public, for speculative fiction -- for s.f. based on extrapolating from current circumstances and projecting into the near-future

(that is why the channel changed its name from the Sci-Fi channel to SyFy, to obscure its relation to a genre that's now been outmoded -- certainly according to William Gibson who says the capital F future is a dying concept)

instead of that s.f. as speculative fiction mode, which is fundamentally modern and satirical, the mode for nu-fantasy is Medieval and allegorical

when she says, "the future is going to be more futuristic than we imagined, and it’s getting here awfully fast" -- really?

nobody believes, i don't think (at least not like we believed in the 70s, with real confidence in its inevitability, its round-the-corner-ness) that there’ll be e.g. commercial space tourism any time soon, and if there is, it'll be for a tiny superwealthy few

no, the images of the future that do seem to resonate in the market, they're all apocalyptic, post-catastrophic, or dystopian

as per The Hunger Games

which i thought was really good, despite a few niggling implausibilities

a sort of blend of satire and allegory: old skool s.f. with all the action and heroics of the new sword 'n' sorcery

it reminded me a bit, in its caricature-of-now premise - intensified extremes of class and wealth division, a return to Medievalism and "bread and circuses" - of this lost classic of speculative fiction: Gladiator-At-Law by Frederick Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth

Pohl and Kornbluth were both members of the Marxist-leaning s.f. groupuscule The Futurians

hence the anti-capitalist The Space Merchants, a satire-by-speculative-projection of advertising in the just-before-Mad Men era, i.e. the 1950s

The Space Merchants led me to Vance Packard's The Hidden Persuaders, one of several alarmist non-fiction books he wrote about advertising (subliminal ads at the movies, hypnotic cereal packets)

(when i was on this post-Space Merchants kick, i even read a book by David Ogilvy, Madison Avenue avant-gardist and i believe one of the inspirations for Mad Men. The Hertfordshire Inter-Library Loan System was truly as thing of wonder, back in the 70s any road)

the satiric mode is a modern mode because it is, if not outright utopian, at least optimistic -- it believes the ills of the world can be mocked out of existence... it has a conception of "ought", an inkling of faith if not in perfectibility than at least in improvement

all this neo-Medieval guff on our screens, it's all "is" and no "ought"... human nature is unchanging... class is destiny, indeed these are caste societies, not class societies... people know their place

No comments:

Post a Comment