Monday, August 29, 2011
Revolutions in SF, Fantasy and the Real World
The panelists were Bradford Lyau, Nick Mamatas and Walter Jon Williams.
This panel looked at revolution in the broad sense; it could be technological, political or social. Walter has written about all of these. His book Deep State features alternate reality gaming. Coding techniques are used to create revolution in a Middle Eastern country. It was quite prescient: the author sensed one country in that area would undergo revolution but didn’t know which one. If enough of the population is mobilised, then there could be virtual government. However, he didn’t think it would happen for another ten years and was surprised to see scenes from his own book actually happen. The revolution that he envisaged in his book is more like what is happening in Syria. He said that the Mexican drug cartels are on the verge of making the Mexican government irrelevant in some areas.
Some revolutions in sci-fi are conservative. In Erestoi Walter depicted an autocratic revolution and tried to set up society in which makes sense.
Nick’s book Under My Roof is about revolution and counterrevolution. It is based on his own experiences in 1990’s Greece where revolutionary groups come together and then fall apart after being manipulated from outside.
Bradford Lyau (author of The Anticipation: Novelists of 1950s French Science Fiction) said sci fi deals with scientific and technological revolutions which other sources don’t. He described the 1950’s revolution in France where they modernised their technology to defend themselves and (in their science fiction of this time) save the world from an alien invasion.
In Nick’s novella Northern Gothic the Irish Americans were not against draft and then rebelled against the Black Americans. The revolution changed to very reactionary within 24 hours. IT was a positive revolution one moment, then a negative one.
The recent communications technology revolution is creating a world with no secrets. The promise of fusion technology is another world-shifter. Scientific paradigm shifts are hard to dramatise.
The people of the US are used to positive endings in revolution but this is not necessarily the case elsewhere.
And after the revolution?
There are some post revolution novels; Walter wrote one – City on Fire. A good example of coping with ruling after the revolution is George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Other recommended speculative fiction works featuring revolutions: Iron Council and Kraken by Mieville, Man in a High Castle by Philip K Dick and It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis.
Revolution is a singularity; we don’t know what happens after.