Issue 3, 20th February 1996: Fact, Ficton Or Fantasy
[Computing, Law, Science and Technology, SciFi, Sport, The Unexplained, UP]
After two months, both On-line SF and the Sci-fi Channel endure. The commercials for the latter are, if possible, worse than the programming. Fresh air and even--gasp--exercise are starting to look better and better all the time. I'd say the Sci-fi channel has achieved new lows. Their promotions have all the subtlety of a sledge hammer. Going for gross-out rather than reason. Proving yet again the industry's complete inability to read its audience.
Perhaps someone should remind both the Sci-Fi Channel and book publishers that according to readership studies conducted by Lotus and SF Chronicle, your average SF fan is 40 years of age and has a college-level degree or above. He (or she) is not the fifteen-year-old misanthrope envisioned by editorial staff. (Although going to an SF convention with its attendants sporting Spock ears, Federation uniforms and ``holographic'' Hs, one might ponder this statistic; I prefer to believe that even Phds need to let their hair--or in this case, ears--down too.)
Even assuming the age has dropped due to the sudden resurgence of the sciences, have publishers forgotten that the present-day teenager is more technologically literate than their adult counterparts with an equivalent education? Without doubt, the average teenager has more technical savvy than . . . say . . . your average editor.
Still, publishers persist in producing books under the label of SF with little or no science fact to it. Consider the following published in 1990; the main characters plummet from place far beyond the atmospheric sheath to the planet's surface without, miraculously enough, sustaining a single injury. Later they traipse around the planet without any form of life support. The name of the planet? Venus, which the author was willing to concede was uninhabitable; therefore not worth terra-forming. Hence, it remained unaltered. Yet, our heroes are able to breathe the methane atmosphere without benefit of breathing apparatus. Will wonders never cease?
The monster with a zipper up its back has merit for its comedic value only, and if it achieves cult status, it does so for reasons of nostalgia. (Didn't we all cut our proverbial SF teeth upon such delights as Godzilla and Mothra?)
To exist, science fiction must be an extrapolation of the science of the period. While few of us looking into our crystal balls can predict with any degree of accuracy all the twists and turns that science may take, SF should reflect current knowledge. In other words, it must be feasible. The previous example illustrates an author too lazy or too stupid to do a little basic research, and an editor too apathetic to care. This may be forgivable when the information isn't available--as in some of the old SF classics. Even then, though, the author worked within the technological boundaries of the times.
Like its darker-genre-counterpart horror, SF relies on realism
to support the necessary suspension of disbelief required for a
right-riveting-read. Anything less and it's fantasy, not SF.
Mar. 15-17. LUNACON '96. Rye Town Hilton, Rye Brook NY, U.S.A. GoH: Terry Pratchett, Esther Friesner. Visual Humour GoH: Phil Foglio. Fan GoH: Bruce Pelz. Origami GoH: Mark Kennedy. Registration: $33 to 15 February '96, higher at the door. Contact: Lunacon 96, Box 3566, New York NY 10008, U.S.A. Email: Lunacon@lunacon.org.
Mar. 17-19. LONDON INTERNATIONAL BOOKFAIR. Grand Hall, Olympia Exhibition Centre, London, U.K. Trade fair for booksellers and publishers; not open to the public. Contact: London International Bookfair, Oriel House, 26 The Quadrant, Richmond Surrey TW9 1DL, U.K.
Mar. 22-24. 8th SF DAYS NRW. Duesseldorf, Germany. Theme: Religion. Contact: Heinrich Sporck, Am Sonnenberg 38, D-44879 Bochum 5, FRG. Tel: 49-234-461390
May 24-27. WISCON 20, Feminist Science Fiction Convention. Concourse Hotel, Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.A.
April 5-8. EVOLUTION, British National SF Convention. Heathrow (London), UK. GoH: Vernor Vinge, Colin Greenland, Jack Cohen, Brian Talbot, Paul Kincaid, Maureen Kincaid Speller. Registration: £ 20. Contact: Evolution, 13 Linfield Gardens, Hampstead, London, NW3 6PX, UK. Email: email@example.com.
April 12-14. I-CON XV. Long Island, NY, USA. GoH: George Alec Effinger, Doug Beekman, Tom Smith. Adult, at the door: US$28. Email: Blaine S Atkins.
June 20-23. Dragon*Con 1996. Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
July 26-28. SAARCON, SFCD annual convention. Germany. Themes: Eastern European SF, history of German fandom. Contact: Thomas Recktenwald, Huettenwerkstr. 40, D-66763 Dillingen, FRG. Tel: 06831-704555)
Queen's Birthday Weekend. CONSTELLATION. The Christchurch City Travelodge, New Zealand. Contact: Constellation, P.O. Box 29-119, Fendalton, Christchurch NZ.
June 26-29. Dragon*Con 1997. Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
Explore the SF scene in Europe with the European Science Fiction Society.
Cross the Channel for the French online fanzine Quarante-Deux.
Check out the new SF news and reviews magazine SFX.
Read the on line SF mag, QUANTA.
Browse your way through European SF Bookstores.
Go square-eyed watching the Sci-Fi Channel Europe.
Try the new online SF-zine Science Fiction Weekly for a mixture of book reviews, movie, games and media news updated weekly.
Find all those theme tunes you keep humming to yourself.
Back Issues: 1995 December 2 (Crush, Ben Jeapes), November 1 (Bad Timing, Molly Brown).
SPECIAL SECTION: LINKS FOR TREKKIES
Visit London Science Museum's Star Trek Exhibition.
Visit the Star Trek Voyager homepage.
Klingon: the language of the future. Visit the home page of the Klingon Language Institute.
Let Quark the Ferengi guide you through his Star Trek Universe.