Friday, May 11, 2012

Social Science Fiction

This week I read I-Robot by Asimov, followed by Six Moon Dance by Sheri S. Tepper. What a relief it is for me to spend time with these writers. I want to say to these writers "Yes! Yes! You are right." I love my chosen genre, social science fiction. I love how it wraps intriguing stories around discussions regarding society and human nature. I feel a kinship to Asimov and to Tepper.
I've spent the last six years of my life working a job where I must follow and enforce the rules of society, yet I'm the sort of person who thinks about these rules, the reasons for them, and the effect they have on individuals. I've often felt alone in my perspective and inadequate in my work. So then I read Asimov and Tepper and I find that someone else thinks and cares about the same things.
I-Robot isn't really a novel but a series of charming vignettes exploring a theme, the three laws of robotics. Asimov postulated a robotic brain which couldn't violate these laws.

1.      A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2.   A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3.      A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

By the end of the book, the exploration moves on to society and ethics, and the book gets interesting on a deeper level. The robotic brain with its built in ethics becomes the government taking control of the economy and manipulating it for the greatest good. Along the way Asimov shows characters discussing the history of human conflict.  One thing I love about science fiction is that the stories let the characters talk about such philosophy without much comment by the author.
Then I moved on to Sheri S. Tepper's writing. Oh boy! She goes into similar discussions but in much greater depth than Asimov in I-Robot. Asimov's writing may be a classic, but Tepper's writing has much more depth, often on similar issues.  Asimov wrote of "decency," doing no harm to a person. Tepper wrote of "civility," freedom of expression as long as that expression doesn't impinge on anyone else's freedom. I find it interesting that they both used a form of artificial intelligence in government to achieve their ideals.
Six Moon Dance is a great story too with mystery, romance, adventure, and philosophy all rolled into one. Oh yes it's a romance. The hero is a biota with multiple parts and no gender. The heroine is a construct made of artificial intelligence and three human brains. The individuality and gender of characters keeps getting swapped around, so the biota could be seen as the heroine.

I love this stuff. It's just so weird.
 --- Eve Marlinspike 


Jae Awkins said...

Though science fiction is not my favorite genre, I certainly respect those who write it (& read it ) with a passion. It's been my experience that these people are deep thinkers, usually extremely intelligent & have a very unique perspective on life.
Diversification is what 'makes the world go 'round' & I, for one, appreciate the broader spectrum others bring to my life.

Just because we 'march to a different drummer ' (and many writers of all genre feel this way sometimes, I think) doesn't mean we're out of just means we're really giving thought to a topic, exploring all the possibilities.
Bravo, I say! That's what keeps life interesting. ;o)

DeNise said...

Interesting post, thanks for turning me on to Tepper--I 'll have to check her out

Tam Linsey said...

I love the way Science Fiction explores the modern human condition, too. I'll have to check out Tepper.

LizbethSelvig said...

I grew up on sci fi. My dad read it to us all the time--mostly the classics: Asimov, LeGuin, Bradbury, Heinlein. I love the "what if" aspects of the genre too. Especially the "what happens if we don't stop ..." fill in the blank. I think it's why I love contemporary or futuristic fiction that is based on current reality -- I love seeing how authors imagine humans (in straight sci fi or even in romance) deal with or will deal with real problems. Fun review and recommendations, Lizzie!