Shineanthology’s Weblog

An anthology of optimistic, near future SF

The Grapevine, part 5

Early on it seemed a slow week (longer than a week, actually, partly due to sickness on my part) on the grapevine, but of late things are picking up somewhat:

There are — so far — two more interviews upcoming, although only one will be online. Also, I have it from good sources that there will be an article on SHINE in an upcoming issue of the BSFA‘s Matrix Online (which has been a bit quiet of late: I certainly hope this changes).

7 Comments»

  colleenanderson wrote @

Hi Jetse,

I’m curious about the photos here for Shine. Where are they from as they’re spectacular? Are you responsible for shooting any of them?

  Madeline Ashby wrote @

Would this story qualify as “optimistic”?

I ask because WorldChanging Canada promotes what they call a “bright green” agenda, which is to say an optimistic one, but I’m not sure that what I wrote is all that, well, shiny, for lack of a better term. I think that on some level, optimism is in the heart of the beholder. Sometimes tiny things can precipitate optimism (which I’m coming to think of not as a state of mind, but simply a breadth of mind), so I suppose I’m wondering if we can include small acts of human kindness alongside those more epic elements as mentioned in Crazy Story Ideas. Or does that make things too mundane and familiar? One of the things I noticed in the above links (Sellar and SFG) is this sort of blanket assumption that we all know what optimism means, and I’m just not sure that’s true.

  shineanthology wrote @

Colleen–

Assiduous use of keywords in Google Images, and then check if they’re in the public domain. The top lighthouse, for example, is from APOD (Astronomy Picture of the Day). I used a picture of the Sombrero Galaxy on my old Interzone business card.

I’m not much of a photographer myself, but I do have a few good friends (and fellow eclipse enthusiasts) who are. Check out their pictures of the August 1, 2008 total solar eclipse in Novosibirsk here.

  shineanthology wrote @

Madeline-

I downloaded your story (all five parts) into my PDA, will read it, and hope to get back to you tomorrow.

One quick thing: small acts of human kindness are most certainly part of optimistic SF: I’m looking for a broad range, a great diversity of optimism in SF. I’m working on more ‘crazy story ideas’ posts, and these are meant to inspire, not to proscribe (other things than the idea described). It’s just that I think the more, well, epic, intricate and encompassing elements are much harder to do, so I try to encourage people to think about those.

I might be wrong, though.

Anyway, I’ll get back on your story (hopefully) tomorrow.

  Madeline wrote @

I think you’re right to encourage thinking about them now; we have loads of time so the final project should, in turn, be well-considered and more nuanced than something slapped together the night before. (Can you tell I’m at work on my thesis, right now?)

I’m in a conversation with a former roommate right now about sf and the size of projects, and how much human detail can be included — she finds it difficult to enjoy short stories at all simply because there just isn’t room to include all the nitty gritty of personal relationships and history and context. (And I think other online readers are basically the same; as far as I can tell, the stuff that readers at Tor.com and elsewhere like is the longer stuff, possibly because it allows for greater character development.) Which is where those human scale problems come in, I think.

I hope you enjoy the story! I’ll be honest: I don’t think it’s my best, but I don’t think it’s my worst, either. So there you have it.

  gillian wrote @

Sorry to hear that you have been sick. Take care and best wishes for Christmas!

  shineanthology wrote @

Madeline–

Sorry to get back on your story so late (Christmas commitments, a minor illness and my promise to myself that I would rewrite a certain story before year’s end, which I barely made).

FWIW: a nice story with some interesting near future elements — even if I don’t fully believe all of them(1) — that doesn’t quite go far enough for my taste. I do think it’s quite optimistic and positive, and also sufficiently paradoxical: that is, it shows that on the one hand increasingly ‘smart’ software may help people — with choosing clothes and articles according to their ethical and esthetical preferences, and with interacting socially — while on the other hand people should not become too dependent on it.

My main problem with the story — and this is purely personal, as other people, and editors, may totally disagree — is that the innovation of this story is mostly in the details, but not quite enough in the greater narrative.

For example, Violet et al. basically use their gadgets to do the things teenagers have been doing for the past fifty years or so: buy clothes, keep in touch with each other, go to proms (or not).

Yes: Violet uses a 3D printer for her prom dress: but fifty years ago there have been plenty of girls who sewed their own. It would have been more interesting of this same prom dress would have been made of the recyclable plastic mentioned here: then it would truly have been a one-time-only dress. Similarly, the confidante role shifted from sister or best friend to a software app. Even if these software apps communicate with each other (and obviously with the ‘savant’ Jon) and arrange for an alternative prom, and — after realising Violet is becoming too reliant on it — trying to make her more independent in a final, quick move. That’s a lesson another human being could have taught her, as well.

These are all gradual differences, hardly essential ones.

More radical ones would have been if Jon — seemingly handicapped — would have dropped out of the normal education system, and then come back, scoring top grades to show that he could get educated through his net connection (and software friend) just as well (or even better) than the old system. Or have set up that alternative education (or made it available to others).

Also, the software apps becoming ‘real’ (I assume either sentient or self-aware) and then going off on their own: that was predictable, as it’s becoming a staple of modern SF. Not just software apps going from “applied AI” to “strong AI”, but everything, from smart washing machines to spam filters, becoming self-aware. This trope needs a new approach, a fresh angle.

I most certainly have an idea of how to put an original twist on the ‘software-becoming-self-conscious’ theme, but I am working on that approach with two writers for a sollicited submission for SHINE already, and I don’t want two exact takes on the same theme. So I’m keeping it to myself for the moment.

In short: a nice story that lacks a bit in ambition and in the greater overview that might have led to a truly fresh insight.

(1) Smart tags will work all right, but I’m not sure if I would trust the info on them. I strongly suspect that sweatshop manufacturers would *hide* the fact that these cheap clothes were made in certain circumstances. For example, my brother tries very hard to buy slave-free chocolate, but the best product available in Holland —
Tony Chocolonely — admit that even they can *not* guarantee that their cacao is 100% slave labour free: it’s just to difficult to keep an eye on.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s