[LMB] Details in Science Fiction

Andras Farkas deepbluemistake at gmail.com
Mon Nov 23 19:24:11 GMT 2020

On Sun, Nov 22, 2020 at 1:49 PM Howard Brazee <howard at brazee.net> wrote:
> I’m reading two Science Fiction novels right now that illustrated an issue with having details in science fiction.
> One is the 1962 novel (that I read when it was new), “The Defiant Agents”.    The alien artifact that the American found and want to keep away from the reds used tapes.   (with recordings of some sort).
THAT is definitely amusing and and an extreme example, having an alien
artifact use tape... but also retro.

> The other is the 2020 Hugo winner (which I am enjoying), “A Memory Called Empire”, that has an old, interstellar empire —with tea bags and a shower with the soaps and stuff that I see in contemporary America.
> Detail like that works in contemporary fiction.   And it works when it doesn’t mess up in historical fiction.    But needs to be disguised in futuristic science fiction.

Honestly, I love these sorts of details, and find they add to the
charm of old sci-fi.  I read sci-fi in context: I take a peek at who
wrote it in what year... and then I enjoy the story.  The quirks are
often cute and amusing to me, and I just accept them for what they
Most sci-fi isn't meant to be a prediction of the future, only some of it is. ;)
An example in Lois's works that made me smile when I first encountered
it was the usage of light pens for computer input.

I think the visuals for certain aesthetics in retrowave, synthwave,
and vaporwave in music have occasionally done this on purpose: their
visual aesthetics, in art or music videos, sometimes imitate sci-fi
from earlier eras. (like imitating Blade Runner's aesthetic, or
imitating eras of sci-fi where aliens are just humans with a different
skin color)
In sci-fi written works, sometimes you see people write new stories in
the style of the old ones where people had astronauts on Mars or Venus
without spacesuits and met hidden civilisations there.
So to me, retro details are just delightful, and I'm fine with stories
of varying amounts of them, more or less. :B

In the backstory to one character I use in roleplay online, I model
his world of origin partially on those old sci-fi depictions that were
just Today (mid-1900s) But With Flying Cars, but as Today (early
2000s) But With Floating Smartwatches.

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