Aug 26 2008 10:35am

New SF Ideas from Rudy Rucker

Rudy Rucker, always one of the most original minds in SF, author of Software, Postsingular, and the astonishing The Lifebox, the Seashell and the Soul, responds to my Singularity post not with a grump that I don’t believe in the Singularity but with a set of new and fascinating science fiction ideas people could be writing about.

I don’t think I’ve seen anything cooler since Robert Heinlein wrote to Theodore Sturgeon enclosing $20 and two story ideas.

eric orchard
1. orchard
That post made my head spin, in the most pleasant way. The concept of magic doors is toe curlingly wonderful.
Jeffrey Richard
2. neutronjockey
See, now that's someone who sees beauty in sci-fi.
Tara Chang
3. tlchang
Wow... A good reminder when we tend to get stuck - there truly are limitless possibilities...
Ben H
4. dripgrind
There are plenty of still-viable SF themes beyond classic "spaceships and aliens" space opera or post-Singularity tales.

It's wrong to say that the ideas in that list are "new and fascinating" - which is Jo Walton's claim, by the way, Rudy Rucker just claims they are "underused". Fascinating is a matter of taste, but they're definitely not new - most of them have been explored in the past.

Magic doors to other worlds? That's been a staple since Zelazny's Amber. A few examples of the top of my head: Job by Heinlein. S.M. Stirling's Island in the Sea of Time. And of course the Merchant Princes series by the arch-Singularitarian Stross.

Dreams and Memories - I think there was an Ian Watson story where the unconscious minds of dreamers spilled out into reality and caused everything to run on dream logic.

The Afterworld - come on, you haven't heard of the Riverworld books?

The Holographic Universe - "is a comic strip? Let's go meet the artist!" see Animal Man, The Invisibles and The Filth by Grant Morrison.

Infinite Flat Earth - as commenters point out on Rudy's blog, "Missile Gap" by Stross is similar to this idea, and of course the Ringworld is a similar setting full of gnarly creatures.

I can't think of an example of a story about Quantum Computational Viruses or creatures from sub-Planck dimensions, though.

Of course, it doesn't matter that a theme has been used before, because a truly inventive writer can put a different spin on it and make it fresh again. For example, Peter Watts' excellent Blindsight could be described as a "first contact" novel in a near-Singularity society.

Part of what makes an old theme fresh again is rethinking it in light of current technological trends. A Fire Upon The Deep, the Culture novels and Singularity Sky are both trad "spaceships and aliens" space opera, but in addition they address the impact of superhuman AI and, in S Sky, the fact that FTL = time travel. That makes for richer and more plausible universes than the 70s space operas full of fusion drives and hyperspace but with the computing and communications technology stuck in the 70s.
Jon Meltzer
5. Jon Meltzer
"Creatures from sub-Planck dimensions".

Uh, yeah. Didn't Ray Cummings do that ninety years ago? And Marvel and DC comics from at least the sixties on ...
Avram Grumer
6. avram
Damn; thinking about the flat infinite world just gave me a (different!) idea for a weird fantasy cosmology.
Pablo Defendini
7. pablodefendini
@ dripgrind #4
I can't think of an example of a story about Quantum Computational Viruses or creatures from sub-Planck dimensions, though.

I'm a little past the halfway point in Neal Stephenson's new novel, Anathem, and I think he might be heading down a similar road. Maybe not, but I'll know soon enough, I suppose.

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