What is Science? At its most general it is the search for an answer to a question. Put a little more eloquently it is the quest to solve mysteries or make dreams come true. Many innovator's claim their dreams lead them in a certain direction for a device, equation, or theory. Many writers claim flashes of stories come to them in dreams. But whether it be a dream that leads to a story or my damn hover car they are all things that could be. This all leads me to a question, which recently came to me. If I could have any device from a Science Fiction novel or film what would it be? I than asked the same question to more than a dozen writer.
Robert Charles Wilson is the author of more than a dozen science fiction novels, including Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America and the Hugo Award winning Spin and the just released Vortex.
Dan Abnett is a novelist and award-winning comic book writer. He has written almost forty novels. His latest Horus Heresy book Prospero Burns was a New York Times bestseller, and topped the SF charts in the UK and the US. He lives and works in Maidstone, Kent. Dan’s blog and website can be found www.danabnett.com Follow him on Twitter @VincentAbnett.
Lou Anders, a four-time Hugo Award nominated editorial director of Pyr Books and the editor/co-editor of such anthologies as Masked, Live Without a Net, and Swords & Dark Magic, which was just got nominated for the Locus Award.
I wanted a Prime Radiant very badly at the age of ten. I fell in love with the idea that there was mathematical structure in human behaviour and that scientists could manipulate it -- if they only knew the right math. I even made some attempts to write down psychohistory mathematics based on what I could glean from Asimov's wonderful descriptions. At the time I somehow had the notion that all technology described in science fiction was ultimately feasible and the authors knew *exactly* how it would work -- they just weren't writing it all down...
Psychohistory had a lasting effect on me and probably contributed quite a bit to the fact that I eventually went on to study mathematics. Now that I've had some exposure to how difficult it actually is to capture the behaviour of complex systems like economies, societies and autonomous decision-making agents mathematically, I want Asimov's invention to be real more than ever. We need psychohistory very badly.
Hannu Rajaniemi is the author of The Quantum Thief and its forthcoming sequel The Fractal Prince. He can be found on twitter @Hannu.
Having reached the age of 50 and therefore seen close family and friends dying all around me and in consequence becoming much more aware of my own mortality too, I wish all the life extending medical technologies found in just about every SF book were real. The first thing to spring to mind is the creature that drops on the head of the protagonist in F Paul Wilson’s The Healer, but that is a creature and not a device. I’d like my own version of that, the little doctor from my short story Always With You, to be current technology. This is a mycelium that grows throughout the body and acts as a constant internal doctor, snipping cancers in the bud, repairing cell damage, quickly knitting together broken bones, sealing leaking blood vessels and generally turning a human being into something nigh indestructible.
Neal Asher is the author of numerous Science Fiction books including The Skinner and the just released The Departure, which is set apart from his other novels. He can be found at his blog or twitter @nealasher.
Now I really have no idea if this makes sense. This is why I can't be trusted with technology. Can I change my answer? I want a light saber. A blue one. That's much simpler.
Daniel H. Wilson is the author of seven books, including the instant best-seller Robopocalypse and How to Survice a Robot Uprising. He was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and earned a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Tulsa. After earning a Ph.D. in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, he moved to Portland, Oregon where he writes full time. He can be found on his site or twitter @danielwilsonpdx.
Paul McAuley’s latest novels are Cowboy Angels (Pyr) and Gardens of the Sun (Gollancz). He can be found musing on his blog.
I'd love to come up with a hyper-intellectual thesis on why I have selected it, but ultimately, it's rather simple. The film is a childhood classic, the first time I remember going to the cinema and being in awe at something that seemed only just around the corner in terms of technology (what, I was, like, 8 at the time). It's also one of those perfect sf-nal gadgets: the kind of thing you think, Now wouldn't that actually be really cool? And by my calculations, we should have them in four years...
Mark Charan Newton is author of Nights of Villjamur, City of Ruin, and The Book of Transformations. He can be found causing trouble on his blog and twitter feed.
I'm not attacking our current economic system, which over the last two centuries has done wonders on cutting hunger and a lack of access to the basic necessities of human life. You only have to study history to see that things were once much worse for your average human -- if the lack of good food and clean water and basic health care didn't kill you then you looked forward to a life of painful drudgery merely to keep a crappy roof over your head. So compared to the horrors of feudalism and the other systems which prevailed in years past, I'll take our current world.
But what is a true replicator could be created, ensuring that people could create everything they need or desire with little or no cost? How would society change? Would the true potential of humanity be unleashed, or would people simply become lazy because they no longer had to struggle for the basics of life? I'm not sure what would happen but the idea of replicator-like technology truly excites me and I'd love to see where it would take our world.
Jason Sanford has published a number of stories in the British magazine Interzone, twice winning the Interzone Readers' Poll and being a finalist for the Nebula Award. His fiction has also been published in Year's Best SF 14 , Analog, Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, Tales of the Unanticipated, The Mississippi Review, Diagram, Pindeldyboz, and other places. Jason's new short story collection Never Never Stories is now available as an ebook for the Kindle, Nook, and other digital reader platforms and will be released as a print edition later this summer More details on Never Never Stories is available at www.jasonsanford.com.
It's slightly startling to note that the instant translation part, at least, is pretty much with us now. A little refinement of the Google translate system we can pick up on our Android phones and we're there. Which won't stop humans misunderstanding each other for comic or warlike intent of course.
Marc Gascoigne is the Publishing Director and chief rentamouth of Angry Robot Books, new kids on the SF block, kicking fantasy ass, etc etc. angryrobotbooks.com, @angryrobotbooks
Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance and a bunch of other things under a variety of names. Her time-travel story, “Red Letter Day,” just won the AnLab Award, Analog’s Readers’ Award, for Best Short Story. Her most recent novels are City of Ruins which is sf written as Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Wickedly Charming, light fantasy romance, written as Kristine Grayson.
I’ve always been a bit of nomad, which is why I’ve been particularly frustrated with how unsavory, uncomfortable, infuriating, and intrusive getting onto an airplane is these days. It used to be a lot more fun. Now it’s a chore. Something to be endured.
It’s that love of travel and hatred for the actual physical process of it that that makes me such a fan of the idea of instantaneous travel – whether it’s between two points on our own earth or between totally different planets a galaxy apart.
It’s a fun concept, isn’t it? Imagine if there was a 1 in 10 chance your plane would disappear. It would make plane travel a lot more fun. And epic. And pilots and frequent fliers would be national heroes. Also, I bet they’d give you better snacks. Might be your last meal, after all.
What interests me more, though, is what instantaneous travel would do to us as a society. Imagine if you could just wake up in Bangkok, have lunch in London, have drinks in New Zealand, and tuck in for the night in your beach house in Maine? There are a lot of writers who play with this idea in shorter fiction – I think we really like abbreviated but not instant travel in longer works, as it’s easier to build conflict (Will you get there in time? Will the ship break down? Will they leave before you get there?). I am trying to dredge up some short fiction titles that do this – I know there are a bunch, but the ones that immediately come to mind for exploring some of the social intricacies of this are David Marusek’s short stories “Getting to Know You” and “We Were Out of Our Minds With Joy.”
I think there’s a very traditional SF audience out there who would still like us to focus mostly on how a technology works instead of how it changes people, but for me, the most interesting thought experiment is not how something was invented or how it works but how it transforms the way that we live, how we interact with each other. Ultimately, SF/F uncommon settings and new technologies to help and explore what really makes us human.
Our current anxieties around travel - and how we address (or don’t!) those anxieties say a lot about us as a culture. Attitudes about investments in transit, who gets to travel, where, why, and for how long are going to illuminate many different facets of a culture. It’s something I certainly keep in mind when building worlds.
When a technology exists that could potentially allow all of us to go anywhere whenever we want, it says a lot about what a culture is and what it stands for when it starts placing restrictions on who actually gets access to that technology – and how many barriers are put up between freedom of movement and the common people.
Kameron Hurley currently hacks out a living at an urban homestead in Ohio. Her first novel, God's War, is available from Night Shade books. The sequel, Infidel, is due out in October. She can be found on her site and twitter @kameronhurley.
The sights we'd see! The adventures we'd have!
Frankly, I wish that pretty much *all* the Edenist biotech from Hamilton's trilogy were real. The habitats are just as amazing as the voidhawks. I'd happily live on one of the Edenist habitats, stepping out once in a while to take a spin in my sentient starship.
Plus, with an affinity link, I'd be telepathically connected to my voidhawk. Wouldn't that be cool?
Ian Tregillis is author of Bitter Seeds the first in the Milkweed Triptych was released in 2010. The sequels The Coldest War, and Necessary Evil are both awaiting publication. Ian can be found on his site.
Anthony Huso is the author of The Last Page and its sequel Black Bottle. He works in the video game industry by day and can be found at his site.
Personal airships are definitely on the top of my list of cool things we don't have yet. Offhand, I can't think of a book that features them, but that doesn't even slow down the steampunk crews of Airship Isabella. They spend their free time readying their costumes for the day personal airships become a reality. If that isn't a wish that begs for fulfillment, I don't know what is. Hovercars would be a close second. I put hovercars in Revolution World.
Katy Stauber's debut biopunk novel Revolution World was just released from Night Shade Books. She can be found on her blog.
In Larry Niven’s Ringworld, Louis Wu walks out of his own birthday party, steps into a general-address transfer booth, and miraculously appears in Beirut. It’s the best way to travel – instantly and without any actual boring journey. Forget colony ships that trundle along for generations, so that by the time you get to your far-flung destination you’re, um, dead. Forget stasis and hibernation too – being trapped for hundreds of years in a glorified sun-bed until you’re woken up (only to discover, perhaps, that you’ve been woken up early because the ship has located an Alien on the nearby planet).
Travel in the far future can be agonisingly slow if you take your Einstein seriously. You need an FTL ship to have any fun. But even that’s a lot of work – hence the appeal of materialising machines/teleport devices.
But there’s something prosaic about such devices. They are in effect (forgive me, I’m a science fiction writer who studied the arts) enormous great fax machines. With your body as the piece of paper that gets faxed – perhaps with an ERROR CODE stamped on your forehead.
Philip Palmer is the author of five science fiction novels, all for Orbit books: Debatable Space (2008), Red Claw (2009), Version 43 (2010, Hell Ship (2011), and Artemis (2011). He is also a screenwriter, script editor, teacher and film producer. His screen writing credits include the BBC 1 film The Many Lives of Albert Walker and The Bill, and his radio dramas include The King’s Coiner, Breaking Point and The Art of Deception. Website: Debatable Spaces.
Will McIntosh is a Hugo award winner and Nebula finalist whose short stories have appeared in Asimov’s (where he won the 2010 Reader's Award for short story), Strange Horizons, and Science Fiction and Fantasy: Best of the Year, and others. His debut novel, Soft Apocalypse, based on a 2005 short story that was nominated for both the British Science Fiction Association and the British Fantasy Society awards, has just been released by Night Shade. A New Yorker transplanted to the rural south, Will is a psychology professor at Georgia Southern University. In 2008 he became the father of twins.
I have given this question long and serious thought. I have considered and rejected such cool devices as the transporter! the laser gun! the hover car! the tri-vid! I hovered (though NOT in a hover car) for a long time over Niven's wire-head technology (inducing pleasure by stimulating pleasure centre in the brain with weak electrical current) - a technology so cool I had to steal it for some of my own SF stories, where it is known, simply, and in homage, as "doing a Louis Wu".
After long and careful consideration, and weighing of all the options, I think we'll all agree there is only ONE piece of perfect technology, that deserves wider acceptance in the SF world, and benefits, moreover, from having the perfect name.
Yes, I am referring to...
In a world of military SF, of Death Stars and ray guns, or planet-busters and gung-ho crew-cut carnage boys, the Orgasmatron is the utltimate hippie antidote. Sex Rays (FLESH GORDON) - not Death Rays! I can hear you cry! Make Sci Fi Love, Not Sci Fi War! Fetishism, not Fascism!
The slogans virtually write themselves.
I call upon you, people of sci fi. Put down your ray guns! Stop attacking innocent aliens! Let the iconic Bald Woman of Sci Fi grow her hair long. Put an alien flower in your hair!
To the Orgasmatron!
Israeli-born writer Lavie Tidhar has been called an “emerging master” by Locus magazine, and has quickly established a name for himself as a short fiction writer of some note. He is the author of The Bookman, Hebrewpunk, and An Occupation of Angels. He has travelled widely, living variously in South Africa, the UK, Asia and the remote island-nation of Vanuatu in the South Pacific, and his work exhibits a strong sense of place and an engagement with the literary Other in all its forms. He can be found on his blog and twitter @lavietidhar.
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