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2 Science Publishers Delve Into Science Fiction 67

Posted by timothy
from the parallel-universes dept.
braindrainbahrain writes "Coincidence or conspiracy? Two new science fiction magazines have just been announced and they are both being published by more serious science publications. New Scientist magazine has announced the publication of Arc, 'A new digital magazine about the future.' Arc features such articles as 'The best time travel movie ever made' and 'The future of science fiction, games, galleries — and futurism.' They are advertising new fact and fiction from the likes of Maragret Atwood and Alastair Reynold. The MIT Technology Review has announced the TRSF, dubbed 'the first installment of a to-be-annual "hard" SF collection.' Some authors: Joe Haldeman and Cory Doctorow. As an interesting note, both publications will be printed on paper for the first ('collectable') issue only; all forthcoming ones will be e-books."
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2 Science Publishers Delve Into Science Fiction

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 26, 2012 @10:37AM (#39164135)

    Science publications have always published science fiction. For example, articles and studies about "Global Warming".

    --Yours,

    Fox News.

  • Alastair Reynolds, my favorite hard sci-fi author.
    • I like Gregory Benford these days but I'm nearing the end of the Galactic Center series with nothing else on deck, mayhaps I'll have to check out Mr. Reynolds.
  • by ShooterNeo (555040) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @10:47AM (#39164193)

    On the one hand, traditional publishing has been dying. No biggie, direct e-publishing is drastically more efficient. Books cost 99 cents to $2.99 (sometimes a buck or two more) and the author makes MORE money per copy sold that they would make with a $15 hardcover. No advances, and the author has to pay for editing out of pocket, but there's solutions to this. Several authors I know of would release a "beta version" of their stories as an ebook, make some money, and pay editors to help them make a cleaned up and improved version.

    Not to mention that you can communicate directly with fans and get feedback immediately, rather than the letter writing days of the past.

    However, I've also read that fantasy as a genre is far more lucrative than science fiction. Lots more sales, hence the reason there seems to be a shrinking number of good science fiction authors.

    Furthermore, the dreams of the past have proven dead. The hopes of the atomic age and space age have turned out to be far more difficult to achieve in reality. Instead, it now looks like the world of the future is going to be far weirder and harder to understand than than we dreamed of. Humans are NOT going to just pack their stuff into spaceships and start colonizing the moons and local planets, then somehow cheat physics and do the same thing at other stars. (that will conveniently have worlds just like earth, with compatible biology and biochemistry but no sentient life)

    In fact, a rational view of other future, one based on the current trajectories of how things are heading, is that human beings will NEVER colonize anywhere else. "Apes in a can" spaceship will never happen. Us short lived jumped up primates are too fragile and too dumb, instead we will bootstrap our way to creating entities that do not have our human weaknesses.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      However, I've also read that fantasy as a genre is far more lucrative than science fiction. Lots more sales, hence the reason there seems to be a shrinking number of good science fiction authors.

      With extremely high-profile releases in the not too distant past like the LoTR movies and Harry-Potter-esque books, it wouldn't surprise me that fantasy is a much bigger market and therefore draws more authors. These things always have fashions though, and I'm sure sci-fi will be on the rise again some day.

      Furthermore, the dreams of the past have proven dead. The hopes of the atomic age and space age have turned out to be far more difficult to achieve in reality. Instead, it now looks like the world of the future is going to be far weirder and harder to understand than than we dreamed of

      ...So why is that a death-knell for sci-fi? It isn't obliged to be a prediction of the future, it isn't meant to be a roadmap to the stars. It's meant to be what any other kind of fiction is: enjoyable

    • by aix tom (902140)

      So other sentient life? That leaves out the most interesting aspect of Science Fiction.

      Just look at one of my favourite "old" Sci-Fi show, Space Precinct, where there is a prospering alien civilisation, where the Humans are basically the poor (and often illegal) immigrants, fleeing the economically failed Earth.

    • by khallow (566160) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @01:27PM (#39165323)

      Furthermore, the dreams of the past have proven dead. The hopes of the atomic age and space age have turned out to be far more difficult to achieve in reality.

      Far more difficult than what? Writing a quick pulp fiction book?

      Humans are NOT going to just pack their stuff into spaceships and start colonizing the moons and local planets, then somehow cheat physics and do the same thing at other stars.

      Eh, while I agree that humans aren't cheating physics any time soon (never being more likely), why aren't humans going to "just pack their stuff into spaceships and start colonizing the moons and local planets"? Do you have any evidence for that assertion other than it turns out to be more difficult than some 50s sci fi writers alleged?

      In fact, a rational view of other future, one based on the current trajectories of how things are heading, is that human beings will NEVER colonize anywhere else.

      Uh huh. I assume you've considered such trends as declining costs of putting things into space (a trend operating over decades), declining costs of making reliable things, the human desire to go elsewhere, including into space, and other such things?

      "Apes in a can" spaceship will never happen.

      We have more than half a century of counterexamples.

      Us short lived jumped up primates are too fragile and too dumb, instead we will bootstrap our way to creating entities that do not have our human weaknesses.

      Such as longer lived, smarter humans? Or merely continuing to do difficult tasks with the remarkable intelligence we already have?

      I have good news. You have somehow been transported to a planet that doesn't have the insurmountable problems which you speak of.

      • by rbrander (73222)

        I believe his point was that those dreams are economically unachievable, not technically.

        Charlie Stross has made that point more clearly than either of us could:

        http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2007/06/the_high_frontier_redux.html [antipope.org]
        http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/08/space-cadets.html [antipope.org]

        I only read those after I realized it myself - we were enjoying a review of all the episodes of "Firefly" and while I love the show, I was griping about the utter silliness of space travelers in cowboy

        • by khallow (566160)

          Charlie Stross has made that point more clearly than either of us could:

          Maybe he can. But he hasn't yet. His arguments suffer from the problem that they don't actually address actual problems of space development, exploration, or colonization. They also are often obviously wrong. Take this little blurb from "Space Cadets".

          My problem, however, is that there is no equivalence between outer space and the American west.

          Humans are a climax organism that is fundamentally dependent on a couple of key ecosystems. There's the one we carry around in our guts â" about a kilogram of bacteria and fungi, for a typical adult â" without which we can't even digest most of our food. And there's the ecosystem we live in. (Or ecosystems. Because of our unique horizontally-transferable tool culture we can adapt to existence in terrestrial ecosystems other than the one our ancestors coevolved with. But there are limits; we don't thrive in Antarctica, or at the bottom of the ocean trenches.) We're also somewhat dependent on our extraordinary extended phenotype, from flint hand-axes to Space Shuttles. Maintaining that phenotype is a large-scale operation supported by a penumbra of extended cultural activities that maintain the ability to maintain the phenotype â" primary school teachers, for example, don't bend metal but are absolutely vital to the activity of engineering insofar as you've got to start educating your next generation of engineers somewhere. Hence some earlier postings on this blog.

          It ignores, for example, that we do thrive in Antarctica (even in the presence of the Antarctica Treaty which bans most viable economic activity) and in the seas (we just live on them rather than 20 km down), and that US-based science fiction has managed to ma

          • by tehcyder (746570)

            US-based science fiction has managed to make valid comparisons between the myths of the US West and space exploration for well over 50 years.

            How exactly do fictionalised retellings of historical fictions tell us anything useful in real life about space colonisation?

            • by khallow (566160)

              US-based science fiction has managed to make valid comparisons between the myths of the US West and space exploration for well over 50 years.

              How exactly do fictionalised retellings of historical fictions tell us anything useful in real life about space colonisation?

              I imagine a few centuries down the road, we'll find out that they told us quite a bit about fictionalized retellings of historical space colonization. But to answer your question more accurately, they tell us the most important thing that will be needed for space colonization: motivation. What spurs people to do what they do hasn't changed since the beginning of human civilization and isn't likely to change in the next few centuries.

            • by rbrander (73222)

              Thanks. That's where he lost me, too.

              A lot of the rest was TL;DR once I saw that one, plus a few more bits that are characteristic of hand-wave-ism in arguments for our space-opera future:

              "Thrive" != "Survive at all with imported food, clothing, and shelter". Explain the economic model for *making* food, clothing, and shelter in Antarctica and people would be interested in changing that treaty. NB: "Greenhouse food under lights powered by a nuclear reactor" is still not "thrive" unless the antarctic co

      • I don't really see us suddenly having a colonized space in a decade, or a hundred years. But I am sure it will happen. Now that you have private companies like spaceX launching into space it doesn't take much imagination to see a few wealthy individuals setting up shop. Once you start being able to mine some asteroids for material easier than on Earth there is an economic reason for it. I forget the book series, but it had the moon colonized because Earth refused to allow nanotechnology to be allowed on it
        • by khallow (566160)

          I don't really see us suddenly having a colonized space in a decade, or a hundred years.

          I don't either. I do see a gradual rather than sudden colonization as possible in a hundred years.

          It won't be like the American Wild West, it will be a slow and boring progression that wouldn't merit a sci fi book or a tv show.

          Like the real world colonization of the New World. I'm not sure where you're going with this. The myths and fictions of historical colonization downplayed a lot of things as well too.

        • by urusan (1755332)

          "Having colonized space" is very vague. If you mean that the solar system will be completely filled with colonists, then your statement is very obvious because it would be hard to design a semi-realistic scenario where that happens in a century, even with crazy advances in technology. It will take time for people to travel into space, build colonies, be born, communities to form, etc. Colonizing the solar system is much bigger task than colonizing the American continent. The moon by itself has slightly less

    • Science Fiction seems to be growing - I heard a few days ago the people running the Emmies were considering a sci-fi award - this is probably in relation to that.
    • by arcite (661011)
      Of course, you realize that NO ONE predicted the impact that the internet would have a scant 30 years ago. A little over 100 years ago NO ONE predicted the impact that intercontinental flight would have, let alone the advanced made with war machines throughout the 20th century. Frankly, I pity your lack of imagination. In the next few years, there will be more space tourists visiting space than there have been professional astronauts in the past sixty years. Things change, some people can predict them, most
      • Of course, you realize that NO ONE predicted the impact that the internet would have a scant 30 years ago.

        True Names was published in 1981, which is a scant 31 years ago. Read it first of all to see that someone DID envision the impact of the global internet, and its resultant creation of cyberspace. But more importantly, read it because it is a brilliant example of what science fiction can be.

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        In the next few years, there will be more space tourists visiting space than there have been professional astronauts in the past sixty years.

        I, for one, look forward eagerly to a series of tragic accidents that end up killing several extremely wealthy, utterly pointless human beings.

        "Houston we have a problem."
        "Well fucking buy yourself a space tow truck then."

      • by LienRag (1787684)
        It's not strictly internet, but Murray Leinster's "A logic named Joe" was published in 1946...
    • by Telvin_3d (855514)

      On the one hand, traditional publishing has been dying.

      Publishing is always dying. It's famous for how much money it doesn't make.

    • The hopes of the atomic age and space age have turned out to be far more difficult to achieve in reality.

      Which would be a serious problem indeed for the science fiction genre, had there been no new ideas in the field since the 1950s.

      While I think that your post almost entirely misses the point of science fiction in that you're focusing on the technology rather than on the story, even on that level you're looking in the wrong place. Decades ago we had the dawn of the nuclear age, the space race, the Cold War--and the science fiction of that era reflected the associated hopes, fears, and gadgets.

      When more

    • by RDW (41497)

      Furthermore, the dreams of the past have proven dead. The hopes of the atomic age and space age have turned out to be far more difficult to achieve in reality. Instead, it now looks like the world of the future is going to be far weirder and harder to understand than than we dreamed of.

      Sounds like a good subject for an SF story:

      http://web.archive.org/web/20100526022103/http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/it/1988/1/1988_1_34.shtml [archive.org]

    • Furthermore, the dreams of the past have proven dead. The hopes of the atomic age and space age have turned out to be far more difficult to achieve in reality. Instead...

      Yeah, but modern day wizards and vampires, and long ago elves and dragons, *those* things have all panned out as real!

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      Several authors I know of would release a "beta version" of their stories as an ebook, make some money, and pay editors to help them make a cleaned up and improved version.

      If there were a book about "The Top Ten Stupidest Ideas Of All Time" that would go straight in near the top. Literature is not the same as software.

  • by GLMDesigns (2044134) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @10:52AM (#39164221) Homepage
    The future is upon us. Changes in technology brings up issues in ethics and politics from cloning to privacy to immortality to fears of an all pervasive police state. What was fiction a few years ago (TV ads in subways, personalized advertising) is now on the verge of being real. Many of us walk around with TVs in our pocket and take it forgranted. Thoughts of how new technology and society mesh used to be the province of science fiction writers. Now it is the province of anyone interested in their lives in the very near future.
    • by arcite (661011)
      Where we're going, we don't need roads!
    • by tehcyder (746570)
      Just because you can have TV ads in subways doesn't mean you're going to end up with immortality.
      • I'm not saing that TV ads lead to immortality - only that things are changing far quicker than most realize. We're doubling processing speed, memory, bandwidth every 18-24 months. We can get 2TB harddrives for $129. I spent $200 for my first external hardrive and it had 20MB (late 1980s). That's 18 or so doubles in 22 years. Where will we be in another 20 years? 2TBs will become 2 million TBs. Regarding "immortality" the first aspect is being worked on right now - being able to "read thoughts". If we can
  • by MDillenbeck (1739920) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @10:55AM (#39164231)
    I enjoy a good science fiction story as much or even more than science fantasy - the difference? Science fiction is based on our current understanding of science and stays within the realm of possibility. However, both science fiction and science fantasy spur the imaginations of our future innovators, so lets hope the next generation of inventors will be reading these stories (or at least hope they read something, even if it is Harry Potter).
    • I agree with you there, although this should apply to the physics side of things, not practical barriers. Just because we don't know how to do something now, shouldn't stop a writer from assuming we might know how to do it in the future.

      For instance, the human life span. It's totally possible that this might be extended considerably (all the way up to indefinitely). A 134-year trip (one way) to some far-away destination would no longer require "generation-ships" to do. The business-side of things (how such

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        It's totally possible that this might be extended considerably (all the way up to indefinitely).

        It's possible in the sense that the idea doesn't seem to break any of the currently formulated laws of physics (unlike faster than light travel), but that doesn't mean it's ever gong to happen.

  • A.k.a. Science Fiction Science Fiction

  • News? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Ambitwistor (1041236) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @11:17AM (#39164329)

    I thought New Scientist already was science fiction.

  • by Hognoxious (631665) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @01:21PM (#39165287) Homepage Journal

    Arc features such articles as 'The best time travel movie ever made'

    At least until the one based on a true story did will have camed out.

  • Say what you will, I miss Omni, goofy pseudo-science and all. It was usually entertaining, as long as you didn't take it too seriously...
    • by dwye (1127395)

      Say what you will, I miss Omni, goofy pseudo-science and all. It was usually entertaining, as long as you didn't take it too seriously...

      I just read it for the fiction.

      OTOH, I *do* remember reading about GRID (later renamed AIDS) in OMNI well before I did anywhere else. Actually, I think that I read about it before it was named, even.

    • THIS. I was just the right age (12? 14?) for Omni to resonate with me during its heyday.

  • There's a long list of scientists that are also science fiction authors. Many of the best and brightest scientists were inspired to become scientists by the fiction they read. Even so, science fiction has long been treated as an unwanted step-child by both the literature and science crowds with neither taking it seriously. It's nice to see serious science magazines recognizing and supporting that important link.
  • What's the big deal here? Are they rebranding the Science Fiction as Science Fact?
    Will there be cross-overs between the various publications to obfuscate science from fiction?

    Or is it just a publisher recognizing that the influence of Science Fiction can help steer public interest in Science, offer ways of explaining recent discoveries in an easy and entertaining manner to the layman and have a hand in helping steer today's youth to careers in scientific related fields or at least to encourage them to be op

  • In the 30-year (or so) old film "Three Days of the Condor", Robert Redford works for a little CIA branch that reads books and magazines looking for ideas. They strike a nerve somewhere and the shooting starts. There's "fantasy" science fiction which is wonderfully imaginative and there is "science" science fiction a la Arthur C. Clarke who described telecommunications and global positioning satellites in the 1950s, Star Trek's "Warp Drive" prompted the idea of the Alcubierre drive which is theoretically but
    • by khallow (566160) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @04:29PM (#39166583)

      Star Trek's "Warp Drive" prompted the idea of the Alcubierre drive which is theoretically but not technologically possible. Of course flying was known to be theoretically possible but not technologically possible until the last century.

      Not the same. Flying was known to be technologically possible because we see plenty of things which already fly. Birds, bats, etc have already the technology to fly. But even if they didn't exist, we could come up with models, such as the flying wing or hot air balloon that would strongly indicate that flying was technologically possible.

      The Alcubierre drive is merely not obviously prohibited by our current theoretical understanding of physics. That's a vastly weaker claim.

    • Startrek PADD = iPad. ;)
  • Hope they have competitive ad rates. Not like there's an oversupply of outlets, either. Also interested in who'll be editing, and if they're going to go after new talents.

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