Desired Effects

Having calmed down from yesterday, I’ve been talking to some people around the office who’ve read CITIUS, ALTIUS, FORTIUS–the story that just sold to TESSERACTS 11. I put a copy in our office dayfile, which circulates among the staff as a way to keep up-to-date on the various goings-on with our projects at the office.

The various reactions have been “I really liked your story,” followed by some interesting and rather pleasing follow-ups: “Disturbing,” “Creepy,” “Scary,” “Depressing for what the future holds.” Ah, magic! Exactly what I was going for! Makes you want to run right out and read it, doesn’t it?

As I’ve said before, CITIUS, ALTIUS, FORTIUS is a story about corporate nations, the Olympics, genetic modification, and how dreams have a way of not turning out the way you expect.

Now, I write mainly science fiction, and fairly hard-ish science fiction (i.e.: some aspect of real-world scientific principles plays a key role in the tale; remove it and you’d have no story) so I’m pleased that it has elicited such responses.

Ray Bradbury (a writer-hero of mine) once said: “People ask me to predict the future, when all I want to do is prevent it.” I think that’s rather reflective of much of the science fiction I write.

I’m hardly a positivist (as many of the Golden Age SF writers were, and as some great SF writers still are) because to me positivism is a lot like communism: a great theory which doesn’t work in real life because it ignores human nature (especially greed and self-interest).

In my writing (and in my life) I tend to see science and scientific/technical progress as a double-edged sword. My MA was in the history of science and technology, and my studies have only reinforced my wariness about the promises and pitfalls of science. Our technical skill is amazing, certainly, and as a citizen of a Western nation I realize (and am grateful) that I’m one of the primary benefactors of man’s technical acumen. But we move so fast with “progress” that our humanity rarely has time to catch up.

We often hear that the problems we’ve caused because of our technology will be solved by more and better technology. I for one am dubious.

Technological innovation is so susceptible to the law of unintended consequences that to suggest “No one would ever use X to do Y” is foolish, at best. CITIUS, ALTIUS, FORTIUS is a reflection on such anxieties and is certainly meant to act as a cautionary tale. I’m glad to see that it’s acted as such for at least a few people I know.

Whether it can (as Ray said) help prevent the future…well, we’ll have to see won’t we?

– S.

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