Public Acceptance of Retrofuturism

I’ll start with an apology for not posting for several weeks. I have been back and forth to the city since my brother-in-law went into hospital and not had the tranquility needed to hone this draft into something I wanted to post. Now I’m home again and my wife’s brother is being discharged from hospital into the situation she wanted I’ve been able to make the necessary revisions.

I fully intend writing about retrofuturism in this post, but I cannot but point to a book moving to best-seller status that comes at the financial crash from the other direction than I wrote about. While I looked for a possible hero to save us from the effects of the crash, Barry Ritholtz has looked for the people who caused it. See his book, “Bailout Nation”, here – for the full story, but I have to post a couple of paragraphs here.

Several of Greenspan’s policies proved to be wildly misguided: the regular interventions to protect asset prices and bail out investors, the irresponsibly low rates after the post-2000 crash, and his nonfeasance in supervising lending.  Most of all, it was his deeply held philosophical conviction that all regulations are bad, and are to be avoided at all cost. We now know what that cost is, and it’s astronomical.

Alan Greenspan had spent his years at the Fed operating under an enormous philosophical misconception, as the former Fed chairman admitted in testimony before Congress on October 22, 2008: “I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interest of organizations, specifically banks and others, was such as that they were capable of protecting their own shareholders.”

Just as well I didn’t propose Alan Greenspan as a potential protagonist – hero – for my “Follow the Money”. I didn’t, did I?

Moving on to a new concern, I’m interested in learning where retrofiction fits within readers’ tastes. This is prompted by a perceived incongruence between it and science fiction. I offer a couple of examples that suggest most SF today comes with assumptions that are as good as set in stone. They are actually only crutches to help the SF writers, in my estimation.

Artificial gravity – this helps writers set their in-space scenes as if the characters were on a planet under conditions where their feet stay on the ground. It eases the logistical problems for the authors. The fact that there is no such thing as artificial gravity and only the most flimsy of (so-called) scientific assessments of its possibility seems to be an inconvenience swept under the rug. I have to note that it conflicts with the reader’s own knowledge of space as we are all too familiar with video from the International Space Station, where the occupants drift about weightlessly.

Faster than light travel – as if Einstein was nothing more than a bumbling idiot. While it is very inconvenient to write novels within the limitations the universe places on us, it is quite evident that a novel incorporating any form of hyper-drive is actually fantasy. Some physicists have suggested that there is room for such concepts as superluminal travel within string theory, but I’d suggest these statements are only attempts at headline grabbing by individuals looking for publicity.

Yes – I know that I used a wormhole jump as a device within my Iskander series, but I didn’t presume to show it working in scenes that allowed people to swan about all over the universe at will. Besides, since I’m extremely skeptical of such mathematical fantasies, I had it not work – at least not work in any reliable fashion.

I used the device as an off-stage prop to account for the presence of modern people in an earlier world. I suppose I could have used other devices, but it seemed to me that most of them were a form of magic – which didn’t fit the novels I wanted to write. If my use of this suspect worm-hole device makes my series part company with real SF, such as it still exists, then I’m not averse to being a fantasy writer – I have written in that genre too. Actually, I’d suggest that retrofuturism belongs as a sub-type between SF and fantasy.

In a new development, there have been a couple of predictions of world changes over the next 21 years in Der Spiegel and so I decided to take them as my starting point for a picture of the Earth my Iskanders left to take the ten year contract on N-3. I have previously been very reluctant to attempt any such prediction about the future Earth – since it is almost certain to be wrong – but these offer a starting point to develop the multicultural and multilateral world that I have hinted they come from. So the next few posts will be an exploration of the home world of 2309.


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4 Responses to “Public Acceptance of Retrofuturism”

  1. joylene Says:

    Apology accepted, Chris. It gave me a chance to work on some under developed plotting exercises. But it’s good to see you back. Much to my surprise, I’m checking out Bailout. Maybe it’s my age, but suddenly I find the whole affair fascinating. Hopefully, others will take note of his book and learn something. Who said we have to understand the why in order to eliminate repetition?

  2. Kester2 Says:

    I’m finding the attempts to turn around US politics, financing, and corporations quite fascinating. Of course it helps to be on the good side of the 49th.

    I wonder if the power of the lobbyists over both the Senate and Congress can ever be broken. I wonder if the criminal acts carried out during the Bush administration will ever be prosecuted. I’m wondering if the US people will ever receive the medical and social programs they deserve. If the Obama administration ever succeeds in these requirements he will qualify as the best President ever — but I’m not holding my breath.

    As I’ve posted here — his record so far on the financial crash doesn’t give much grounds for optimism — but let’s not dismiss the efforts, the fat lady hasn’t sung yet.


  3. John'z Place Says:

    Hi Kester2Says,

    I don’t know if you’ve come across this reading but if you’re really interested in where our planet is on “Taming Gravity” you might want to read this Popular Mechanics Oct 1999 issue on Dr. Ning Li and her “A/C Gravity”.

    The article is titled “Taming Gravity” appropriately.

    The article does a very good job of explaining Dr. Ning Li’s A/C Gravity. It is a must read for anyone interested in where our planet is on the subject of “Taming Gravity”!

    Hay, so maybe you end up writing for NOVA, that couldn’t be that bad.


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