Thursday, February 21, 2008

Serendipity Strikes the A Fire Upon the Deep Review

In one of those very odd coincidences that make life interesting I stumbled across Vernor Vinge talking about the Fermi paradox. I wasn't looking for Vinge, I wasn't looking for Fermi, and I didn't even know that he gave it this much serious consideration. My spiel was based on how the better science fiction authors in the past twenty years have been addressing it in a general sense. So here's what Vinge said in his 2002 Worldcon Guest of Honor address:

In fact I think the Fermi paradox - you know "where is everybody?" - is so interesting. We are getting astronomy technology now that's good enough that we're getting bounds on what could really be there, and to me it is complimentary to the singularity issues [one of Vinge's popular themes; the idea that we will soon reach a point where accelerating technological changes will transform humanity into something radically different]. My version of the singularity is you have this "unknowability." Certainly we're not seeing evidence of technology that we recognize out there.

It really is interesting to see how this silence in the sky combined with improved astronomical technology has affected science fiction and space opera. And it seems to me that every hard science fiction writer, or writer who is writing seriously about space adventure has had to address this. There's about six or seven, well, as many approaches as there are writers who are seriously doing it (that means more than six or seven of course). There are many major categories of approaches to this. You [Greg Bear] in your Sky River novels, you had an approach to this. I had it in the Zones [the two novel series including A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky]. There are what I call the clockstarter scenarios where you say that actually why it's quiet right now is there was a major disaster that shut everybody down. And the nice thing about that, if you're going to write stories, is that it does an end run around one of the most difficult things of stories, and that is to have synchronized the short period of time where everyone's tech is recognizable.