Jennifer, friend of Per Aspera, sent me a link to a trailer for documentary a friend of hers has done. It looks friggin’ great:
And today, it totally got BoingBoinged. Which is kind of unsurprising, actually, because this is straight up their alley.
Nearly concurrently, Eric, who is like a brother to Per Aspera, sent a link to some YouTube clips of the Minibosses, an NES cover band. Here they are doing Ninja Gaiden:
There is nothing that is not awesome about that. They do Metroid, too.
I’ma go off on a tangent for a moment: You may or may not be aware that SF, as a literary genre, is declining in market share these days. I’m not really plugged into any of the various fandoms, but I read around on the intertubes, and have seen more than one person worrying that SF is going to go the way of the Western and Men’s Adventure genres, which pretty much don’t exist anymore. What’s to be done? Why’s it happening? Charlie Stross thinks it’s happening because, basically, we’re living the speculative fiction these days, with technological change itself shifting genres from industrial to information, making what used to be a respectably Newtonian chain of progressive innovation poof out and get all cloudy.
SF as a genre evolved during a period of industrialization and standardization and rapid linear progress. It was both an escapist literature and a didactic form that lent its readers some exposure to new ideas about how they might live in future. But things have gone non-linear, and a lot of the future has arrived today, albeit in bastardized form. Want to go live on Mars? Tough, you can’t â€” but you can download travel albums from the red planet til you’re blue in the face. Want to go live on an alien world? Go visit Japan â€” it’s not that expensive â€” or explore the Goth night club scene in Ulan Bator (I’m informed it has one). We don’t need SF for pre-adaptation to the future: the future is now.
And now is Nerdcore For Life. Now, the final frontier is social, cultural, sociological, political.
We’ve arrived in a different future, and central planning doesn’t work. Things are fast, chaotic, cheap, and out of control. Ad hoc is the new plan. There’s a new cultural strange attractor at work, sucking in the young, smart, deracinated mechanistically-minded readers who used to be the natural prey of the SF movement. It’s geek culture. You can find it in the pages of Wired (although it’s a pale shadow of what it used to be) and on Boing!Boing! and Slashdot. You can find them playing MMORPGs and hacking their game consoles. These people have different interests from the old generation of SF readers. And unfortunately they don’t buy many [fiction] books, because we aren’t, for the most part, writing for them.
This isn’t to say that they don’t read. There is a literary culture that switches on the geeks: it started out as a branch of SF. Yes, I’m talking about cyberpunk. But while cyberpunk was a seven day wonder within the SF field, which subsequently lost interest, the geeks recognized themselves in its magic mirror and made it their own. This is the future they live in, not the future of Star Wars and its imitators, of the futures of Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein. And in addition to cyberpunk â€” the golden age SF taproots of their field â€” some of us are beginning to address their concerns. Among the quintessentially geek authors, the brightest names are Neal Stephenson and Cory Doctorow and Douglas Coupland and (in his latest incarnation) Bruce Sterling. (I’d like to append my own name to that list, if only to bask in their reflected glory.)
The authors I listed above are not writing SF for your traditional SF readers. They are writing something quite different, even if the forms are similar, because the underlying assumptions about the way the universe works are different. There’s no need for the readers to internalize a bizarrely rehashed bundle of strange ideological preconceptions about the role of science and technology in society, which have accreted remorselessly since the 1930s until much modern science fiction is incomprehensible and alienating to the outside world; that’s because they are writing fiction that is based in the world-view of the present day. You don’t need to study golden age SF and its literary conventions to get Neal Stephenson, because rather than constantly referring back to it, he references (a) the science fictional zeitgeist in popular culture, and (b) the cultural milieu and outlook of WIRED’s readership. Which is why he managed to write a 1100 page novel about cryptography with a plot that didn’t quite join up in the middle, and it still outsold everything else on the map. He’s got your audience, right here, buddy, right here in the palm of his hand. Thanks to generation slashdot.
The audience I’m talking about is today’s successor to the traditional SF readers of yore. They’re smart, not brilliantly well socialized because their energies have been going elsewhere, and they increasingly self-identify as geeks. We are competing for their attention time with computer games, video, the internet, and fuck-knows-what new bleeding edge media that haven’t made it our event horizon of self-absorption yet: anime, manga, machinima, your guess is as good as mine. They don’t, yet, have a separate section in the bookstore, but they know what they like to read and they get it from the fringes of the mainstream and the edges of the genre and the core of the slipstream. And their time is coming. If you’re a writer and you still want to be in business in something vaguely resembling SF in thirty years time, study them.
People don’t just write books about spaceships, they post about documentaries about MC’s rapping about books about spaceships.
UPDATE: Y’all have been quoted.