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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Guest Post: On Science Fiction Fascinations by S. Spencer Baker

I've been fascinated with science fiction since I was about four years old, even though I'm fairly sure that I didn't know it was called science fiction in those days. There were puppet shows on TV like Supercar and Fireball XL5, and I dimly remember another show that had flying saucers like wobbling spinning tops that docked with a space station, but I've never seen that one again so I might have dreamt it -- it was all in monochrome and a long time ago. Then Doctor Who hit the tiny screen with a theme tune that could only have been made by aliens -- and nasty aliens at that. UFOs and bad robots seemed to be everywhere back then. 

I personally discovered a planet in 1964. I wrote an entire project about it, a huge scrapbook of cut-out pictures from magazines and hand lettered descriptions of this amazing new planet that I'd discovered in the school library called Pluto. It was a really great project, the best I'd ever done. My teacher called me a moron and sent me weeping like a baby to the back of the class. I was secretly pleased when Pluto lost its planetary status a couple of years ago. Serves it right. Bad planet.

Then came Star Trek and I was enraptured. We had, on our televisions (in colour), a black and
white representation of what it would look like to be on a spaceship travelling through the stars. To this day, if you want to make me happy, sit me in a cinema and project the view from the Enterprise as it slices its way through the galaxy. Watch those stars zoom past. Tiny points of light that are entire solar systems flying by and out of sight. Pure bliss.

Of course when I was a kid, I wasn't able to articulate exactly what it was about science fiction that entranced me. I did know that it wasn't the aliens. Daleks were scary as hell and cybermen were just clumsy precursors of stormtroopers, but neither were that interesting. Whatever aliens Kirk and Spock had to battle with in their styrofoam sets were all pretty useless in the end -- after all, we managed to defeat them all inside 45 minutes, right? I have to give the Borg a nod. They were really cool but they weren't really very alien except in their social structure. They did give us Seven Of Nine though, so they will forever hold a special place in all young heterosexual male hearts. But no, it wasn't the aliens that held my interest.

It wasn't the weapons either. Nuclear-ionised-plasma, mega-warp-reverse-polarity, pulse-phase-modulated photon-this and electro-that are simply a writer's way of getting themselves out of a problem they deliberately created in order to put tension into the narrative and keep everyone glued to their seats. If the future is to be about technology (and I sincerely hope that it is) then the weapons side of future tech is the least constructive and most boring.

No, what fascinated me then and fascinates me still today is first, the idea that the future holds the solutions to today's problems (I admit this may be weak-minded of me) and second, that one day we will get the hell off this tiny, stinking, life-infested, doomed rock and get out to the stars.

Yes. Ever since I was old enough to understand that we were on a planet, I've wanted to get off it. As far as I'm concerned, this is a perfectly natural response. After all, if you lived on an island all your life, and could see another land over the sea, are you telling me you're not going to go there? You aren't going to walk down the track every day and look over the water to a huge lump of rock and not think 'I wonder what's over there?' Of course you are. You'll invent technology that floats and you'll go there. Then you'll look out at the horizon and think 'I wonder if there's anywhere out there that's better than this place?' And until you've gone to wherever you think 'out there' is and found out if it's better, you will never be able to rest. That's just the way human beings are made. If we weren't made that way we would never have left Africa and we would have died out like 99% of all the species on earth that ever existed. We are genetically programmed to be curious. It's a survival characteristic. Get over it.

We have to go. Not only in order to survive (because only an idiot would expect life on Earth to last forever) but because we're made that way.


About Slabscape:  Reset:
Take the most sophisticated A.I. designed mind that has ever existed, encase it in over fifty million cubic kilometres of diamond nano-rods and send it off on a twenty-thousand-year odyssey towards the centre of the galaxy. Then screw it all up by allowing thirty-two million humans to go along for the ride...

About the author:
S.Spencer Baker (1956~2106) fled formal education and family at the age of seventeen and refused to ever return to either. He spent a subjectively interminable, but retrospectively finite amount of time learning how to exploit the intellectual property of others until he re-remembered that his childhood obsession was to create his own intellectual property and get other people to exploit it on his behalf. Somewhere around the beginning of that seriously weird century that began inauspiciously in 2001 he started creating the not-at-all-weird universe of Slabscape. By 2011 he had published his first science fiction novel; Slabscape:Reset - a webback (being backed up by information, back-stories, glossaries and complete irrelevancies in an online resource at By 2020 he had published several more novels and short stories in the series, including Slabscape:Dammit, Slabscape:Reboot and a compendium of the first three books along with a contemporary text dump of the ever-expanding Slabscapedia entitled; Slabscape:Thank Dice That's Over (The Doorstop Slab). If it had have been over at that point, it's likely that Baker would have slipped back into relative obscurity. Unfortunately, the development of information temporal displacement technology onSlab by Fencer Dean Twenty (collectively recognised initiator of important intangible query assets) in 1040 (Slab asynchronology) meant that a deluge of fan-fiction written by SlabAficionados was sent back to the mid-twenty-first century from dice-knows-when by dice-knows-who. On July 30th, 2069, received 876 new, entirely different, Slabscape novels into its e-library servers in San Diego all purporting to be written by Baker. Fortunately the California Disappearance destroyed all record of every single one of them, which is odd when you think about it because if they really had come from the future then how come the authors didn't know about the California Disappearance in the first place? Such are the mysteries that surround temporal displacement.

Baker chose to go ahead on September 4th 2106 at the exact time that Slab departed/will have departed/is going to depart Earth Orbit.

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