Science Fiction, Children's Literature, and Popular Culture: Coming of Age in Fantasyland

By Gary Westfahl | Go to book overview

10
In Defense of Stone Tablets: Isaac Asimov Explains Why Science Fiction Is Skeptical about "New Information Technologies"

When I was asked to attend a conference on "New Information Technologies" and speak about science fiction, I knew immediately what any ambitious, upwardly- mobile, science fiction critic should plan to say: Wearing my mirrorshades, black leather jacket, and Nine Inch Nails t-shirt, I should have sauntered up to the podium and announced, "Hey, there, something's happening and you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Lit-Crit Jones? Well, it's time for you to leave your stale old mainstream fiction behind and get connected to the with-it world of postmodern science fiction, where all the hip-to-high-tech writers can clue you in about what's happening now and what's going to happen tomorrow." Unfortunately, as these retro references have already suggested, I can't do the Larry McCaffery hipster routine very persuasively, and in any event, since my scruples are stronger than my ambitions, I could not bring myself to offer opinions that I believe to be false. So, I told the people attending the conference that I didn't think they had a lot to gain from looking at science fiction, though it may have been far from expedient to say that so bluntly.

First, regarding the development and use of new information technologies, I believe that science fiction is, generally and unsurprisingly, a conservative genre, one which will most likely be one of the very last fields to embrace and fully explore the potentials of any radically different new media. Second, regarding what science fiction texts have tended to predict about new information technologies, I believe that science fiction, based on its record in other areas, is most likely wrong in most of its predictions, and that science fiction therefore offers insight into the probable impacts of these new technologies only by means of comparisons between its faulty predictions and the actual outcomes in those other areas.

As other commentators have noted, science fiction has tended to avoid new and innovative approaches, which, in light of its historical interest in and fondness for scientific progress, might be seen as paradoxical. My friend Brooks Landon-- Larry McCaffery in a business suit--has waxed eloquent about what he regards as

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