08 December 2009

Spec Fic Tools VII: a Paradigm


There's been a lot of brouhaha about "new" author Paolo Bacigalupi. Of course, Mr. Bacigalupi has been writing for years, but his first published book Pump Six and Other Stories came out in 2008 from Nightshade Books. This is a particularly intriguing book for short speculative fiction authors since it is a book of short stories and virtually all of them have been nominated for an award, be it Locus, Hugo, Nebula, or Theodore Sturgeon.

(Interestingly, Mr. Bacigalupi said in a PBS interview that William Gibson advised him write short stories to achieve success as an author.)

What makes these stories so notable? One obvious thing is world-building. In his work Mr. Bacigalupi does an admirable job of world-building, along the lines of China Miéville's Perdido Street Station, William Gibson's Neuromancer, or Warren Hammond's KOP. Another reason Bacigalupi has garnered a lot of critical acclaim is his plots are not typical genre fiction plots. Finally, Bacigalupi has a lot of original ideas which I believe helps create his unique paradigm.

Some of these concepts include:

  • What if the Dalai Lama were downloaded into some kind of data storage device?
  • What if people were genetically engineered to be musical instruments?
  • What if science/technology was the most important thing on earth? What kind of people would result from unfettered genetic engineering? What would happen to the rest of the ecosystem?
  • Which is more powerful swords or information?
  • What if the world was ruled by big agri-business?
  • What if fresh water becomes very scarce?
  • What if people live forever and procreation becomes illegal?
  • In a dystopian world, what lengths would people go to get a job?
  • What if people become so stupid they can't maintain infrastructures?

In Pump Six and Other Stories Bacigalupi takes risks with his plots, e.g. barbequeing up the cute puppy for dinner, splattering baby brains all over the walls, etc.
In my opinion, these stories illustrate a paradigm, a way of looking at the world, that makes them more powerful. Aspects of this paradigm include:
  • so-called mundane science fiction, i.e.in the future humans will remain stuck on Earth, there are no extraterrestrial intelligences around, and science/technology will be foreseeable extrapolations of current science/technology
  • climate change is coming and it will have significant affects on humanity; fossil fuels will run out
  • homo sapiens are not particularly nice creatures
  • science and technology will be ascendant

What do you think Bacigalupi's paradigm is?
And more importantly, what is your paradigm?
Show us!

4 comments:

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