Re. Science fiction and transhuman memes
Thu, 8 Jul 1999 02:04:14 EDT

>Mac Tonnies (AIintelbot) wrote:
>>Natasha Vita More mentioned in an unrelated post that she was not, for the
>>most part, influenced by science fiction. As an avid sf reader, I find
>>interesting. Could you elaborate on your influences? Sf has always
>>functioned as a sort of memetic fountainhead for me; transhumanism came
>>as a very happy coincidence...though not entirely as a surprise.

>It is interesting. I, too, am not primarily influenced by science
>fiction. That is not to say that I haven't read quite a few sf novels, but
>their overall effect on how I live my life is quite minimal. The two
>exceptions are David Zindell's quartet, and Neal Stephenson's _The Diamond
>Age_. My influences come from reading about new breakthroughs and studies
>which are actually being done. Conceptual progress is a fabulous thing...
>particularly for those new to transhumanism, but actualized progress is far
>more preferable in my mind. It is an exciting time to be alive.

I couldn't agree more! I honestly think my generation (I'm 23) will be one of the first to reap the benefits of some of the staggeringly complex biomedical leaps that are in the works. My taste in science fiction has changed (not "matured," by any means) from an interest in hard science to more "literary" sf (whatever the hell that means).

"The Diamond Age" is a fabulous book about a future that I can actually see happening. "Holy Fire" by Bruce Sterling is another with this quality (which is rarer than some might think). Other "hard" sf novels that have seeded me with progressive ideas: "Red Mars" by Kim Stanley Robinson, "Timescape" by Gregory Benford, "Childhood's End" by Arthur C. Clarke, "Sterling's "Schismatrix"...these are books that seethe with thought-food--and they're of "literary" quality to boot.

Lately I've been reading a lot of J.G. Ballard. Steve Erickson ("Amnesiascope") is another author with an appropriately millennial perspective.

Sagan's "Cosmos" turned me on to popular science writing more than any other single book; now I read a great deal of nonfiction on science/culture. One of the best I've read recently is Mark Dery's "Escape Velocity." Alex Heard's "Apocalypse Pretty Soon" follows a similar theme (and it's hilarious), though it equates cryonics and transhumanism as some form of misguided millennial hysteria. At least that's what I got out of Heard's commentary; I'm willing to forgive him, as his book is quite blatantly a personal take on things, and he makes no real attempt to speak on behalf of "reason" for all of us.

Mac Tonnies