Author Topic: Beyond genome editing and space-time warps: Lagos  (Read 3210 times)


  • Posts: 1
  • Karma: 0
    • View Profile
    • Awards
Beyond genome editing and space-time warps: Lagos
« on: January 12, 2018, 11:14:00 PM »
Beyond genome editing and space-time warps: Lagos
By Troim

Particle accelerators - now your friendly neighbourhood sci-fi
plot hook... (Credit: CERN/LHC/GridPP)
Writing science fiction can be based on the inspirational reception of the real thing:
  • How‘s the brain mapping doing?
  • What kind of edges is CRISPR/cas9 busy cutting?
  • All fine and fast at the particle accelerator?
  • Hey, gravitational waves sound like a promising plot core.
  • Not to mention my favorite multipurpose vehicles, dark matter and energy.

Most scientists do science fiction writers1 two big favors: They publish hard, because they have to. And they strive hard to deliver abstracts accessible to people with no real clue about their line of research, a.k.a niche. Because scientific journal gatekeepers tend to be nothing but a more literate and better informed sub-segment of this overwhelming majority of humankind. Thanks to this lucky combination of hardships, inspiration is but one click away.
Most science fiction writers don’t care. They prefer to walk well trodden paths:

  • Beaming around far more substantial stuff than quantum states is considered standard practice.
  • Artificial gravity and time travel have undergone commoditization.
  • Don’t get me started on the established ways of moving one specific kind of notoriously short-lived, non-extremophile and partly sapient primate across interstellar distances.

Be it hard or soft, innovative or traditional, most science fiction breaks the bounds of current technological feasibility. That’s the genre core. The first level.
On the second level, the corresponding sciences would be sociology, psychology and economics, most science fiction declares the straight OECD based Caucasian male hero daydream of Hollywood lore a permanent fixture, as immutable as the basic laws of physics are flexible.
Five, fifty, five hundred or five thousand years from now, some straight middle-class WASP going by the name of Steve/John/Michael from original/Neo/Nova New York will save his home planet/space station/galaxy from whichever self-inflicted or alien induced harm. In the course of which he gets more or less intensely and explicitly laid with some Jane/Sarah/Gloria he met on the way. She can nowadays be black and/or emancipated enough to take over some of the beating/fencing/shooting. There might be an odd non-white or non-straight team member. But that’s about it, maximum modernization mode.
No problem. Science fiction is entertainment. Not aspiring to be the edu or info kind of tainment. Steve and Jane, John and Sarah, Michael and Gloria, talking audience now, have every right to have fun. As author of an early trilogy mostly conforming to convention, I‘m fine with it.

Lagos - home of future sci-fi heroes?
(Image from Skyscrapergist)
But. Because there’s always a ‘but’, there has to be some ‘but’, with science.
What if more science fiction writers broke with tradition? Out with New York, Atlanta, London and Berlin. The future belongs to the young, and a lot of them live in Lagos, Agadir, Rio and Shenzhen. New globally relevant locations and the corresponding cast, a second fiction level on top of the usual technological breakthroughs. Sounds easy? Won’t change much? Sure?
From a practitioner perspective, double level science fiction raises inspiring questions:

  • No one is going to blink at my Virtual Reality stuff. The brain-machine interfaces are pretty futuristic, but who cares? Basing the corresponding IT major in near future Nigeria, that’s the part that won’t go down easy and will need explaining.
  • Gay marriage, unisex toilets and transgender pronoun preferences, banalities in Silicon Valley. The corresponding cast and scenes will evolve differently in an imminent future Lagos. And that’s just the pointy upper end of a big iceberg of traditions, religions and conventions.
  • If my heroes are called Abeo, Infunanya and Mobo, do I introduce connotations that some people will associate, rightly or wrongly, with these names? If my hero is called Wang Xiu Ying, do I need to explain about Asian first and second name conventions, or can the audience be assumed willing to achieve learning by reading?
  • With a team of five black guys, none of them can be ‘the black guy’. Do I still need to mention the race bit, for all of them, to make sure no reader defaults to Caucasian? Sometimes wish I was doing movies... Will a scene involving surprise about the presence of a white person work standalone, or does it require a narrator giving readers a couple of hints?

Writing double level science fiction is great fun, otherwise I wouldn’t keep doing it. I very much encourage all science fiction writers, whichever their personal background, to give it a try.  Just brace yourself for one effect: What we don’t usually touch, when we imagine all kinds of technologically advanced futures, tells us a lot about what is wrong in our present. Presents.

1. The author, proudly delusional, insists on being considered a writer. Of science fiction, imminent to near future, on the hard side of soft and uystopian, including race and gender relations. For details please check out for #AltLeftSci
« Last Edit: January 12, 2018, 11:19:01 PM by Jubal »