Neal Stephenson: Dear Science Fiction Writers, Please Try To Be a Little More Cheerful For the Good of Humanity

The Hieroglyph project’s first concrete achievement will be a sci-fi anthology from William Morrow in 2014, full of new stories about scientists tackling big projects, from building supertowers to colonizing the moon. “We have one rule: no hackers, no hyperspace and no holocaust,” Stephenson says. He and his collaborators want to avoid pessimistic thinking and magical technologies like the “hyperspace” engines common in movies like Star Wars. And, he adds, they’re “trying to get away from the hackerly mentality of playing around with existing systems, versus trying to create new things.”

But what Mr Stephenson didn’t know

DUN DUN DUN

was that all the miserable dystopias were an imprint from the collective subconscious of the future BEAMED BACK (using a magical technology) and their function was to prepare us to survive. A sudden outbreak of Jetsons fanfiction halted this process, and when the future arrived, stark and terrible, we had all this optimism and no one knew how to wield an axe, build a fire, or, gods forbid, hack a system, any system.

No but seriously: art to advance an agenda to ratify a positive emotional atmosphere seems unlike art at all. I am not one of those people sitting in the corner in my ashes and rags in order to experience true artistic suffering (I get plenty of true artistic suffering without adding to it, thank you very much, it’s just totally ordinary suffering, really, the question is what do you DO about it). ON THE OTHER HAND I too get really tired of the frequent Our Sciencing Will Be The Ruin Of Us story, because our sciencing has been a mixed bag to date and we should go carefully but all in all there’s a lot to be said for the technological improvements we have and the threat (as I see it anyway) comes from our inability to foresee outcomes and also our tendency to be weirdly nasty to each other for relatively unimportant reasons. Plus there could be aliens, or beings from another dimension who are on the verge of breaking through into ours, so external threats are still possible without it being THE ROBOTS THEY BETRAYED US or HAD WE BUT KNOWN THE TIMESPACE AGGREGATION WOULD UNDO US ALL or still worse WE CURED CANCER AND THEN BECAME OUR OWN CANCER.

So, that’ll be interesting, and we’ll see what they do with it.

In other news for people who like stories, David Mamet’s memo to the writers of The Unit is delicious capslocky gold:

START, EVERY TIME, WITH THIS INVIOLABLE RULE: THE SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC. it must start because the hero HAS A PROBLEM, AND IT MUST CULMINATE WITH THE HERO FINDING HIM OR HERSELF EITHER THWARTED OR EDUCATED THAT ANOTHER WAY EXISTS.

Which I am taking as life advice as well as writing advice. Because sometimes you find yourself thwarted and other days you are educated that another way exists.

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