Lost in Space

Lost in Space
Adjacent Data

Joel Kelly | 12 Feb 2008 07:04
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Halo 3's attraction was its escapist values, just like Star Wars, another sci-fantasy. Less about morality or a comment on society, it let players become engrossed in the world it presented. Aren't you able to imagine yourself in the game's universe because it's so implausible, because it's so much grander than our own world? It feels like all it would take is for time to pass, for the future to be now, and you could actually be Master Chief. And all of those games and the ones like them will eventually be relics of our time. They'll be artifacts of how we saw the world in 2007, because our visions of the future are mere extrapolations of the present.

Our minds can accept the worlds of science fiction because they're wonderfully derivative, too. Every science fiction novel, movie and videogame feels familiar to me because I'm a sci-fi fan. William Gibson (Neuromancer, Spook Country), coiner of the word "cyberspace," even said in his July 2005 article in Wired that his writing was much like William S. Burroughs's cut-and-paste techniques.

"Everything I wrote, I believed instinctively, was to some extent collage. Meaning, ultimately, seemed a matter of adjacent data." He spoke of the remix culture, which seems pioneered by science fiction. "Our culture no longer bothers to use words like appropriation or borrowing to describe those very activities. Today's audience isn't listening at all - it's participating." This brings the audience so much closer to the genre. Think of the fan-created Star Wars and Star Trek films, or the abundant fan-fiction stories.

And it's been overwhelmingly science fiction authors who've embraced new distribution models for their works. Authors like Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross have offered some of their books for free online. Doctorow's novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom was made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license. There's a singularity somewhere out there in the future where the audience and the creators are indistinguishable from each other, and it will be science fiction leading this revolution.

It all comes down to a simple thought: Science fiction is like seeing your house on Google Maps and thinking, "Wow, so that's what my house looks like." From another unusual and uncomfortable perspective it all becomes terribly clear. And from way up there in the world of science fiction we get to see a little bit more of ourselves, lose ourselves so wholly in everything it has to offer. We've clung to it for so long, and we'll continue to do so. Well, at least in my version of the future.

Joel Kelly is a freelance contributor to The Escapist.

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