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14 May 2009 @ 07:55 pm
Selling a utopia, and "Titanium Mike" podcast  
Word count: 3855 | Since last entry: -324

Beautiful sunny day today. Went to the last yoga class of the term, walked down to Stumptown for more beans, mowed the lawn. Also finished up and submitted my story for the Shine anthology.

This story wasn't all that hard to write, but I had a lot of trouble dealing with the comments from my critique group. Some of them liked the story; some found its utopia implausible; others found the utopia plausible enough, but morally ambiguous (which was not my intent). How to deal with these varied reactions?

The biggest problem with writing optimistic near-future SF, I think, is that if you're going to write about a future in which some of today's most serious and intractible problems are solved, and make it convincing, you almost have to come up with a real, workable solution, and that's something much better minds than mine have failed at again and again. (People will accept a logically flawed dystopia, because they know that stupidity and greed are endless, but a logically flawed utopia won't stand up.) I tried to deal with the problem by setting the story well after the change point, but I did try to explain how we got there from here and some of my readers just didn't buy it.

In the end I think that whether a given given reader buys a story like this (and if the reader is an editor, that's literal) will depend on whether or not they accept the basic premises from which the story's solutions proceed. In editing the story, I tried to make the utopia more plausible by providing more concrete details... they won't necessarily convince an antagonistic reader, but may help a neutral reader accept the story even if they don't buy the utopia.

In other news, the podcast of "Titanium Mike Saves the Day" is now up at StarShipSofa (also available via iTunes). Happy listening!

Elizabeth Colemancriada on May 15th, 2009 02:16 pm (UTC)
Ha! You've given me an opportunity to rant about something bugging me. I'm currently reading a political dystopia set in either the present or immediate future. It's very heavy-handed--it's from a feminist perspective and none of the male characters are sympathetic. When I looked up reviews online to see what other people thought, I found one by Cory Doctorow that suggested that while it was heavy-handed, political dystopias needed to be--just look at 1984. While I agree with him to an extent, there's a difference between this book--set in the present, ordinary world--and 1984--set in a highly stylized future.
So no, not everyone will accept a logically flawed dystopia. :-)

But regarding utopias--I've heard a lot of talk about the Shine anthology, and I've been thinking a lot about optimistic sf lately. Star Trek has also helped fuel this curious glee.
I read a story by Tobias Buckell in the Wastelands anthology, which was the only optimistic story in it. He focused on a single aspect of society, which kept things from getting too shiny. (I think in his case, it was where we got our energy--wind power was predominant, which made for some really cool land-ships, which is what made the story stick in my head.)