Sunday, October 12, 2014

Ahead: More Science Fiction

My vision for The Devil of Ponong series has always been more steampunk than shows on the page. Technology is there, but it's been subdued. So for those of you who wonder if it's science fiction light, it has been, but there's a reason for that. As a fan of science fiction, one thing has always bugged me, and that's planetwide lack of diversity.

Part of this, I get. Watch Star Trek and everyone except the away team looks like the Von Trapp Family Singers, as if some nanny had made all their clothes from the same bolt(s) of cloth. But what else is a wardrobe department supposed to do with one week of turn-around? They developed one look for the planet and whip up a hundred costumes because that's all they had time for.And maybe the away team only landed in a small place and everyone there kind of dressed the same. Fine. But in too many books, the entire planet is one religion, one race, and of one thought about important matters. When is that possible with sentient beings? And while we're at it, how is it that everyone has equal access to the same quality of clothes, much less live in nearly identical dwellings and have the same technology? 

Half a mile away from me, homeowners have access to high speed internet, and have had it for over five years, but an invisible line has been drawn around where I am and the cable company shows no interest in ever servicing us with the better connections. Half a mile away! I might as well live on a remote island in the south Pacific.

One of my favorite movies is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. At one point they leave Wyoming ( think) and head to New York City where they eventually catch a boat on their way to Bolivia. While they were Wyoming, it was still very much the wild west, but the montage of NYC at the same point in time shows paved streets jammed with automobiles. These two worlds existed at the same time in the same country.  Extrapolating that disparity, it didn't take much imagine the great differences between Thampur and Ponong.

 Decades ago, someone tried to convince me that as Southeast Asia and Africa developed, they would string telephone wires across their continents. What really happened was that developing areas leapfrogged past the historical stages that led to current telecommunication systems in the west and headed right for mobile technology. Why string a bunch of wires everywhere when you can get right to the good stuff with less expense? So not only do we have unequal access, but we also adapt technology differently.

 In countries without well developed banking systems, people use debt card apps on their phones to pay for everything. Here in the US, we're actually far behind the curve adapting that level of technology. Why? I have no idea. Maybe because we figured out clunky work-arounds that we're too invested in to give up, or because we invested in a cellular infrastructure that doesn't play well with others, or maybe because culturally, we haven't reached that place where we understand that what we think of as phones are actually handheld computers on which we can also make phone calls, whereas in Korea and the UK and Iceland and Egypt, everyone wised up to the computer thing a long time ago and ran with it.

Disparity in adoption is real, and I felt it had to be reflected in my stories. Unfortunately that meant mentioning cool gadgets but not really getting to show them. But now that QuiTai is heading for the continent, I'll finally get to indulge in showing off the mechanical wonders of the age. It's going to be difficult to restrain myself. So expect more science fiction. More gadgets. More steampunky goodness.

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