Black box recorder

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“SF names not a generic effects engine of literature and simulation arts (the usual sense of the phrase “science fiction”), so much as a mode of awareness, characterized by two linked forms of hesitation, a pair of gaps.

“One gap extends between, on the one hand, belief that certain ideas and images of scientific-technological transformations of the world can be entertained, and, on the other, the rational recognition that they may be realized (along with their ramifications for worldly life). It is a gap that lies between the conceivability of future transformations and the possibility of their actualization. In its other aspect, SF names the gap between, on the one hand, belief in the immanent possibility (and perhaps inexorable necessity) of those transformations, and, on the other, reflection about their possible ethical, social, and spiritual interpretations (i.e., about their embeddedness in a web of social-historical relations). This gap stretches between conceiving of the plausibility, i.e., the prospective factual reality, of historically unforeseeable innovations in human experience (nova) and their broader ethical and social-cultural implications and resonances. SF thus involves two forms of hesitation—a historical-logical one (how plausible is the conceivable novum?) and an ethical one (how good/bad/altogether different are the transformations that would issue from the novum?) These gaps compose the black box in which scientific-technological conceptions, ostensibly unmediated by social and ethical contingencies, are transformed into a rational, “realistic” recognition of their possible materialization and their implications.

“SF embeds scientific-technological concepts in the sphere of human interests and actions, explaining them and explicitly attributing social value to them. This may take many literary forms, from the resurrection of dead mythologies, pseudo-mimetic extrapolation, and satirical subversion, to utopian Auffiebung. It is an inherently, and radically, future-oriented process, since the exact ontological status of the fictive world is suspended. Unlike historical fiction (of which SF is a direct heir), where a less intense suspense operates because the outcome of the past is still in the process of being completed in the present’s partisan conflicts, SF is suspended because all the relevant information about the future has not been created yet, and never can be.

“Since future developments influence revisions of the past, SF’s black box also involves the past, in the hesitation that comes in anticipating the complete revision of origins. A past that is not yet known is a form of the future. So is a present unanticipated by the past. Further, since SF is concerned mainly with the role of science and technology in defining human—i.e., cultural—value, there can be as many kinds of SF as there are theories of culture. Obviously, this conception of SF concerns the range of possible science fictions, many of which have not been realized (for many and various reasons), and not just the actual historical production of the commercial genre known as Science Fiction…”

Istvan Csieser-Ronay Jr. “The SF of Theory: Baudrillard and Haraway”. Science Fiction Studies, Vol. 18., No. 3. Science Fiction and Post Modernism, pp 387-88.

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