Future Tense

Dec 11, 05:53 by IROSF
Please comment!
Dec 11, 07:33 by Dan Goodman
I can't think of a fictional African-American President who was elected to that position. He (sometimes she) was elected as Vice President and replaced a dead or disabled President; or was lower down in the line of succession.

Dec 11, 11:26 by RaphaŽl AJ
What about Morgan Freeman in Deep Impact? I haven't seen the movie so I don't know if his character was elected president or not.
Dec 11, 13:40 by Athena Andreadis
Freeman in Deep Impact was elected, I believe. There are several other films with black presidents -- all of them disaster flicks. The over-arching concept seems to be that apocalypse is surely nigh once the presidency is "breached" by an Other! A good way for Hollywood to hedge its ideological bets and keep all demographics quasi-happy.
Dec 11, 14:53 by Patty Loofbourrow
Re: AA Presidents -- Instantly I thought of The Fifth Element. I think that fellow was President of Earth or something like that, though. :)
Dec 11, 20:42 by Nader Elhefnawy
I did my own attempt at a comprehensive round-up of the end of SF debate last year, and I'm not all that interested in running through the whole thing over again. (Anyone who's curious can find it at the new home of the Fix over at TTApress, with part 1 at http://ttapress.com/fix/features/end-of-science-fiction-p1/, part 2 at http://ttapress.com/fix/features/end-of-science-fiction-p2/ and a postscript at http://ttapress.com/fix/features/end-of-science-fiction-postscript/.)

Nonetheless, a couple of points here seem worth addressing. Basically, I think Scalzi's right about the "bozo filter" issue. It is not at all implausible that the headache and expense of "snail mail" (especially as it appears to younger prospective writers, members of a generation which grew up on e-mail) acts as a deterrent-especially when combined with the near-certainty of a form rejection letter coming in response (as is especially likely where these largest, most established and arguably most difficult markets are concerned). This may not be the only factor, but I can't picture it not having an effect-one that those who have already "made it," can't remember being an "outsider," and are prone to viewing the outsiders as losers not worth the trouble (indeed, as "bozos," a term I can only use with quotes around it for these purposes because it's essentially unfair), are too prone to dismiss.

Incidentally, magazine editors are not the only ones avoiding e-mail in order to limit the number (and the kind) of submissions they receive. I've noticed over the years that (with exceptions) literary agents and book publishers as well have been very slow to open themselves up to electronic submissions.

Additionally, while it's certainly wrong to pretend people were always optimistic prior to today, it's also wrong to dismiss today's worries lightly. I think an argument can be made that while there were visions of doom in, for instance, the 1940s or the 1960s, there were hopeful visions alongside them in a way that may not be as much the case now. The dark visions remain (in part because the dangers didn't go away-the Doomsday Clock remains, and there are actually fewer minutes left on it today than was the case in much of the Cold Warhttp://www.thebulletin.org/content/doomsday-clock/timeline), but anything like a coherent vision of a better place to be is tougher to find, and fiction reflects this, as do attitudes to fiction.

Star Trek wasn't the totality of '60s-era science fiction, far from it; but there is no analog to such positive expectations in contemporary science fiction (indeed, there's no shortage of disdain for anyone who'd try to offer one). The sole exception seems to be Singularity-themed writing-but one can take that as essentially saying that barring technological transcendence, we're not going to escape our messes.
Dec 11, 23:02 by Athena Andreadis
Since most versions of the Singularity imply extinction of humanity as we know it (with a few Chosen left to service and/or become part of the Machine Godhead), I wouldn't call that terribly optimistic either.
Dec 12, 14:49 by Nader Elhefnawy
True, but there are other outcomes; I think, for instance, of Ray Kurzweil's ideas (which I've criticized at length, particularly with regard to his technological overoptimism-you can check his predictions for 2009 against our 2009, as I did earlier in the year; and for his weak grasp of the social sciences). Still, the radicalism of the visions says something about how much it takes to visualize an appealing tomorrow.

One more thing: we should be clear on what's meant by optimism. There's more than one kind. There's, for instance, a clear-eyed, courageous optimism-but there's also the kind of optimism that Barbara Ehrenreich described in her recent book Bright-Sided. There's plenty of that in the air. But also plenty of doubt as to its meaning and value.
Dec 13, 00:26 by Ron Dwyer
It is somewhat ironic that Mr. Schmidt doesn't consider SF magazines to be "dinosuars", for during his editorialship of one such magazine the number of subscribers has decreased by over 50 percent. Not only Analog, but The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction has taken a dive since Ms. Rusch left as editor. The short fiction magazines are like The Big Three Automakers today, except getting a government bailout is highly unlikely.
Dec 13, 03:57 by Athena Andreadis
Actually, Nader, in addition to the social sciences, Kurzweil et al apparently have an equally weak grasp of biology. Their ideas of uploading, cognitive enhancement, etc, ignore intrinsics of brain structure and function. I have written many articles about this issue. Here's a representative one: Ghost in the Shell: Why Our Brains Will Never Live in the Matrix
Dec 13, 14:24 by Nader Elhefnawy
Thanks for the link.

I appreciate the biological argument against Kurzweil's claims (certainly where biology turns into ecology, his understanding of things is astonishingly simplistic), though in fairness, some of the issues involved may belong more to the realm of philosophy than science. (I think, for instance, of Hans Moravec's discussion of body identity vs. pattern identity.)

Still, as I see it: despite all the hype about medical advances and a "biotech revolution," the body's a messy, intractable thing, and we haven't been good at doing much with it. The promise is always of something just around the corner or over the horizon-and I have doubts about whether we'll get there.

Indeed, he seems to have underappreciated the messiness of the non-biological stuff he talks about, like the painful, clumsy slowness with which, for example, voice-recognition software has developed.
Dec 13, 16:38 by Nader Elhefnawy
Incidentally, regarding the magazines: their declining sales and readerships are not in doubt, having been amply documented (by, among others, Gardner Dozois in his Year's Best anthologies, often in the same breath as his attacks on the "end of sf" argument).
Print magazines in general are facing tough times.

What is more at issue is whether their content is relevant to the state of the field. Analog, whether deservedly or undeservedly, doesn't draw a lot of respect from the critics, but to go by the awards and anthologies-like Strahan's latest Year's Best, which I reviewed for Strange Horizons(accessible at http://www.strangehorizons.com/reviews/2009/11/the_best_scienc-comments.shtml), and by the "big names" they can and do draw, the big magazines on the whole still matter.
Jan 2, 07:23 by jonathan laden
Print magazines are suffering, but they're suffering a massive decline in advertising revenue, an increase in paper costs (thanks to the LBO goofs who have bought up all the mills and run them like our banks), and an increase in postal costs (thanks to the USPS "spiral of death" strategy of raising rates to compensate for/cause lower mail volumes).

Paid subscriber numbers are actually holding very steady across the magazine universe for the mags that don't fold or intentionally lower their rate base for advertisers (meaning they no longer plan controlled circ. or other techniques of propping up the distribution numbers for advertisers at a loss).

Many SF fans I meet don't even know the SF mags exist at this point. So, is Mike Resnick right that there's just no ROI in it, so harvesting the cash cow is all that can be done? (His arguments are eloquent and persuasive, as are those of many others.) Or have the mags underinvested for decades, and reaped the consequences? I wish I knew.
   

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