Neal Stephenson delivered a talk entitled The Fork: Science Fiction versus Mundane Culture at Gresham College.
Four professors discuss the origins of science fiction, its overlap with other genres and its developments over more than a century.
Neal Stephenson is the best-selling author of such novels as Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, Cryptonomicon, and The Baroque Cycle.
He is best know for writing science fiction (in the postcyberpunk genre) and his interests often lead him into investigations of society, mathematics, cryptology, currency and the history of science.
Postcyberpunk writer Neal Stephenson explains why he believes science fiction actors such as Leonard Nimoy, Lucy Lawless, and Sigourney Weaver develop bifurcated acting careers that in science fiction circles rise to cult status, but in the mainstream are character actors or get no work at all.
Fiction dealing principally with the impact of actual or imagined science on society or individuals, or more generally, literary fantasy including a scientific factor as an essential orienting component. Precursors of the genre include Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818), Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), and Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726). From its beginnings in the works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, it emerged as a self-conscious genre in the pulp magazine Amazing Stories, founded in 1926. It came into its own as serious fiction in the magazine Astounding Science Fiction in the late 1930s and in works by such writers as Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert Heinlein. A great boom in popularity followed World War II, when numerous writers' approaches included predictions of future societies on Earth, analyses of the consequences of interstellar travel, and imaginative explorations of intelligent life in other worlds. Much recent fiction has been written in the cyberpunk genre, which deals with the effects of computers and artificial intelligence on anarchic future societies. Radio, film, and television have reinforced the popularity of the genre.
The best example of the Bifurcated career is Alec Guinness, his performance as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars movies made him more rich and more famous than his prior work. He thought that this earlier work was much more important artistically and was highly frustrated at the fame Star Wars had brought him. He essentially defined a geek personality type, but wasn't himself a geek. Source: "My Name Escapes Me: The Diary of a Retiring Actor"
? "I see that genre based writing is still a going concern. ...These for all Mr. Stephenson's talk will not go away for a long time." Count the Dimes and then define to me your length of Time. I have read very little of his works, mainly liken to everyone else, the revaluation has overwhelmed me with multiple distractions of, my Time.
My Search request, after starting to read his " In the Beginning was the Command Line, by Neal Stephenson, raised the Question of his Style. How was he nurtured to this extent, to express his thoughts with such style. I am the reader, he is the leader and my thoughts wondered as I attempted to relate to his exposure to ligature, that Greater then mine started 2 years after my beginnings in Life.
I hope his Style "will not go away", I will even agree that there will be others that will keep it alive. However, my children are not so inclined nor is there culture! My initial exposure to a lecture was on a hard wooden pew for times exceeding over an hour. That brought about pain relief and the destructive wiggling with the interdiction with the segregation from the young and the old with a brief intermission and the happy feet in use path to Sunday school. After 30 min we were dragged back, some crying, to the hard wood reality of authority for a quick recap, a song or 2 and social news. The final song brought forth the passing of the "Plate", if the crowd was large then an other followed by the shuffle out the Back (Main) door. Now, in 2008, its Kids there and into there subgroups, Adults here were its Politics then scripture to justify the Point of view, prayer request, get the cash and it all over back inside the car in under 1 hour.
Radio,TV and movies are the modern Literature sources today. SF is King, how else better can you descried the mass majority that the sound Bits feed us and the future minds of our off spring?
Is it real, even now, text and edited in cyberspace, will it still be here when the power goes out.
I like his style because it resonates on more then one level and it makes my think.
I sense in Mr. Stephenson's lecture a problem, one that will draw attention to the lecture as a whole. Having at one time worked in a bookstore, I see that genre based writing is still a going concern. The genres that still compete for people's attention are, romance, mystery and crime/thriller, along with the military style of writing of the Tom Clancy genre. These for all Mr. Stephenson's talk will not go away for a long time. Many adherents to these particular styles of writing still exist in the real world. As to, speculative fiction, there is a genre that will overtake those others eventually. SF such as Neuromancer, The American Gods and others are gaining ground and will someday command great respect in their particular fields. Great lecture, giving someone many things to think about.
He's definitely putting into words what I've been sensing for a while - the idea of genres is really falling apart, as main genres break up into multiple sub genres and cross-genres. I like his basic assertion about SF characters behaving intelligently in the face of the unknown, too. Good talk.