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From: Michael Andre-Driussi <mantis@sirius.com>
Subject: (urth) BaD sCienCe
Date: Wed, 1 Dec 1999 21:07:27 

I'm trying to think of a major science fiction work in which the
sensawunder science has held up . . .

I keep thinking of poor old Larry Niven, who was about as close to the
non-classified source of Big Science as a fiction writer could be; in one
sense he seemed to be in the position of being a "bard of Big Science,"
hearing the jargon from the white coats, then bringing it down to the
common reader like Prometheus carrying fire from the gods to humankind . .
. yet "Neutron Star"?  RINGWORLD?  (Although, as a sop for the topic: the
mini-black holes that he used in some short stories are kissing cousins to
the sort of black hole I envision at work in Old Sun.)

Or Paul Park, who dusted off Tommy Gold's discredited theory on hydrocarbon
formation (Park's "sugar rain"), as well as tucking in a few earlier age
skiffy artifacts like a car that runs on gunpowder (I thought that Park
might have actually thought something up with this item, until I saw a
literature survey and learned better).  Sharing this trait with Gene Wolfe;
maybe Wolfe's motto should be "Never let science get in the way of story."
(But with Wolfe I also sense that he is impishly playing with the fickle
nature of science vogue.)

(Alas!  Paul Park left me behind in CELESTIS when he had an orbital
beanstalk in place on a tidelocked world, without a breath to spare about
the extra kinks that this puts in the engineering exercise . . . I have a
hard time seeing a geostationary orbit around a tidelocked world . . . and
if the orbital elevator is reaching all the way out to a Trojan Point, well
of course I'd like to hear about it.)

Has anything held up any better than FRANKENSTEIN, which was written
vaguely in the science of its day by a non-scientific wisp of a girl?
After being discredited in the early part of the 20th century, has Mary
been validated because in the late 20th century it is an everyday occurance
to ressurrect the (recently) dead with electrical discharge?

It is also peculiar to me that scientists get to "discover" ideas (or claim
them or name them, which is perhaps the most important in the end) first
laid out in sf.  For example, the so-called "Dyson Sphere" is really a
Stapledon Light Trap; Martyn Fogg gets to work out the mechanics of
"stellificating" Jupiter without a mention of Arthur C. Clarke; etc.  Which
is fair, in the sense that the scientist is working with his calculator for
an afternoon or whatever, figuring out this and that, and furthermore, a
supposedly scientific paper will be tarnished by any sort of mention of
"inspiration by genre," but still: I think it is a two way street between
science and sf, yet it is constantly portrayed as a one way street, or
worse, a high tower and a slimy ghetto.  Which is true, of course:
charlatans and bonefides on both sides.


*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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