Author Topic: People and ideas  (Read 2097 times)

fiveyearwinter

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People and ideas
« on: February 07, 2007, 08:11:13 AM »
Steve said something in the outtro of one of the last stories (in fact, I believe it was The Acid Test) that got me to thinking. He mentioned a recent criticism of Escape Pod was that lately it's been more about the characters than the ideas. He responded by saying that SF should be about both people AND ideas.

I think that's important. I often find any fiction that I can only relate to on an intellectual level (as opposed to the emotional connection to the characters) to be too heavy. On the other hand, I usually feel stories that are lacking in the ideas department to be vapid and...well...uninteresting.

There's a balance between these two factors - one I feel the editors of Escape Pod (less so Pseudopod, although that's good because horror is supposed to work on a more instinctual/primal level) have been hitting relatively consistently.

And that's why I like Cory Doctorow so much. First of all because his stories are released for free online - so I can read them before I decide if they're worth my money. But more importantly, his stories employ themes and ideas as a backdrop for more intimate human interaction. If you've never read anything of his, I suggest Eastern Standard Tribe to the technologically-inclined, and Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town for those looking for a little more fantasy. If you don't have time for either, two of his stories have been on Escape Pod, and you can find them in the archives. Some of his personal politics irritate me, but his writing is solid, and I believe he strikes a nice balance between large ideas and personable characters.

Another great example, in my opinion, is Ender's Game. That book dealt in huge, heavy, terrible ideas - but they were put into the context of the struggles of a too-smart-for-his-own-good six year old boy. Ender's Game is one of the finest examples of SF, and I believe this is the case precisely because it does not dilute its powerful ideas with campy personal drama, nor does it separate us from its characters by hammering ideas into our heads.

Anyway - I think that to criticize a writer for excesses in either side is a bit harsh. We need stories at the extremes, because sometimes the mood strikes for one or the other.

The truth is, the finest examples of the genre work because they have no shortage of people or the ideas that motivate these people to action. It's the mark of a good writer, I think, to create a work in which both  elements are strong, without either eclipsing the other.