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4 thoughts on “Lunar New Year Book #40: Jennifer Government, by Max Barry”
Question: is one of the requirements of sci-fi that it be set in the future? Can’t it still be science fiction and portray an alternate present (as “Jennifer Government” apparently does)? I looked up science fiction at dictionary.com (yeah, I’m lame), and it says: “A literary or cinematic genre in which fantasy, typically based on speculative scientific discoveries or developments, environmental changes, space travel, or life on other planets, forms part of the plot or background.” It doesn’t mention anything about time. It also doesn’t really give a solid definition of science fiction, in my mind, but there you have it.
Not really important, but I just started wondering about that when I read your review.
My bad, Charles. I ought to have said, “isn’t futuristic SF”.
SF actually isn’t limited to the future. A major trend in American SF is to set it in the present — Gibson, Sterling, and others are doing that these days, though I think Neal Stephenson was a big trendsetter with his Cryptonomicon. Alternate history is also SF, and I’ve read alternate histories set as far back in history as the Stone Age, or in Ancient Greece. Alternate histories set in the present are fascinating, my favorite being Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle.
In addition, with the advent of steampunk, there’s all kinds of neat stuff happening in SF set in the past. Here I’d say Sterling and Gibson were the trailblazers with The Difference Engine, a book that’s in my short-term to-read pile — I had a hardback in Canada which I meant to read ages ago but never got around to. And Paul di Filippo’s The Steampunk Trilogy is also in my short-term to-read pile. The one story of three that I’ve read from that book was full of wonderful, hilarious Victorian SF, full not only of alternate history but also all kinds of whacked-out alternate science.
Anyway, no, SF is much more open-ended than I may have implied. I’d going to fix that mistaken implication right now.
Ah, OK. With the exception of some of P.K. Dick’s stuff that I read at university, I have to admit that I’m not really familiar with SF in the medium of fiction (although I’ve seen plenty of “science fiction” films). It just kind of hit me when I was reading your post: Wait, do I even know what science fiction is?
I think that the next time I get out to a bookstore I’m going to look up some of those titles you mentioned. Anything else I might want to delve into?
“…do I even know what science fiction is?”
Don’t go there, man. Within the genre, there’s a CONTINUOUS discussion with no headway. Suffice it to say one knows it when one sees it, if one knows it well at all.
I’ll think up a recommendation this week for you. Gotta go now.