Re: The hazards of writing fiction about post-humans

From: Jef Allbright (
Date: Tue May 03 2005 - 08:55:04 MDT

Ben -

Thanks for a wonderful post illuminating the importance of subjective
context in relation to values and human appreciation.

I think this question of art effectiveness (now there's a rare concept)
really comes down to knowing your audience and playing to their
intrinsic responses. Unfortunately--for many of us to one side of the
bell curve--this means keeping the work firmly rooted in the center and
extending only far enough to get some oohs and aahs but not so far that
most of the audience is lost. There's a strong analogy here to the
question of effectively communicating transhumanist memes to the general
population...or communicating SL4+ memes to the transhumanist population!

Personally, I prefer to read only fiction with the potential to make me
laugh out loud from my brain being tickled by formation of strange and
deep new connections. Greg Egan's works are at the top of my list, but
it's been a while.

>One thing that would be interesting to see in a sci-fi novel would be a
>character who the reader DOES intensely care about, because he/she has been
>developed in a loving and careful manner characteristic of high-quality
>traditional literature, who THEN becomes transhuman, rational,
>emotionally-detached and MORE INTERESTING but yet LESS EMOTIONALLY GRIPPING
>to the reader. This would solve the artistic problem you mention, in a
>sense, and it would have a powerful impact on the reader in terms of making
>the aesthetic difficulties I've been discussing explicit as part of the
>story's theme.
As discussed earlier, "MORE INTERESTING" and "LESS EMOTIONALLY
GRIPPING" are in fundamental conflict with each other in relation to the
mass audience. One way to pull it off, however, might be as follows:
(1) Develop individual character for strong reader-attachment based on
human instinctual values, (2) develop the rational, emotionally-detached
phase in the context of solving many of the current worries of life, and
(3) develop the idea of this rational character, and others like him, as
part of a larger culture doing wonderfully amazing and glorious things
(to appeal to humans innate desire to be part of something greater than

- Jef

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