Does experimental science fiction exist?

Solstice Publishing has just published a standalone short story The Chaos of Mokii by Geoff Nelder. Like any author who is proud of such an achievement, he sent round e-mails to his friends to say effectively: ‘Look what I’ve done. Isn’t is great? I’m real chuffed about it!’ In his e-mail, he called it experimental science fiction. At that point I went: ‘Huh? Does such a thing exist?’

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Before we get into the theme of this post, let me define what I think is meant by experimental science fiction. It is science fiction that tries to break the mould of the traditional and current themes in science fiction. This includes taking extrapolations of current technology and seeing where it could be heading in the future in ways that have not been done before.

What it is not in my opinion is using techniques with words in new ways, unless those new ways reflect the new themes.

So does Geoff’s story qualify?

Well, let’s look at the blurb:

Mokii is a city that exists only in the minds of its inhabitants. It’s not easy to get past the bouncer but once Olga is inside she has to fight off intruders eager to take over the city for the lucrative virtual advertising.
A city that exists only in the minds of its inhabitants? Well that’s interesting. Is it an extension of The Matrix? Of course the story is different. But does it have new themes etc to make it experimental?
The story studies a world occupied by consciousness alone, i.e. the bodies do not really exist, nor do the sensory perceptions. So there’s a deviation immediately from the The Matrix – because sensory perceptions exist there. Hm, this is getting really interesting. 
Well, I won’t spoil it for you good people. Go and read it for yourselves.
But it does, in a way, align with what I was saying about the likely new science fiction trend being about Perspectives.
Of course, it is easier to cut out perspectives we are familiar with, than to make one up. Let me give an example of what I mean. We are all familiar with the five senses of sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste. Some may add a sense of balance and being able to sense temperature. A few of you might add the sense of magnetism that pigeons and some other animals can navigate by or the chemical signals sent around the wood wide web. These are all senses we know from experience or have some information about (derived through observing the behaviours of third parties). Now what if I add being able to sense signals sent by quantum entanglement? How would an author describe that so that it made sense to the reader?
Of course, with these comments, you can see why I was so excited about Emma Geen’s The Many Selves of Katherine North.
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So yes, experimental science fiction does exist. But it won’t be in the big sellers’ lists. At the moment it is busy dissecting the senses and the viewpoints that arose out of a combination of senses different to our own.
I will add one addendum of my own. My C.A.T. series (including Agents of Repair) does touch on how software (for want of a better description) would sense other software. This particularly comes out in Neptune’s Angel.
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6 thoughts on “Does experimental science fiction exist?

  1. I take your point – it’s very difficult to come up with truly ground-breaking experimental science fiction. I agree that Emma Geen’s marvellous book achieves it and I would also add Greg Egan’s The Orthogonal series where he changes the way light behaves by swapping a mathematical sign in the equation that explains the Einsteinian universe.

    1. Hello Sarah,
      Glad you liked Emma Geen’s novel. I’m also a fan of Greg Egan, but haven’t had chance to read his orthogonal books. Must look into getting my hot sticky mitts on them. Thank you for the pointer.
      One of the problems with ground-breaking stuff in any walk of life is that, unless you are very lucky, it has to fight the established practices. The recession has not helped, because the publishers can’t afford to take as many, if any, risks on a newbie.

    1. Hello Emma – Welcome to my blog.

      Your novel does things I’ve not read elsewhere – it deserves better recognition than it seems to be getting. Let’s hope readers will cotton on to this gem.

      C.A.T. is doing very well… I’m currently writing the C.A.T. novel, which is broken down into 9 main chapters. Of the 5 completed chapters so far, 4 have got Honourable Mentions in the quarterly short story contest – Writers of the Future. C.A.T. purring…

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