2007/09/14

科幻預言未來?──Taking Notes: 'Tales of Futures Passed' (2001, 2005) by Andy Sawyer

臺灣主流科幻推廣人士很強調科幻作品的「預言」功能,甚至把「驗證」科幻作品中的「預測」當成該作品是否成為「古典科幻」的判定標準。然而,科幻真的能夠 預測未來嗎?我們在賞析科幻時,真的會使用這樣的閱讀策略與評判標準嗎?這篇由我的恩師 Andy Sawyer 先生在 2001 年香港研討會所發表的論文,從大眾科幻史中常被忽略的 Rudyard Kipling 的作品分析開始談起,進一步闡述科幻所關注的焦點其實不是未來,而是過去,乃至於作者的當代社會。

閱讀版本:
Andy Sawyer, "Tale of Futures Passed: The Kipling Continuum and Other Lost Worlds of Science Fiction" in World Weavers: Globalization, Science Fiction, and the Cybernetic Revolution, edited by Wong Kin Yuen〔王建元〕, Gary Westfahl and Amy Kit-sze Chan〔陳潔詩〕 (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2005). pp. 113-134.

劃重點:(粗體為我特別加註)

p. 114:
This chapter touches upon one of the apparent problems of science fiction: how a literature apparently concerned with the future so often finds itself involved with the past, clinging to its past visions of future progress.

A science fiction story set some years in the future is inevitably going to seem outdated when that time is reached. Some stories reach this stage more quickly than others. ...... But to think like this in any case to misread SF; we do not award points for accuracy, although it is legitimate to reflect upon the actual nature of the distortions of the reflection in the mirror which the science fiction holds up to history. ......
p. 116
...... there are numerous streams that run into the river that has become the twentieth century's confrontation with its own identity. Moreover, it is a gross oversimplification to regard the history of "the genre to be known as science fiction" throughout the twentieth century as a creative clash between a more reflective, pessimistic European strand and a brasher, more optimistic "engineer's fiction" (to adapt the term given to it by one of the field's earliest academic critics, C. S. Lewis), but there is enough truth in the paradigm for the pattern to become a cliche of SF commentary.

There was, however, a writer who even before this division became apparent had modelled a way to fuse both strands, who was both one of the finest early exponents of this form and an immense influence on
p. 117
a number of later practitioners. The debt of science fiction to Rudyard Kipling is frequently acknowledged but rarely fully examined.

接下來,正式分析 Kipling 的 "With the Night Mail: A Story of 2000 / Together with Extracts from the Magazine in Which It Appeared" (1904). 雖然 Kipling 在本篇作品中提出許多預測,也因為他的「先見之明」而獲得讚揚,
p. 118
......

However, it is not Kipling's "forecasting" which is the most interesting part of "With the Night Mail" but how he creates illusion of reality. ......


Kipling achieves this illusion in a number of ways. First is the narrative technique of the presentation of his future-world, in which
p. 119
his narrator-journalist addresses his words to readers who will be familiar with some aspects of this world: By slipping into the present tense with the second paragraph of the story he achieves narrative immediacy (......) ...... By inserting references to the everyday world of the journalist's readers -- ......-- Kipling invites us to treat that world as "real." ...... Readers of popular fiction sometimes refer to this problem [two kinds of readers, one is part of the story who know the world well, the other is the "real" reader who needs introductions] as the "As you know, Carruthers ..." cliche, or the "infodump." Kipling's technique is more subtle. Information is given to the "real" reader in a number of ways. Information comes through conversation, or the narrator drops some history and technology into his account:

......

The most effective illusion of verisimilitude, however, is the "apparatus" of advertisements, letters, and book reviews (123-6). Not only does Kipling give us detailed and often amusing pictures of life in the year 2000 through advertisements, readers' letters, and "Answers to Correspondence," but he allows the history and political
p. 120
superstructure of this world to be deduced. ......

......

Second, Kipling's fiction was, in the words of SF writer Gene Wolfe, "rooted in technology." Whereas Wells was trained as a practical biologist, Kipling was a journalist with an interest in the how and why of machinery and the speech and slang of those who tend it: the metaphorical (and literal) freemasonry of skilled craft. ......
p. 121
...... His invented technology -- like so many subsequent technologies, conveniently dependent on a yet-to-be-discovered "ray" -- is rich in jargon, but it can be compared with what Star Trek fans call "technobabble." Kipling's jargon is the jargon of the specialist rather than of the plotter of popular fiction in a difficulty. ......

...... the third way his fiction achieves verisimilitude: through links with the reality his readers in 1905, rather than 2000, know and feel. ......
p. 122
......

Mixed with the explanations and descriptions are, finally, events. ...... Realistic fiction emerges in a fantasitic setting. What we read is an elaborate and carefully crafted representation of an imagined reality.

Andy 接下來申論 Kipling 的寫作策略與後來所謂的「硬科幻」頗為相近,並以 Arthur C. Clarke 的 2001: A Space Odyssey 為代表範例加以分析:
p. 122
In "With the Night Mail" Kipling is not merely being "predictive" but exploring the nature of a possible world. In doing so, his technique is close to what became known as "hard SF," a term coined by P. Schuyler Miller in his 1950s reviews for Astounding Science Fiction. Allen Steele writes: "Hard SF is the formof imaginative literature that uses either established or carefully extrapolated science as its backbone." According to Gary Westfahl, hard SF is often seen, because of its roots in magazines read by people with a working knowledge of science and technology, as a shared "game between writers and readers in which scientific information and thinking is fundamental to the story and the aim is to be as scientifically accurate (or at least as plausible) as possible." Westfahl goes on to say: "hard science fiction writers anticipate an audience of readers who know a great deal about science and are prepared -- even willing -- to point out scientific inaccuracies in stories." It is this strand of SF which C. S. Lewis referred to as "engineer's stories," ......
p.123
Clarke is a writer of conventional, realistic prose, often stiff, but frequently -- when he is describing aspects of the physical world no one has even seen -- possessed of an astonishing poetic charge. Like Kipling, he creates the illusion of a realistic world of the future. ......
p.124
...... Indeed, if (......) the imaginary world of "With the Night Mail" might be described as an evocation of a Kipling Continuum, one might term the imaginary world of the first part of 2001 as a version of a Clarke Continnum, named in honor of one of its most energetic promoters.

In 2001, however, this mundaneity -- as it was in those far-off pre-stone age days with which the novel opened -- is about to be shattered. Clarke singularly ends by offering not the routine event but the idea of change, represented by the Star Child brooding over another paradigm shift. The advantage and disadvantage of basic narrative prose is that the ambiguity present in a situation merely given -- presented without interpretation -- is often spelled out. Kubrick told the story of 2001 through the juxtaposition of image; Clarke interprets for us what is happening. ......

這種 xxx Continuum 的說法根源於 William Gibson 的短篇作品 "Gernsback Continuum"。當過往科幻所預測、揭示的未來時間點逐漸迫近、到來,甚至已經成為過去,當時的未來感儘管和我們的現實相距甚遠,卻也對我們造成影 響。
p. 125
...... We live in the future time Gernsback described, yet very few of the things he imagined are here. Still, their images are implanted in our brains, just as (......) images from Kipling's and Clarke's worlds also linger. Our world and the one Gernsback imagined are remarkably dissimilar; yet if we look at the popular culture and media of our time, it is if we yearn for this future-kitsch. When images from Amazing and similar magazines appear in the press to illustrate something "futuristic," it is as if we suffer from a nostalgia for the future of the past.

......

..... Both stories ["With the Night Mail" and 2001] can rewardingly be read as "forecasting": we can now consider how prescient Kipling was in speculating abut radio, air traffic control, and the rise of the technocracy, and once space travel does come about, we will then have remarkable fun discussing Clarke's "quaintness" -- or not, as the case may be. What we have from both stories is the sense of science fiction, or predictive fiction, or speculative fiction -- whatever it may
p. 126
be called at the time -- as something both about history and with a history. Clarke, writing within a specific tradition of SF (albeit one in which he is a major and innovative figure) is confident but, perhaps, limited. The description of the moon landing is something numerous other writers, Clarke included, have done before. It is smooth with the varnish of time: a carefully wrought icon of science fiction. Our unease with it -- the sense of dislocation it gives us -- is that we still stand in the cusp of events. The moon has been reached, but not colonized. There is no moonbase, there are no commercial flights to the moon -- but at every moment since 1969, the technology has been almost there, waiting to be developed. Above all, we have read so many stories involving first voyages to the moon, lunar colonies, and the exploration of space that we have now internalized a set of virtual histories of space travel; and, as a result, we cannot quite comprehend that in fact all this has not yet happened. Like the Gernsback Continuum of Gibson's story, the Clarke's Continuum haunts contemporary culture.

那科幻中的未來和現實世界的時代性又有什麼關係呢?我們可以先從一個次文類── steampunk 開始討論起。
p. 126
...... steampunk ...... is very much an attempt to explore the technological roots of the present by using fictional modes developed by traditionalfuture-oriented science fiction (specifically, alternate history, but also recursive commentary on science fiction itself). As the cliche has it, we are now living in the future that science fiction has failed to imagine. But if science fiction has failed in anything, offering blueprints is not one of these areas, for that is never what its creators -- Kipling,
p. 127
Gernsback, or Clarke -- really intended it to do. We can, if necessary, read science fiction as alternate history. But even more, we can read it as emblems of futures long passed and superseded, stories of pasts that might have been futures, creative designs made to test their plausibility and capacity for illusion. The future in science fiction is always the present. ...... Their stories embody a hard science fiction of history as much as technology, in which plausible futures are built both as creative acts in themselves and as thought-experiments.

如果現在和未來的界線愈來愈模糊,科幻還有存在的空間和必要嗎?
p. 127
...... the SF wheel is constantly being reinvented. ......
p. 128
But SF is no longer a mode that we can read as purely futuristic. The future of most SF classics have arrived or become irrelevant. What we must do now, I think, is place them outside history and imagine them as the literary artifacts of their eras, echoing resonantly down to ours, colors out of space and shadows out of time.

所以我們從後 New Wave 的科幻史角度來看看此一面向的轉化和流變,特別是 steampunk 的發展:
p. 129
Like the New Wave before it, cyberpunk reacted against what it considered to be the complacency of traditional science fiction. Ironically, of course, the cyberpunks' vision of a computer-dominated near-future world, now reasonably compatible with contemporary expectations, may appear to our descendants as quaint and dated as "With the Night Mail" appears to us. Their worlds, perhaps, will someday be termed their "Gibson Continuum," yet another of science fiction's discarded futures to place alongside those of Kipling, Gernsback, and Clarke.

Steampunk, in a different fashion, endeavored to react against the complacency of science fiction by reaching back to the genre's past, often rewriting cyberpunk in a new locale. (Strangely, the steampunks and cyberpunks often overlapped.) What the steampunks achieved was to establish another "default location" for science fiction, one most readers noe writers had long forgotten. ......

"Nostalgia" is a term which is certainly appropriate to American steampunk, based as it is on the technologies of the dime novels and the re-creation of Victorian London: a nostalgia not just for the past but for the past of science fiction itself. But there are wider implications, especially those suggested by the proto- and post-steampunks. ......

以下論述就極為精彩了:
p. 131
But what we have here is not a convincing "possible" future, as Kipling scholars argue he created, but a convicing alternative future. Here we have a future fiction which has been rendered "alternative" by numerous events in our own historical timeline: the First World War, the wreck of the Heisenberg, the focus upon aeroplane rather than dirigible techonology. ...... In Kipling's world, many of the certainties of late Victorian and Edwardian England remained unshattered, while simultaneously a number of their doubts and hesitancies (such as the question of where the concept of "democracy" might lead to) were extrapolated. We can examine our own responses to the world of the A.B.C. (......) and consider the response of the world of the story. We find a world of thought-experiment, then, at a double remove.

In using the term "default locations" (nearly always, but not always, "default futures") I am attempting to describe some of the fictional phase-spaces in SF. Whatever the many and varied scenarios in post-Gernsback science fiction, it frequently reverts to a world not entirely distinguishable from that described in Ralph 124C 41+ or the first half of 2001. That last sentence is unfair to many writers who were trying to engage with the sense that SF was about the new, the uncharted, the exciting. But it aptly describes the futures envisioned by two important groups of people in science fiction: readers who, gripped by
p. 132
a story or a theme which is mind-shatteringly different from anything they have ever read, want more of the same, and the non-readers who have heard of science fiction and can describe it perfectly.〔也就是我所說的「非科幻專致讀者」〕In the 1930s, it was "that Buck Rogers stuff"; now, everyone can quote from Star Trek. Gibson's smug dream and "sinister fruitness" is now captured by George Lucas's Star Wars: The Phantom Menace which from its wholly generic title to its elaborate capture of the sensibilities of the covers of 1930s SF magazines is a late manifestation of the Gernsback Continuum, while Stephen Baxter's alternate histories of the American space program are keeping the Clarke Continuum alive. Cyberpunk's Gibson Continuum has become a fashion item; we now use the Web not to hack into the databases of multinational corporations but to buy their products. That is not to say that the futures offered by those forms are entirely sterile, but writers and audiences have to work harder to overcome the fact that these areas are, largely, known. We are used to the future. Writers like Gernsback, Clarke, and Gibson have drawn up modles for the next decades. The Millennium is a damp squib compared to the rush of speculation as the dawning of the last century approached. One reason has to be that popular SF -- sci-fi -- has done our speculation for us. We have seen the future on television, and we saw Captain Kirk, not Kosovo.〔I *LOVE* this sentence!〕

科幻有未來麼?答案是肯定的。
p. 132
...... Towards the end of the twentieth century, there were suggestions that SF was coming to an end, worn out, described. This may be true of
p. 133
generic SF, from Gernsback to cyberpunk; but whenever we consider fundamental social change, when we compare the changing skylines of our cities (be they London or Hong Kong) and wonder how these "surreal mixes" will shape life in the following decades or centuries, we are writing science fiction.

...... We do not praise Kipling because he got certain details about air traffic control right, or blame him because aeroplanes rather than dirigibles rule the skies. But he did get something right. He shows that the future develops our of the present, that it is possible to extrapolate from present trends to create imaginary futures with all the verisimilitude of realistic tales of the present, and that such futures almost certainly will not take place. The only certain future is the bemused aside: "I wonder if any of us know what we're really doing."
p. 134
...... the Kipling Continuum is not just the revisionary, recursive, retro-rewriting that develops as a genre becomes aware of its past. That aspect is literary history, enormously interesting but not necessarily emotionally stimulating. But it is also a way of expressing what we as readers -- individually and collectively -- experience when we face our own pasts and interrogate the futures that which arise from them. Janus-like, the most effective science fiction faces both ways.

2 comments:

Bob Lu said...

請問文中 "then, at a double remove." 應作何解?

Daneel Lynn said...

個人解讀:
這裡的 remove 的意思是
a degree of difference, as that due to descent, transmission, etc.

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