Taking Notes: 'Pandora's Box' (1965) by Robert A. Heinlein

本文最初是 Heinlein 對未來的預測文章,被 Cosmopolitan 退稿後,1952 年以 "Where To?" 的篇名刊載於 Galaxy 雜誌。Heinlein 在 1965 及 1980 年兩度修訂,並在首次修訂時新增了一段短介,闡述「科幻非預言」的理念(和 1941 年世界科幻年會的演講稿對照,可以看出 Heinlein 觀念上的轉化),並說明科幻創作的兩種方法(extrapolation 和 speculation)。這裡的筆記只做到短介的部分,"Where To?" 的正文以後有時間再看。

Robert A. Heinlein, "Pandora's Box" in Expanded Universe (New York: Ace, 1982), pp. 309-315

p. 309
Science fiction is not prophecy. It often reads as if it were prophecy; indeed the practitioners of this odd genre (……) of fiction usually strive hard to make their stories sound as if they were true pictures of the future. Prophecies.

Prophesying is what the weatherman does, the race track tipster, the stock market adviser, the fortune-teller who reads palms or gazes into a crystal. Each one is predicting the future – sometimes exactly, sometimes in vague, veiled, or ambiguous language, sometimes simply with a claim of statistical probability, but always with a claim seriously made of disclosing some piece of the future.

This is not at all what a science fiction author does. Science fiction is almost always laid in the future – or at least in a fictional possible-future – and is almost invariably deeply concerned with the shape of that future. But the method is not prediction; it is usually extrapolation and/or speculation. Indeed the author is not required to (and usually does not) regard the fictional "future" most likely to come to pass; his purpose may have nothing to do with the probability that these storied events may happen.

"Extrapolation" means much the same in fiction
p. 310
writing as it does in mathematics: exploring a trend. ……

"Speculation" has far more elbowroom than extrapolation; it starts with a "What if?" – and the new factor thrown in by the what-if may be both wildly improbable and so revolutionary in effect as to throw a sine-curve trend (……) into something unrecognizably different. ……

Most science fiction stories use both extrapolation and speculation. ……
p. 311
I disclaim any intention of prophesying; I wrote that story for the sole purpose of making money to pay off a mortgage and with the single intention of entertaining the reader. As prophecy the story falls flat on its silly face …… Very little of the great literature of our heritage arose solely from a wish to "create art"; most writing, both great and not-so-great, has as its proximate cause a need for money combined with an aversion to, or an inability to perform, hard "honest labor." Fiction writing offers a legal and reasonably honest way out of this dilemma.

A science fiction author may have, and often does have, other motivations in addition to pursuit of profit. He may wish to create "art for art's sake," he may want to warn the world against a course he feels to be disastrous (Orwell's 1984, Huxley's Brave New World – but please note that each is intensely entertaining, and that each made stacks of money), he may wish to urge the human race toward a course which he considers desirable (Bellamy's Looking Backwards, Wells' Men Like Gods), he may wish to instruct, or uplift, or even to dazzle. But the science fiction writer – any fiction writer – must keep entertainment consciously in mind as his prime purpose… or he may find himself back dragging that old cotton sack.

If he succeeds in this purpose, his story is likely to remain gripping entertainment long years after it has turned out to be false "prophecy." ……

p. 312
"Solution Unsatisfactory" herein is a consciously Wellsian story. No, no, I'm not claiming that it is of H. G. Wells' quality – its quality is for you to judge, not me. But it was written by the method which Wells spelled out for the speculative story: Tale one, just one, basic new assumption, then examine all its consequences – but express those consequences in terms of human beings. ……

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