Obligate Dramatic Irony

The thing about sci-fi is that there’s stuff we can’t write anymore, and not (just) in the PC culture wars sense.

In the 50s, before we reached a local maximum on robotics, we had stories about smart houses and ambulatory robot assistants.

In the 60s and 70s when we had no clue what the conditions were like on other planets, we had stories about sirens on Titan and planets that were ripe for human colonization because the atmosphere on them are by default earth-like.

In the 80s and 90s, when we had no fucking idea what this internet thing would be capable of, we had stories about metaverses and uber-powerful hackers.

Of course we can still write stuff about, like, civilizations on Jupiter or whatever, but when we do, we must do so through a filter/layer/film of something that we can call “obligate dramatic irony”. We now know for certain that the other planets in our solar system are devoid of intelligent humanoid life, so it gets that much harder to suspend your disbelief (a thing that takes work), and so the threshold for how cool a premise needs to be to use the scenario gets elevated. 1

Sci-fi pushes at the frontiers of current science for inspiration, and I think this is rad! This lessens the work needed to suspend your disbelief, increases the wonder and delight because of a thrumming background sense of plausibility, and it’s not like our current understandings of science is not conducive to a wealth of new and fucking awesome premises in SF 2.

The flip-side is just that previous frontiers are now largely blocked, and unblocked only through a self-consciously retro aesthetic (or something more clever), if writing, and a layer of obligate dramatic irony, if reading.

Anyways, this is probably something that’s already been talked about by McLuhan or DFW or the assholes who talk about hauntology/disenchantment or whatever. Please email me the key phrase to google if you know.

  1. Jupiter Ascending is elevated and cool. stfu[โ†‘]
  2. not to mention the movies!!![โ†‘]

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