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If I want to imagine, for instance, what our world would be like if ordinary objects were conscious, then the best way to make progress is to fictionally simulate a person discovering this.The kinds of thought experiments I enjoy are different in intent and in execution from merely futurological investigations.I like it when my material takes on a life of its own. (3) In short, a gnarly process is complex and unpredictable without being random.If a story hews to some very familiar pattern, it feels stale.Flipping through these tales, I feel a mixture of nostalgia, pride, and embarrassment.
In other words, I found that I could use the special effects and power chords of SF as a way to thicken and intensify my material.
You experience a release of tension when you notice a glitch. Perceiving an incongruity in our supposedly smooth-running society provokes a shock of recognition and a concomitant burst of laughter.
Something was off-kilter, and now you see what it was. Wit is a critical-satirical process that can be more serious than the “humorous” label suggests. Early on, I found that using myself and my friends as characters in my science-fiction tales appeals to me very much.
(2) When I speak of power chords in the context of fantastic literature, I’m talking about certain classic tropes that have the visceral punch of heavy musical riffs: blaster guns, spaceships, time machines, aliens, telepathy, flying saucers, warped space, faster-than-light travel, immersive virtual reality, clones, robots, teleportation, alien-controlled pod people, endless shrinking, the shattering of planet Earth, intelligent goo, antigravity, starships, ecodisaster, pleasure-center zappers, alternate universes, nanomachines, mind viruses, higher dimensions, a cosmic computation that generates our reality, and, of course, the attack of the giant ants.
When I use a power chord, I try to do something fresh with the trope, perhaps placing it into an unfamiliar context, perhaps describing it more intensely than usual, or perhaps using it for a novel thought experiment.
I see my tales as simulated worlds in which the characters and tropes and social situations bounce off each other like eddies in a turbulent wake, like gliders in a cellular automaton graphic, like vines twisting around each other in a jungle. (4) My early mentor Robert Sheckley was a supremely witty writer.