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Low-level Science fiction: Sci-fi with hard science and a literary slant

on Jan 21, 2014

Image Credit: io9.com

While the headline for the review on i09.com might border on sensationalism- it is not without merit. io9 “got” the message in the story.

Human sexuality is one of the avenues that gets upgraded via technology in Memories with Maya, but the very essence of what makes us human – our emotions, our ability to make the intangible…tangible, via the plasticity of our minds and leveraging technology-  is what the story is about. Hard science fiction aims to present plausible science and scenarios to seed ideas in readers of the genre – many of whom have more than a passing interest in the fields of science and philosophy.

What is Low-Level Science Fiction?

Science fiction that is well thought out, with clear road-maps drawn for advancing humanity via technology, is what could be termed – Lo-Lev Sci-fi. It borrows a term from computer language programming: “Low level coding

Some aims of Low level Sci-fi are:

  • To present current technology and extrapolate to near future tech, in the form of story – thus accelerating the idea seeding process for people of science, encouraging them to investigate and implement scenarios described in a Lo-lev Sci-fi novel.
  • Creatively present with as much detail as possible, the implementation of said technology- while avoiding long info-dumps and contrived ‘literary devices’ to explain the tech – The art of crafting compelling low level sci-fi stories.
  • Activate low level circuits in a readers mind with one’s prose, akin to how literary works of the past did. Lo-lev Sci-fi is hard Sci-fi with a literary slant. Too many of today’s sci-fi novels rely on formulaic writing, resorting to “cliff hangers” and thrills at the expense of plausible science and food for thought.
  • Trim fluff – when necessary- by subscribing to the Hemingway school of writing. Reading habits are changing in the 21st century as is the very definition of a “book”.
  • Success for a low level sci-fi novel is: Deployment, within a decade – of an original scenario or technology presented in the story.
  • Low level Sci-fi, unlike Mundane Sci-fi, is not against FTL travel – or Worm holes. After all, what used to once be termed science fiction may soon become reality at an exponential pace.

The above is not a manifesto as much as it is a call for the creation of a sub genre of Science-Fiction whose main goal is to accelerate the transcendence of humanity.
Readers of this essay are invited to expand on these points with their own thoughts and suggest Sci-fi titles that could be classified as low-level science fiction.

A core difference between Lo-Lev Sci-fi and Hard Sci-fi: (Q posed by redditor “m104″)
Hard sci-fi inspires with ideas grounded in plausible science – Lo-Lev sci-fi is like getting the blue-print to implement an idea, presented in narrative form with emphasis on context.

Image Credit: Seriouswonder.com
Memories with Maya – A Low-Lev Sci-fi Novel:

So what blue print does Memories with Maya draw up?

  • A complete method and the technology for “tele-travel” – A method for people to spawn Digital Surrogates of themselves that can interact with live people.
  • Digital Afterlife: Digital Surrogates [Dirrogates] of people no longer living, capable of occupying the same time-space as the living relative of the deceased, running “daily” routines – the next best option to true sentience.

While the story may not be for the casual sci-fi reader, it is not surprising that a growing number of readers who looked deeper…found the low-level message(s) in the story:

Joe Nickence, a writer at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET) wrote in an essay titled : Till Death do us part – The ethics and evolution of Human relationships:

“…A person bed-ridden can use his or her Dirrogate [Digital Surrogate] to interact with a partner is another example. Or, as Ray Kurzweil, the love of a child for a parent. I’m sure you can point out many widows and widowers that had lost the will to continue after the death of their love.”

Ann Reynolds, writing for the Huffington Post shows the idea seeding potential that a lo-lev Sci-fi novel can have in an astute reader:

“…The implications of Wizer technology as a transmitter of hertz frequency to the brain is the most compelling idea I’ve had from all this. A Wizer with two cameras could transmit ultrasound that produces bursts of light at neuron sites, thereby causing growth of cells holographically.”

Giulio Prisco – Noted Futurist and Transhumanism editor at KurzweilAI, after reading MwM commented in his review:

“If your body died, but you had a mindclone, you would not feel that you personally died, although the body would be missed more sorely than amputees miss their limbs.” I think it would be very cool to combine this concept with the advanced augmented-reality technology described in the novel.

John Havens – writing on the topic of AI for popular site Mashable, in an essay titled: “You should be afraid of Artificial Intelligence” :

“…The book [Memories with Maya] imagines life’s repercussions if we could essentially keep our loved ones alive beyond the time their bodies physically stop functioning.”

Perhaps, Kevin Russell – Futurist, sums it up well on what Low-Level Scifi could do for Science fiction, when he wrote in his review of the book:

“…As a futurist I am constantly confronted with how people perceive and react to many concepts regarding the future. People hear about a new discovery or technology and default to what they have seen in a movie or read in a book. In talking about Artificial Intelligence, most, reflexively think about Skynet from Terminator.
My hope is people will default to well thought-out, technologically grounded, futuristic sci-fi.”

Low level science fiction might not be for every Fantasy/Sci-fi book lover, but there is a growing legion of connoisseurs who are discovering the joys of geeking out on Lo-Lev Sci-fi.

A sampling below:

rayc_review

litbug_review

kacunnin_review

 

 

One Comment

  1. Noted Futurist, Giulio Prisco commented on this article on his science site: Skefia
    @Clyde re “I am crowd-sourcing info on novels that might qualify as Low-Level sci-fi, and as you are well read in the genre, would you have come across a few that might qualify?”

    Yours is one, with a good balance of narrative and low-level technology detail.

    Egan’s Zendegi has good descriptions of the (admittedly very primitive) mind uploading (actually “sideloading”) technology in the story.
    http://skefia.com/2013/01/10/zendegi-by-greg-egan/

    Ramez Naam’s Nexus and Crux have reasonably detailed description of the “neural dust” technology on which the Nexus drug is based, and its applications.
    http://skefia.com/2014/01/13/hangout-on-air-ramez-naam-discusses-nexus-crux-and-the-infinite-resource/
    http://skefia.com/2013/08/10/nexus-continues-in-crux-by-ramez-naam/

    In all three cases the description of the background technology is detailed but not so dominant that it kills the story.

    Read more on Skefia – http://skefia.com/2014/01/23/low-level-science-fiction-sci-fi-with-hard-science-and-a-literary-slant/#comments

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