Author Jack Campbell joins SciFiChick.com on his Blog Tour to promote his latest release The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Guardian.
Jack Campbell on his vision of the future and how it affects his stories:
The setting of a story drives a lot of the plot, and heavily influences the characters. SF and Fantasy writers have the luxury of creating the setting, but (being human and heavily influenced by our own settings) the futures and worlds we create reflect our own hopes and fears.
The future in my stories is what I call a competence-based culture. That means when someone wants to do a job, the only question will be whether or not they can do it. Nothing else will matter, not appearance or race or religion or sex or anything else. Someday, I hope that’s the only question in a job interview. I don’t know if that future will happen. Humans have a bad way of seizing on “differences” that don’t really matter and making them the most important issue, or establishing job requirements that rule out the “wrong people” before they even have a chance to compete. The result has been an incalculable waste of human potential. But I can hope, and I can present such a future the way it might look. It’s not a perfect future, because humans are far from perfect, but it’s better.
Another aspect of my futures is what I call “transparent” technology. That means technology which can be used without having to think about how to use it (or describe it in detail! Who actually does that when they use something?). Instead of having to enter bizarre, complicated commands while stepping through multiple menus and trying to figure out what you’re supposed to do next, transparent tech involves things like increasing the size of a picture by spreading your fingers. My hope is that will become the rule rather than the exception. (Though in one scene in the Lost Fleet books my characters recognize that they should have realized a certain tech was designed by aliens because the control interface was so simple and intuitive. “No human software designer would have done that.”)
A lot of my stories are set in space, in other star systems. I think we’re going to go to the stars someday. It’s not going to be as fast and as easy as writers imagined in the 1940s and 1950s, but it may not be as slow and hard as a lot of people now assume. Getting to the stars is a very hard problem, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be solved. Anything is impossible if you don’t know how to do it, and anything is hard if you don’t know how to do it right. If the answers are there, I think we’ll find them.
One thing I work hard to avoid is the Flintstones/Jetsons Theory of Anthropology. Those two cartoon series assumed that everywhere in the far past and the far future had societies which were a stereotyped version of 1960 suburbs in the United States. That assumption wasn’t unusual. One of the things that seriously dates most SF from the mid-to-late Twentieth Century is that the futures shown, no matter how distant, are in that Mad Men mold. Men do all the thinking, acting and decision-making, and if women appear at all they are usually either housewives or somebody who needs to be rescued. It is incredibly jarring to read those stories now and see futures in which women sometimes don’t even seem to exist. It is also a given in many of those stories that everyone in the future has Anglo-Saxon names. Even Star Wars fell into this sort of trap, originally presenting a future in the first film (A New Hope) in which there were lots of aliens but no humans of African descent. Star Trek TOS did, too, claiming that only men could be captains of starships because women couldn’t handle the job. As a result, I try to avoid assuming that Tomorrow will be dealing with exactly the same role models and cultural assumptions as Today, and I try to avoid presenting a future which includes a narrow vision of who will be represented. Very often, I don’t provide physical descriptions of my characters, letting the reader assign them whatever shape, color, or type feels right to the reader. (In my novelette Lady Be Good, the sex of the point of view character is never identified. It wasn’t necessary to the story, so I didn’t confine the story by setting that characteristic in stone.)
Finally, my futures are ultimately hopeful ones. Terrible things happen, great challenges arise, people are confronted by awful choices, but nonetheless my futures are places where human effort matters, where hope is ever-present, where answers to the toughest problems exist even if not easily found. My characters strive, and suffer, and in the end succeed, because I think that’s the sort of future humans can aspire to.
Courtesy of Ace, I have a copy of The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Guardian for five (5) lucky winners!
Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes, please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends May 24. I’ll draw a name on May 25, and notify winner via email.