Friday, February 1, 2008

Rob Sawyer SF lecture on TVOntario tomorrow

Tomorrow (Saturday, February 2, 2008), at 4:00 p.m., I'll be on TVOntario's Big Ideas, talking about science fiction in a lecture recorded in October 2007 at the University of Waterloo. On the same show: Steven Pinker! The hour-long program repeats Sunday, February 3, 2008, also at 4:00 p.m.

TVO's description:


Steven Pinker, author of The Stuff of Thought, examines how language reveals the way we think by exposing the physics built into our nouns, the temporal characteristics of our verbs and the manner in which our brains react to profanity.

Also included in this episode, author Robert J. Sawyer explains how Hollywood's approach to science fiction, starting with George Lucas's Star Wars, has dulled the edge that made science fiction such a pertinent film genre. Sawyer disects the problematic aspects of the original Star Wars film and shows how science fiction books continue to tackle difficult issues while their big screen counterparts take the easy road of big explosions and small ideas.

More information here.

UPDATE: An MP3 audio-version of my lecture is here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


At February 02, 2008 9:32 AM , Blogger envaneo said...

I like your description about SF movies using small ideas. I'll be looking for the program.


At February 02, 2008 9:54 PM , Blogger Lou Sytsma said...

Excellent talk as expected! The other speaker was like filler for the hour. If they couldn't play his whole speech why even bother showing the start of it.

Oh well, it left more time for Rob's speech.

At February 03, 2008 11:08 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I watched the lecture and was very inspired and impressed! Will there be a time when the text of it can be acquired? Will it be published somewhere?

Thanks, Sarah Peters

At February 03, 2008 12:27 PM , Anonymous Annie said...

Loved for which TV shows dealth with the reality of the sixties, laugh all you want but my childhood idol was Morticia Adams...she taught me about tolerance, the changing definition of a(n extended) family and the important of a very fitted dress...I say it was light years ahead of its time.

At February 04, 2008 8:36 AM , Anonymous LianneB said...

And you can now download it from the Big Ideas podcast, for your MP3 player listening pleasure.

At February 04, 2008 10:10 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Thanks for pointing that out, LianneB! The podcast (audio only) version of my lecture is here.

By the way, my lecture was given on 2 October 2007 at the University of Waterloo in honour of the 50th anniversary of the department of Physics and Astronomy there.

At February 04, 2008 11:00 PM , Blogger zafri said...

Although technology is great, it is extremely frustrating to lose a post that took five minutes of typing, more for the feeling of frustration than anything.

In any case, I wanted to say thank you for the fantastic talk. It is likely due to the influence of movies such as Star Wars that my father hates science fiction. I am trying to get him to give Battlestar Galactica a try, which, despite its name, offers a great deal of interesting questions to ask about human nature or even modern politics (at least in my opinion). If you respond to this again Rob, I'd appreciate hearing your opinion on BSG in particular.

At February 04, 2008 11:08 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

I love the new Battlestar Galactica (although have only made it most of the way through season two -- I'm just so busy). But the way it's dealt metaphorically with 9/11, fundamentalism, and so forth -- and, my God, the way they directly tackled the abortion issue (no disguises there!) -- are EXACTLY what science-fiction is supposed to be, in my humble opinion.

The original Battlestar was indeed a ripoff of Star Wars. As for the new one ... well, "Then I was the learner, Obi-Wan. Now I am the master!"

At February 05, 2008 8:01 AM , Blogger GiGi said...

I only caught the very end of the talk, but enjoyed it immensely. I would argue, and have been for years, that Star Wars is not science fiction, it is fantasy.

At February 05, 2008 10:36 AM , Blogger Andrew said...

I've downloaded the podcast and I wanted to say thank you for standing up for good SF. Speaking as a science-fiction fan and (wannabe) writer, it's about time!

To respond a bit to gigi about Star Wars being fantasy; I agree. Yet... it uses practically all of the SF tropes (and a good number of cliches) that the general public and the fan community accepts it as science fiction. "If it walks like a duck..."

And because of that, I think that the fan community is willfully blind to the damage Star Wars has caused. Interestingly enough, I was in a little discussion about Star Wars with a friend of mine at a small gaming convention almost two weeks ago. I argued the point you made, Rob, about Star Wars destroying SF's credibility on the silver screen (even used "Planet of the Apes" as an example, not to mention "The Day The Earth Stood Still"), but my friend dismissed it by saying that Star Wars had "touched so many lives".

I have to wonder at what price that "touching of lives" came with.

The perspective of SF as escapism has also hurt the fan community, at least here in New Brunswick. At the same convention an outside person (a university professor, I think) stuck his head in and inquired a bit on what was going on. When he learned what our convention was about he smiled and said by way of opinion that he wasn't really interested in science fiction.

One convention-goer said - I kid you not - "That's okay, we can deprogram you from society." He said it with a smile, but he couldn't have driven that man away faster if he'd levelled a gun at him and said "git!"

I'd like to share this podcast with those particular friends (or at least point them to the link), and I hope that both the fan community and science fiction on both the big and small screens still has a fighting chance to regain some of the respectability Lucas and his ilk burned to the ground.

At February 14, 2008 12:01 PM , Blogger zafri said...

Although everyone is comparing star wars to fantasy, i must object. I think it is more like a western, since the action is all physical, all good vs evil.

As a sidenote, I think you'd like this quote of ben bova, saying " sci-fi movies are about as
closely related to science fiction as Popeye cartoons are to naval history." I tend to agree.

At May 10, 2008 6:50 PM , Blogger Skullossus said...

This was a great talk Robert. I found several new and valid ideas in your presentation.

I also have a couple of points for consideration.

1) How do you feel Star Wars relates to Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Barbarella etc? Since Lucas has a love of that style (apparent in the work but also stated in interviews), how do you feel Star Wars measures up to the previous benchmarks of Space Opera? I think that it might give your argument even more weight if you were to dissect his movie on these terms as well.

2) Why is Sci Fi special amongst the speculative fiction genres? Does not good fantasy, horror and super hero etc. work also use metaphors to discuss the issues of the day?


At February 01, 2010 6:39 PM , Blogger MrNizz said...

I enjoyed this lecture quite a bit, Mr. Sawyer. Thanks for posting this. I have bemoaned the dumbing of Science Fiction for some time now, and this puts some of my sentiments about the chief culprit into words.


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